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Jobs in Forestry

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Government Business Scrutiny Committee meeting with Sustainable Timbers Tasmania

“Working forests create jobs.  There are over 5700 direct and indirect jobs as an estimate in Tasmania as a result of the forest industry,” said Minister Guy Barnett at the GBE Estimates meeting this week. […] There are some 5700 forestry jobs estimated in and around Tasmania, particularly in rural and regional parts of Tasmania.”

On Wednesday 9 December 2020 , the House of Assembly Government Business Scrutiny Committee spent three hours with Sustainable Timbers Tasmania (STT).

The members of the Committee were Liberal Jacquie Petrusma (Chair), Liberal Nic Street, Labor Shane Broad, Greens Cassy O’Connor, Labor Alison Standen and Liberal John Tucker. On behalf of STT alongside the Minister were Rob de Fegely, Chair, Steve Whiteley, CEO, Chris Brookwell, GM Corporate Services and Suzette Weeding, GM Land Management.

Guy Barnett MP, Minister for Primary Industries and Water; Minister for Energy; Minister for Resources; Minister for Veterans’ Affairs.

Liberal Member for Lyons, John Tucker posed a question:

“Minister, taking into account the close relationship between the Greens and Labor, can you explain what would happen if the Greens successfully closed STT and ended the sustainable native timber harvesting industry?

Minister Barnett responded: “I thank the member for his excellent question.  Very incisive, because it is on the public record with respect to the plans of the Greens and, of course, with respect to the closing of Sustainable Timber Tasmania.  Of course, that is 150 jobs.

That policy would throw on the unemployment scrapheap some estimated 150 odd Tasmanians.

Cassy O’Connor: “That’s untrue.”

Barnett: “In addition, the closure of the native forest harvesting sector would put out of work thousands of Tasmanians.”

O’Connor: “Untrue.”

Barnett: Particularly in those rural and regional parts of Tasmania.  It would be devastating.  Forty per cent of those employed in the forest sector are from the native forest harvesting sector.  This Greens policy is a direct attack on the forest industry. It will be devastating.”

O’Connor: “No, it’s a fight for the climate.”

 Barnett: “The impact on rural and regional communities will be overwhelming.  We already know that there’s an estimated 5700 direct and indirect jobs in the forest industry.  Under the Schirmer Report * some 40 per cent of those jobs [are] in native timber harvesting.

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It would be devastating.  During the greatest health and economic challenge of our times, in fact, since World War II, for a proposal like that to be put forward, to throw on the unemployment scrapheap all of those Tasmanians, it would be devastating. I am overwhelmed with disappointment.”

Earlier this month, Lucy MacDonald from the ABC quoted the CEO of the Tasmanian Forest Products Association, Nick Steel:

“There are over 5,000 direct and indirect jobs [in forestry in Tasmania], but you also have all those shops and things like that that rely on those workers visiting them,” he said.

Tasmanian Times asked STT to validate the 5,000 workers, and what is the actual number of direct employees. A spokesperson responded:

“This is not something that Sustainable Timber Tasmania has numbers on. There are many people employed in the forest industry in Tasmania that are not directly associated with Sustainable Timber Tasmania as employees but are directly part of the Tasmanian forest industry.”

When Tasmanian Times asked the Tasmanian Forest Products Association for a reference to the 5,000 jobs, Steel responded:

“The figure comes from the report on the Socio-economic impacts of the forest industry, Tasmania, May 2018 (Schirmer, Mylek, Magnusson, Yabsley and Morison*).”

“The forest industry in Tasmania generated a total of 2,714 direct jobs up to the point of primary processing as of 2017-18. A further estimated 362 further direct jobs were generated by secondary processing activities as of August 2016, based on data from the ABS Census.

 This means a total of 3,076 direct jobs were generated in the Tasmanian forest industry as of 2017-18. The estimated flow-on employment generated by activities up to and including primary processing was an additional 2,651 jobs, which were generated in other industries as a result of demand generated from the forest industry.  Secondary processing activities will also generate flow-on impacts in other industries, but the extent of these could not be estimated for this report,” referenced Steel.

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Also taken from Schirmer* but not referenced by the Minister, STT or the TFPA; of the 2,714 jobs generated up to the point of primary processing**,

1,112 direct jobs were generated by the native forest industry, 903 by softwood plantations, and 699 by hardwood plantations.

The number of jobs varied by region. Of the 2,714 direct jobs generated up to and including primary processing, 653 were located in the Cradle Coast region, 1,035 in the Northern region and 1,014 in the Southern region.

Page 21 Socio-economic impacts of the forest industry Tasmania May 2018 *

The analysis shows that, overall, the number of jobs generated by the industry has declined significantly since 2006, but that job numbers have stabilised since 2013.

The majority of jobs generated by the industry are generated by the processing of wood and fibre. Far fewer jobs are created if logs are harvested and exported with no or little processing.

While the 2,714 direct jobs generated up to the point of primary processing (and 3,062 when secondary processing is included) is substantially lower than the employment the industry generated in 2008, it supports a significant proportion of jobs in several communities, particularly in the Local Government areas of Dorset, Circular Head, Derwent Valley, George Town, Central Highlands, Huon Valley and Waratah/Wynyard.

Taking the figure of 3,062 employment in the Forestry sector represents 1.4% of the total employed labour force of all industries in Tasmania as at 2016.

Despite such a low percentage of the total workforce, forestry is still regarded as a significant industry and employer in Tasmania despite the downturn since 2006.

Page 24 Socio-economic impacts of the forest industry Tasmania May 2018 *

Minister Barnett also repeated the importance of forestry in this state.

“As a sign of its importance to Tasmania the sector has continued operations during the COVID pandemic providing much-needed economic activity and opportunity. Similarly, the forestry sector will be critical to Tasmania’s recovery to COVID-19, providing a foundation for renewing and stimulating the economy and fuelling growth along the supply chain.”

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When asked about the possible impact of China banning imports of timber from Tasmania, Minister Barnett responded:

“As I say we are working closely with the Tasmanian Forest Products Association, both Nick Steel and their chair.  The feedback is that this is not a surprise and there has been a downward trend in terms of whole log exports over a period of time. Yes, there has been an official ban imposed as of last Friday; but in terms of the transition out of the export of whole logs that has been progressing for some time.  The industry has had time to adjust but notwithstanding that, yes, it is a very difficult and challenging time for those involved in that sector.”

“I should indicate that we extended the forestry resilience support package just a few months ago, the $500,000 support package to forestry contractors to provide that support particularly during the coronavirus pandemic.  That was announced earlier in the year.

We then announced an extension of that which provides ongoing support through Rural Business Tasmania, for rural financial counselling and then a grant of up to $15,000 for successful applicants.  That is something on the table as a government that we have, for supporting those contractors who are doing it tough.  That process has been in place and available and as I say we work very closely with industry to do what we can to support them and work closely with our federal colleagues accordingly.”

* Socio-economic impacts of the forest industry Tasmania May 2018

Jacki Schirmer, Mel Mylek, Anders Magnusson, Brigitta Yabsley and Julian Morison

** Direct employment includes

Primary production: Forest and plantation managers, harvest and haulage contractors, nurseries growing seedlings for commercial plantations, and silvicultural contractors. Employment estimates are based on the direct survey of the industry undertaken for this project, unless otherwise stated.

Primary processing: All types of manufacturing in which roundwood (logs) are processed into initial wood and fibre products. All manufacturing on a site is included, even if initial wood products are further processed into more complex products in a multiple-stage process. Employment estimates are based on the direct survey of the industry undertaken for this project, unless otherwise stated.

Source: Tasmanian Times

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