Forest Products Minister Paul Omodei claimed today that the Labor leader Geoff Gallop had finally conceded that he did not know what his forest policy was or how he was going to administer it.
Mr Omodei said the admission came during an interview on radio 6PR this morning, when the Opposition Leader was asked to reconcile his promises to conservationists that he would end old growth logging and his promises to the unions that he would maintain existing contracts.
“His answer was that on the first day he got into government - which, hopefully for Western Australia, will be many years away - he would sit down with authorities and work out what to do,” Mr Omodei said.
“In other words, his policy is that for now he will promise everyone what they want and if that gets him into government he will then try to work out what to do.
“What he is likely to do would be socially and economically disastrous for the State and particularly for the people of the South-West.
“In this morning’s radio interview he confirmed that what he wants to do on his first day in government is to renegotiate all native hardwood timber contracts on the basis of using regrowth forest only.
“This will mean devastation for the industry and the South-West.
“The karri industry will be slaughtered immediately and the jarrah industry will be permanently crippled.
“There will be no opportunity to develop new value-adding industries and absolutely no incentive for anyone to invest in any aspect of the industry.
“Even if the Opposition were to defer their ban on old growth jarrah harvesting until 2004, they would decimate the industry and guarantee that there would be no investment for the future.
“Nannup and Manjimup would suffer immediately and immensely because a Labor Government would not be able to offer them sustainable timber contracts.
“We are talking about a very significant part of the employment in these towns.”
The Minister added that one possibility not revealed in this morning’s interview was that Mr Gallop was using an outdated 1992 definition of ‘old growth forest’ which was far less inclusive than the RFA definition used by the Government and the community at large.
If this were true, the Labor Party was back to its old habits of deceiving everybody.
It was important for Mr Gallop to state explicitly which definition he was using and spell out by how much it would reduce the State’s ‘old growth’ reserves and what effect it would have on timber contracts.
Mr Omodei said the Labor Party’s confusion and deception on forest policy were in sharp contrast with the Government’s clear directions for both the period up to the end of 2003 and the new forest management period from 2004 onwards.
“Our directions are ecologically and socially sustainable,” the Minister said.
“They are clearly understood by the industry and the community, and they provide both the time and the incentives to create new value-adding industries which will ensure that we get more value and more employment from a revitalised industry which uses less native hardwood than it does today.
“Apart from the fact that its motivation is entirely political, the Labor Party simply does not understand the basic realities of an ecologically sustainable timber industry combined with a world-class conservation system.
“It does not understand the elementary fact that harvesting timber from production forests does not reduce our forest heritage. We have more forest in secure tenure now than we had 50 years ago.
“It does not understand that harvesting timber from production forests is among our most ecologically sustainable industries.
“And, finally, the Labor Party does not understand that our ecologically sustainable timber industry is vital to the economy of the State, that it provides us with many valuable products, and that it sustains important communities in the South-West.”
Media contact: Hugh Ryan 9213 6700