CFMEU says Scott Morrison’s forestry plan won’t cut it on jobs

Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union manufacturing secretary Michael O’Connor welcomed any financial assistance to the industry but slammed the Coalition’s plan as deficient.

“Their package is incomplete, lacks ambition, lacks co-ordination and it looks like it’s not properly researched,” he said.

The fund sought to increase self-reliance on wood supply by allocating $100 million to a new innovation hub, $112.9 million in grants to accelerate the adoption of wood-processing technologies and $86.2 million to reduce costs of new plantations.

But Mr O’Connor argued none of that immediately addressed the timber shortage crisis in the home building sector or sought to divert the number of logs exported so they could be used by local processors, as had been done in NSW.

The government had also not made clear whether it supported regional forest agreements, which Mr O’Connor said would be “gutted” based on recommendations from a 2020 review of the environmental regulation by Graeme Samuels.

“Until we get a commitment from the government that they will reject this review, no timber job is safe.”

He said that the union would also be seeking Labor to “at least match and better” the government’s announcement, saying consultations with unions would make funding more targeted and comprehensive.

Mr Albanese dismissed the Prime Minister’s announcement during a campaign stop in the Hunter on Thursday.

“This is another announcement from a government that’s all announcement and no delivery,” he said.

“He will be there for the photo op, but he is never there for the follow-up. Always. This Prime Minister promised a billion trees. How many have they got?”

Mr O’Connor also said the Morrison government should be “championing this industry as the cornerstone of addressing climate change”, arguing that replacing concrete or other materials with wood fiber reduced the carbon footprint.

“If people want to address climate change, we need to ramp this industry up with sustainability harvesting and planting,” he said.

In that light he said the Morrison government needed to explain how it planned to achieve its 2017 target of 1 billion plantation trees by 2030.

“They’ve presided over a 10.1 per cent decline of plantation estate since 2014, and today’s announcement won’t cut it.”

The Greens said they would block the Morrison government’s funding package and called for an end to native forest logging.

Greens senator for Tasmania Peter Whish-Wilson said: “It’s no surprise that the Liberal Party is announcing another taxpayer-subsidized lifeline to support the loss-making forestry industry in Tasmania prior to an election.

“Over recent decades the logging industry has received billions in taxpayer subsidies to keep it afloat; this is just another chapter in that sad saga.

“The government refuses to rule out using unsustainable native forest products in its new ‘innovation hub’ – and on that basis alone the Greens are likely to use any future balance of power situation in parliament to block this funding package.”

He said many of Tasmania’s plantation forests were grown at the taxpayers’ expense, only to be shipped out for processing in Asia.

“Just holding back a handful of these shiploads would meet Australian building needs.”

Mr Morrison visited the state’s three marginal electorates: Bass, Braddon and Lyons.

Bass, which is centered around the city of Launceston, is the Coalition’s most marginal seat, held by Ms Archer on a margin of 0.4 per cent.

The Coalition is also hoping to hold the neighboring electorate Braddon, held by Liberal MP Gavin Pearce.

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