Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (20:32): I am pleased to have this opportunity. I thought I had quite a few people in front of me. I am really delighted to get up and speak on this motion, and I am supportive of this motion. I am very interested to see what these documents say—as much as Mr Bourman is, and I am sure Dr Ratnam is also interested to see these documents—because I think it is important that we understand how this transition is going to happen, why we need 10 years for the transition and what we are going to do once we have transitioned.
I think Mr Bourman and Ms Bath both spoke passionately about the timber industry and what it provides, but I think what seems to be missing in a lot of this is that the forests are not there just for us. It is not just old growth so we can cut it down. Old-growth forests are our lungs; they are how we have the air that we have. It is so important. We have just been talking about climate emergency. We have just been talking about climate action. Australia is rich in biodiversity—we are so wealthy in it—but we are losing it. We are losing it so quickly, and that is because of many things. Dr Ratnam said this is about habitat. This is about getting rid of our habitat.
Last week, as Ms Bath spoke about, we talked about this industry again, and I do not think that there is anyone that does not think that we have to transition from cutting down our native timber forests—apologies, very few people. We do need to transition to plantation timber, and that is important, but as I have said, necessity is the mother of invention. I think we do not need to look at new industries. We can actually probably go back to the future, and that is the extraordinary potential of industrial hemp.
We have been talking about ‘30 years’. We have been talking about planting a tree and the plantation timber. ‘It is going to take us 30 years; this is why we have got to take so long to do this transition’.
A member interjected.
Ms PATTEN: Yes, how about hemp? Three months—in 90 days I can get you the pulp that you would be using from the native timber. I can get you the fibre. I can get you structural two-by-four beams out of hemp, and I can do that in 90 days, not 30 years. We should be looking at the hemp industry. A lot of people laugh when I talk about the hemp industry, but it really is the very sober cousin of cannabis. It is definitely cannabis.
Now there is speculation that Australia was actually founded, when our white forebears came here, as a hemp colony, not a penal colony, because there was a war going on called the Crimean War, and hemp actually ran the British navy. Because the British navy ran on hemp. All of its sails, all of its uniforms and all of its ropes were hemp. They were looking at this Crimean War, and most of the hemp was coming from Russia. They were very worried that they were not going to have a supply of hemp to run their navy. So a part of when they came down to Australia to look at this continent was to see whether they could establish hemp plantations here. We know, in the colonies of Virginia, the colonies of the east coast America, those people who colonised that area were required to grow hemp to maintain the navy, to maintain the British navy as it was there. We are seeing this in other countries. We are seeing Germany and we are seeing Canada and the United States invest big money in hemp as fibre.
Now, this is a product that I can tell you I could fill the Maryvale pulp mill with—hemp—and I could do it in three months if I was given a little bit of land and a lot less land that I would need for plantation timber. When I say I, I am speaking in a very, very big picture way. But as we know, we can grow three hemp crops a year while it takes plantation hardwood 30 years. It uses less water. It replaces concrete. Sometimes when I go on about hemp, I actually think that I am talking about some unicorn of a plant. How could this plant possibly do everything it can do? But it can make clothes and it can replace concrete. It can replace structural timber. It can replace pulpwood. It can replace paper.
Mr Finn: I would be keen to make steak knives out of it.
Ms PATTEN: Mr Finn, if it does not make a steak knife now, just give it time. Henry Ford—the first cars that came off that line were made from hemp. This is quite a remarkable product. So while I am very interested in this documents motion, and I am interested because I think I am going to be disappointed, I do not think hemp is going to be in those documents. I do not think those documents are going to be made from hemp, but they could have been. We could have been replacing that paper with hemp paper. In fact I would suspect that probably some of our early documents, even of this Parliament in 1856, actually had a bit of hemp in them.
Did I mention pet food? You can actually use hemp as pet food. Cosmetics—look, I have actually got a whole list here—biofuel, mulch, moisturising creams, cooking oil and plastics. Did I say textiles? This is quite an extraordinary product—when I hear everyone talking about ‘woe is me’ and ‘what are we going to do when we can no longer log our native timber forests?’.
I am a person who has a property, and it was logged about 100 years ago. It was selectively logged. I am looking at, well, what you might call an old growth forest, Mr Bourman, but I would call a new growth forest. It is only 100 years old, and it has grown back differently. I do see some of the trees there that were not logged that are 200 and 300 years old. It is very different, and it is very beautiful.
The diversity of plants, the diversity of animals there, that is important. But I think we can transition, and I think we can do it successfully.
I can see the Attorney-General, who is a former Minister for Agriculture. We started the hemp task force together. There is work to be done here. I welcome Mr Bourman’s motion because I think this shows us the gaps, and I suspect those documents will be an argument for a hemp industry, an argument for a transition to hemp. I think this should be welcome news to some of those communities. I respect the intergenerational areas of these industries. I respect that many people have been working in these mills, have been working as harvesters for generations, and I understand that change is difficult. But I do think that there are solutions and I do think that there is a bright future—and I would say that future is hemp.
Fiona Patten MP
Leader of Reason
Member for Northern Metropolitan
Motion by Mr Bourman 13/10/21