Department of the Environment

Archived media releases and speeches

The Hon Tony Burke MP
Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities

Forestry Statement of Principles - appointment of Bill Kelty

E&EO Transcript
Press Conference with Premier David Bartlett
15 December 2010

PREMIER BARTLETT: Good morning to you all, thanks for coming in. Can I welcome Minister Tony Burke, both to Tasmania and to this announcement today.

I've been really pleased, I must say, in working with Minister Burke on the Statement of Principles.

Since we have received that Statement of Principles from the 10 signatories the two governments, as you are aware, have been working together to find the best way to build on the good will that was established through those Statement of Principles and to take those Statement of Principles to implementation phase.

The two governments have been working on that for a few weeks now and we're pleased today to be able to make an announcement that jointly the two governments will appoint Bill Kelty, who will be well known to all of you, as the facilitator for taking the implementation forward.

Today is a very important day, therefore, because it's the day Bill Kelty will start work on this implementation of the principles. But it's also the day, of course, aside from the 39 coupes put into moratorium as a sign of goodwill in recent weeks that the progressive implementation of a moratorium together with the progressive determination of resource security, wood supply and therefore jobs, where possible, will commence.

I congratulate Tony particularly for the leadership role that he has taken and the good working arrangements that are established.

We are now looking forward together to provide the resource and support and information towards Bill Kelty's due diligence process. We expect that that process will get underway very rapidly and will start reporting back to the Tasmanian people on progressive implementation in a short period of time.

So I will hand over to Tony Burke for a few comments then we'll take questions.

TONY BURKE: Thanks very much Premier. Thank you both for the welcome to Tasmania and for what has led to today's announcement.

If I can begin from the perspective of the Commonwealth, and everyone's perspective on this one. This is not something where governments have started with a destination and then have come to the community and said this is where you need to get to.

The Statement of Principles have truly been community led. The principles that we have have seen a whole lot of people, who for a long time would not be seen in the same room, actually working across the same table and saying, is there a way that we can both protect jobs and forests. That challenge was brought together in a Statement of Principles and the question is now, what can be done at a Government level to help facilitate that and help facilitate it moving towards a full agreement.

So I want to make clear, the reference point at every part of this process is the Statement of Princuples. That's where its coming from and we believe, through our discussions with the Tasmanian Government, that to appoint a facilitator that can use this as a reference point, deal with the parties and start to move that process forward is the next stage that needs to be done.

Bill Kelty is the perfect person. Bill Kelty is somebody who has devoted his career to brokering difficult agreements and finding people who have different starting points and getting them on the same page. So I want to thank Bill Kelty for his willingness to be part of this.

The ambition of the parties when they formed the Statement of Principles was really simple, can we provide that long term protection for jobs, that long term protection for timber communities and do it in a way that preserves a whole lot of forests of high conservation value.

That Statement of Principles refers to a few periods in the order of 90 days which begin today with the appointment of Bill Kelty. Those periods are to start to determine what is the quality and quantity of wood supply to ensure that industry and communities have a sustainable future and also to map through the implementation of a progressive moratorium on forests of high conservation value.

So I want to thank Tasmania for the co-operative work that we've done, but most importantly thank the parties to those principles because they are truly the starting point and the reference point for everything that's now happening.

PREMIER BARTLETT: Questions

JOURNALIST: Just wondering if you could you clarify Bill's role. It seems to be he's going to be conducting the due diligence process obviously, but will negotiations be taking place from now or does that come after due diligence? Will Bill be involved in that as well, could you clarify that please.

TONY BURKE: The key reference point for Bill Kelty is the Statement of Principles. The Statement of Principles is there for a purpose of seeing whether these principles can forge their way into a full agreement. That's what the parties have sought; Bill Kelty's role is to facilitate that.

JOURNALIST: So will the people be signed up to the Statement of Principles? Will they have a say? Will they be able to approach Bill Kelty and be part of his decision?

TONY BURKE: Discussion with them is a critical part of it all and certainly from a commonwealth perspective, Julia Gillard, when she made a statement last week made clear that our support in implementing the principles was on the basis that all of those parties to the principles remain parties to the principles.

PREMIER BARTLETT: I expect the first thing Bill Kelty will do will be getting around to all those parties, understanding their positions, understanding their concerns, no doubt, and working to bring those things together.

JOURNALIST: The Statement of Principles also contains a clause that says..(indistince)

PREMIER BARTLETT: Well look, can I say the Statement of Principles are completely intact. The ten signatories as of today are still ten signatories to that Statement of Principles.

The next most important steps as both governments agree was to appoint a governance structure, and we've determined Bill Kelty as an independent facilitator. No doubt there will be much resource and support underneath him that will need to happen but we, Minister Burke and I, will be discussing that with Bill himself on what's required there.

This is a progressive implementation of the principles to the extent that they can be implemented. Now that's his job and that's why we're making this important announcement today.

JOURNALIST: Premier, you said it was going to be an expert panel, what does Bill Kelty know about forestry issues?

PREMIER BARTLETT: Well, as Minister Burke's already said what Bill Kelty knows about and what his great skills are, what a lifetime of commitment Bill Kelty has given is to getting people in the room who have different starting points and often have had significant disagreements and finding agreement amongst them.

That's what Bill Kelty's great skill set is and he is therefore the perfect person for this job. In terms of, as I've said and alluded to, the support beneath him in terms of expertise, date, evidence, maps, all of those things we will be discussing with him and providing between the two governments that support to him.

JOURNALIST: Was your panel of experts, just to clarify gone by the wayside?

PREMIER BARTLETT: No, what's happened here, I'll make it clear, we put a proposal to the Federal Government, and they put a counter-proposal back to us, which we've agreed on. We are certain, by the way, that we will be making, once we've discussed with Bill Kelty, we'll be making some further announcements together about the support mechanisms that he will need. Obviously we want to talk to Bill about that.

What I would say is this: I am very confident that the arrangements we've come to are the best arrangements for taking this agreement forward.

JOURNALIST: Minister Burke what didn't sit well with you about having a three person panel?

BURKE: I think we can move from where we're at today, we've got a whole lot of parties to bring together, there was a view that to have one person as a focal point, as a facilitator was the best way of moving forward with that. It's not a criticism of any other model it was just a different way of working together, moving forward and the Tasmanian Government were on board with it.

PREMIER BARTLETT: But also, can I, before this seeps into urban myth that somehow this was the case, what we proposed was in fact a chair with some support underneath that chair including the ten signatories. That is not at all dissimilar to where we've arrived at.

JOURNALIST: Who will be paying for Mr Kelty's services?

TONY BURKE: When I spoke to Bill Kelty last night he was adamant that the did not want to receive any salary. There'll be an expense in terms of expenses travelling back and forth and things like that. But he was quite adamant that he did not want to receive a salary or a stipend in that fashion at all, which is very generous on his part and I think shows his commitment to the importance and this historic nature of the principles we've got in front of us.

JOURNALIST: How transparent do you expect this process to be as it gets under way?

TONY BURKE: I don't think it's possible to have any discussion in Tasmania on Forestry without it being transparent and discussed everywhere. That's certainly been my experience for three years as Forestry Minister. I suspect that won't change.

JOURNALIST: So you expect Mr Kelty would be available to the media?

PREMIER BARTLETT: Can I make it clear that I expect of this process as we make progress, both the two governments and the process that underpins our decision making will be reported back with clarity to the Tasmanian people.

JOURNALIST: What's the next step and when will it move from just a recommendation and perhaps a government coming up with a final solution?

PREMIER BARTLETT: Well today is day one of what is a complex due diligence process but that a lot of the information is there and I'm aware that Mr Kelty wants to get in boots and all right now as soon as possible and that work will start today. We believe there is rapid work to be done, we've also of course already committed to those thirty nine coupes in moratorium and we are now committed to as rapidly as possible assisting Bill Kelty to report back to us at the earliest possible time frame on how a progressive implementation of moratorium balanced with the contractual obligations we have in wood supply to be met.

JOURNALIST: The Commonwealth response to the state's proposal referred to, I think the end of June next year was the target. Is that still the target and how confident are both of you that agreement can be reached and reached fairly quickly?

TONY BURKE: Well certainly, we've put on the table through to that timeframe, there is some work under the principles that has to be completed inside that timeframe. So, the critical reference point with all of this keeps coming back to that statement of principles. You'll see a number of timeframes in it.

JOURNALIST: You don't have any confidence, sorry, you haven't said, you don't

seem very confident about the process.

TONY BURKE: I don't know how you read that in the statement. What you won't find me doing is adding an extra layer of timeframes beyond what is in the principles. I want to stress back to you what I said in the beginning; this is not a situation of the Commonwealth Government coming to Tasmania and giving some sort of direction or end point.

There is a rare opportunity that most people, not that long ago, would have thought impossible. That we've got the ten different groups on the same page saying, here are some principles that they believe can provide a long-term sustainable future and we want to help facilitate that. The Statement of Principles is the critical timeframe.

JOURNALIST: Can I ask why Mr Kelty is not here today to really be available to speak to us?

TONY BURKE: Well look, the final details on this we've been working through with meetings

PREMIER BARTLETT: Up until late last night.

TONY BURKE: That's right, I'm not going to speak for Bill Kelty; there'll be full availability and transparency for the media as the Premier said.

PREMIER BARTLETT: We'll take a couple more questions because I know Minister Burke has to go and catch a plane.

JOURNALIST: One thing, Minister Burke then, you've had a look at the forest industry from both sides in the course of your portfolios, this is clearly an important point nationally. How do you see this translating onto the national scene?

TONY BURKE: There's been a few attempts from people to say somehow this sets a precedent for the rest of Australia. My view is that what we have in front of us is a very unusual situation in terms of the parties being willing to be on the same page and adopt the same principles.

We were asked many times during the election campaign to second-guess the outcome of the discussions which were at that point still underway. We always declined to do that and we said if something is presented to us we would look at it. Tasmania has shown a level of cooperation here that has not been seen in any other state and I'm simply not going to get ahead of myself in prejudging what might or might not be possible in other states.

PREMIER BARTLETT: Okay, last question.

JOURNALIST: There are some people who are watching the process very closely who are concerned that Premier's actions in promising individual sawmills that are at risk[indistinct] after 2027 has undermined the process. I'm keen to get the Premier's comments on this.

PREMIER BARTLETT: Let me make it clear. Everything I have said and done is in response to the principles that we have been presented.

As a Labor Premier, I do want to provide resource security for as many in this industry as possible. I've made no secret about that, I am absolutely clear about that. I believe there is a long term future for the forestry industry in Tasmania but it must go through a transition and the best way of achieving that transition is through this statement of principles and the facilitation role we've appointed Mr Kelty to today. I'm happy for Tony to have the last word and then we'll have to go.

TONY BURKE: Once again, from the Commonwealth's perspective, what matters for our engagement in all of this is that the reference point remains that Statement of Principles and I don't necessarily see anything in the question that would imply that anything has happened outside of those.

TONY BURKE: Thank you very much.

PREMIER BARTLETT: Thank you.

ENDS