MINISTERS STATEMENTS: TIMBER INDUSTRY
Mr PALLAS (Werribee—Treasurer, Minister for Economic Development, Minister for Industrial Relations) (12:42:56): The Andrews Labor government is making record investment to deliver a long‑term sustainable future for Victoria’s forestry industries. On top of the $110 million that this government has invested in timber plantation in the 2017–18 budget, we have now set aside an extra $120 million to ensure the industry is fully supported to transition. While the member for Malvern embraces the false hope peddled by The Nationals, we are getting on with the job of protecting and securing almost 1000 jobs at Australian Paper, the industry’s biggest employer, and we are securing those jobs for 30 years. Inaction is not an option. In the past decade the availability of native forest timber for harvesting has halved. This government’s commitment to regional jobs has seen the unemployment rate in the Latrobe Valley and Gippsland region fall to 4.4 per cent, well down from the 8 per cent which was reached under the coalition when it utterly abandoned the Latrobe Valley. Unlike those opposite, we are delivering real jobs and we fulfil our promises. Who can forget what the member for Murray Plains promised the Heyfield timber mill—a bogus 20-year contract for timber that did not exist. Ms Staley: On a point of order, Speaker, the Treasurer has strayed from making a ministers statement to attacking the opposition. You have previously ruled on that, and I would ask you to remind him of your rulings. Ms Allan: On the point of order, Speaker, this issue that has dominated question time today has a very long history and there has been debate on this matter on all sides, as evidenced by the passionate emotion that has been expressed through question time today. I think it is entirely relevant for the Treasurer to provide some context to the history of decisions that have been made in this area in providing this ministers statement to the house. Mr Wells: On the point of order, Speaker, ministers statements are an opportunity for ministers to stand in this place and speak about some positive news or some direction or policy in regard to their portfolio, and all they have to do is to speak for 2 minutes. It is obvious that the Treasurer has already run out of ideas, direction and policies and is now starting to focus on the opposition. I ask you to bring him back to the way a ministers statement should be delivered. Mr Pakula: On the point of order, Speaker, it is entirely in order for the Treasurer as part of his ministers statement to talk about the history of this issue and to talk about the decisions of previous governments. That is not attacking the opposition. It is about how the decisions of previous governments have impacted on where we are today, and that is entirely in order. Mr R Smith: On the point of order, Speaker, context and attacks are two different things as you well know, and we rely on your protection to make sure that you make the distinction. The SPEAKER: I have ruled in this place before, based on previous rulings in Rulings from the Chair, that it is not appropriate for ministers through a statement to attack the opposition, but references to the actions of previous governments are in order. The Treasurer, to continue. Mr PALLAS: It is clear that we had a finite resource that was diminishing, and we saw that those opposite were making promises to people that they could not fulfil. Ultimately, that meant that they would be making promises at the expense of other mill owners— Mr Blackwood: On a point of order, Speaker, with respect to the Treasurer, he is definitely misleading the house now, because the only reason the resource is diminishing is the decisions of his government and his minister for the environment that have taken resources away from the industry for the last three years. The SPEAKER: Order! Member for Narracan, it may be a point of debate, but it is not a point of order. The Treasurer, to continue his statement. Mr PALLAS: This government is investing in jobs and communities with a 30-year plan that protects jobs and supports businesses to innovate. This will support our sustainable timber industry now and into the future because we are a government that delivers what it promises, while those opposite peddle falsehoods and false hope.