Ms DUNN (Eastern Metropolitan) — My question is for the Minister for Agriculture. Minister, how are biodiversity conservation risks being managed in accordance with the timber code of practice while species such as the greater glider, Leadbeater's possum and koala are being killed in situ for logging? Is it your responsibility, or the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources or the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning's responsibility to ensure compliance?
Ms PULFORD (Minister for Agriculture) — I thank Ms Dunn for her question. The code of practice that exists is there to ensure that harvesting operations exist in a way that is cognisant of our responsibility to protect those environmental values. I can certainly assure Ms Dunn that this is something that all industry participants take seriously, that VicForests takes seriously and that the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) and indeed my department all share responsibility for. As I think the member well knows, there are significant protections in place for the Leadbeater’s possum, and the Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change is currently considering the matter relating to the greater glider. Our government does take our responsibilities in relation to protection of these species very seriously, and I can assure Ms Dunn that VicForests and its contractors are very much aware of their responsibilities under the code of practice and do comply with them.
Again, as Ms Dunn is well aware, where there are circumstances where members of the community wish to raise those things there are processes where investigations can take place should they need to, and they follow that course. But certainly in my experience the industry’s commitment to the sustainability of the industry is great, and we work to balance these obligations while maintaining a level of harvest that is sustainable.
Ms DUNN (Eastern Metropolitan) — Thank you, Minister. It is a sad indictment that the only mechanism the community do seem to have to raise the issue is via legal action which of course is costly and time consuming to the community. There is a public expectation that the code keeps loggers in line and that loggers comply with the code. The public wants assurance that the mandatory actions to address biodiversity conservation risks are complied with. I am sure, Minister, you know which clauses of the code they are, so I will not repeat them here. When are you going to act and call VicForests to account, as the responsible minister?
Ms PULFORD (Minister for Agriculture) — If Ms Dunn has a particular allegation that she wishes to make about the conduct of any VicForests contractor, then Ms Dunn is invited to provide that information to me or to VicForests. To come in here and to assert in such unbelievably broad terms that something is not right in the forests and provide absolutely no details at all actually makes it very difficult for me to respond to that question, but I do invite Ms Dunn to furnish me with further details. She knows the process well, and if she believes that there is any breach of the code of practice then she should provide that information rather than coming in here with these most general of assertions.