With the Working Party tasked with securing the future of Australian Sustainable Hardwoods (ASH) due to report back on ongoing operations by no later than Monday, Gippsland East MP, Tim Bull, has again spoken on the issue in State Parliament this week.
Mr Bull said it was pleasing to see the Minister for Agriculture finally visit ASH at Heyfield last week, however it was disappointing there weren’t any announcements given the closeness to the Minister’s deadline for a resolution.
“The Minister appointed a working party to resolve this matter in four weeks after her Forest Industry Taskforce could not resolve the matter over almost two years,” he said.
“What continues to concern me is the Minister’s ongoing reference to ‘reduced timber availability’.
“This is not true. The timber is there, it was there two years ago when the contract was being negotiated, the issue here is the Minister has allowed large areas to be placed into reserve without replacing the lost resource back to industry.”
Mr Bull said by the Minister’s own admission, the areas that have been placed into reserve have been predominantly for leadbeater possum protection. The Government committed to review the reserve system after 200 colonies were discovered.
“We are now approaching nearly 450 sightings – 215 of these were in the past 12 months,” he said.
“The review is due to report back in April, but timber must be guaranteed by next Monday for the company to be viable – the Government must guarantee security of supply to ASH and save these jobs and the Heyfield community.
“I just hope the Minister makes the required announcement in the timeline she stated, to put the minds of the workers and their families at rest.
“The community response has been unanimous in its support, but the community has also been patient and deserves answers in the time promised.”
Caption: Member for Gippsland East, Tim Bull, with Nationals colleagues Melina Bath, Danny O’Brien and Peter Walsh (Leader of the Nationals and Shadow Minister for Agriculture) with ASH chief executive officer, Vince Hurley (centre), on a recent visit to the mill.
Wednesday, February 22, 2017