Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan)
Incorporated pursuant to order of Council of 7 September:
I rise to speak on the Forests Legislation Amendment (Compliance and Enforcement) Bill 2019, which principally makes a number of improvements to the regulation of timber harvesting and firewood collection.
In late 2018, the Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change directed the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning to initiate an independent review of timber harvesting regulation.
The independent review was tasked with an initial assessment of whether further regulatory or legislative reform was required to ensure modern, best practice regulation of timber harvesting in Victoria.
The independent review made several recommendations, which I do not take significant issue with, but I do note this: since the report was published, over 1.5 million hectares of Victoria burnt in devastating bushfires, including more than half of the East Gippsland LGA.
These fires wiped out firewood that is the subject of this bill, they have put significant strain on our endangered species, and if we to quantify it terms of climate change, pumped between 5 and 30 tonnes of carbon emissions into the air per hectare.
In terms of VicForests, that included 40 per cent of the area earmarked for native timber logging in East Gippsland.
At the end of 2019, the Victorian government announced the native forest transition package, part of the Victorian Forestry Plan. It supports Victoria’s forest industry to transition away from native forestry. As part of the plan, harvesting native forests is due to cease in Victoria by 2030.
I simply don’t see why that transition can’t be brought forward, particularly given it’s mostly for pulp.
Changing tack, I would just like to address the amendments before the house.
The Greens will move amendments with respect to clause 8 of division 3, which provides for the secretary to enter into an ‘undertaking’ with a person who has contravened or allegedly contravened the code, which then prohibits any third-party criminal or civil proceedings against the person.
It could be claimed that this clause is designed to remove the capacity of civil society to exercise its rights to challenge logging operations on publicly owned land in the courts.
There have been six recent court cases between local activists and VicForests, where in most cases applicants allege that the OCR/DELWP process for review had failed to adequately implement the law. If clause 8 was ratified, the fear of the constituents that have lobbied me is that their options for recourse would be stifled.
I accept that the government has provided an alternate explanation and I do not believe that they have misled me, but irrespective I believe that on balance, and given the limited adverse impacts this amendment will have on the functionality of the bill, it is something I can support.
I note also that the Liberals have amendments—amendments that they did not advise us of or circulate until 9.07 pm yesterday and amendments for which they offer no explanation as to their purpose, not even a phone call until 10.30 this morning during the debate. This is very unfortunate and I have to wonder if they even wanted my support.
Coming back to the issue of pulp, I would like to finishing by saying that hemp can be the future of paper. And it can be a provider of jobs in an industry transition.
Hemp grows to 13 feet in 100 days—it’s the quickest carbon to biomass available.
The University of Melbourne is undertaking extensive research into how we can move from logging native forests to using hemp instead.
Hemp is cheaper, restores the soil and doesn’t destroy old growth forests.
Hemp paper can be made from hemp plants’ long bast fibre or the short bast fibre (hurd or pulp).
Hemp paper was first used in the Chinese Han Dynasty around 200 BC and they were onto something:
• 1 acre of hemp can produce as much paper as 4–10 acres of trees
• hemp stalks grow in four months, whereas trees take 20–80 years
• hemp has higher concentration of cellulose than wood, the principal ingredient in paper
• hemp paper does not yellow, crack, or deteriorate like tree paper.
Many of the current timber building products currently produced from native forest can be produced with hemp. This includes many products from particle board to high-strength beams.
The rest of the world is progressing this and Victoria should join them.
I am excited to meet with the agriculture minister shortly to continue the discussion about using hemp to meet our environmental needs.
That is sensible forward thinking.