Department of the Environment

Archived media releases and speeches

The Hon Tony Burke MP

Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities

Tasmanian forests agreement

E&OE Transcript
Interview with ABC Tas, Leon Compton
24 June 2011

LEON COMPTON: Let's see what the Environment Minister, Tony Burke, had to say a little earlier this morning, when I caught up with him for a chat.

The subject for discussion, as you might expect, was the statement of forestry principles that, in a sense, have been hammered together to provide some sort of agreed position under the tutorship - if that's the word - of Bill Kelty.

So it landed on Tony Burke's desk yesterday. I think our Premier and Government parties in Tasmania are to be briefed on it today. The question I asked Tony Burke is this now about the Federal Government, really, finding money for the deal to go any further.

TONY BURKE: There's no doubt that if we turn what's been presented to us yesterday into something to make work for the Tasmanian community, there's a price tag attached to that. There's also some rules and conservation commitments that come as part of it as well.

Now, there's a lot of detail in working through what's been given to us yesterday, so we're not even in the position of being able to say that this is how many dollars are involved. It's going to take a little bit of time to work that through.

But we shouldn't underestimate the importance of this. What we have is a united position to work from and when the groups first started meeting, a year ago I don't think anyone thought that we'd end up being able to find this sort of levels of agreement around the table that are in front of us right now.

LEON COMPTON: Do you look at this and accept that some five hundred million dollars may be needed, in the medium term, to make this a deal that's anything other than an idea on paper?

TONY BURKE: I've asked my department and the Commonwealth officials to work through it and to work out how much would be involved with the price tag. The number that you've quoted there has been put to me in interviews, but I'm still waiting for the actual numbers to come back from the department.

LEON COMPTON: Do you have the money to make this deal work?

TONY BURKE: Well, the first thing is to work out what the price tag is. But there's no doubt these are difficult fiscal times in budgets. They are. We've got to make sure that we return to surplus next year. That's the right thing for the economy.

All of these issues need to be weighed up. But for what's been presented to us yesterday, it's important that we now work through and ask one simple question: can we make this work for the Tasmanian community? The price tag is part of it. There's different rules that are part of that. And, as governments, we've got to look at that as to what role we would play, what role the Tasmanian Government would play.

LEON COMPTON: If this deal goes ahead does that get peace? Does that find peace and new opportunity for timber workers and does that keep environmentalists happy and out of timber workers' coops that remaining out of the markets that have been, to some extent poisoned in recent years by the environmental claims?

Can you see that this deal - and I would imagine you would want it if you're going to pay for it - want to make sure that this gets peace?

TONY BURKE: I think what we know at the moment is there's levels of co-operation that have been happening over the last twelve months that, three years ago, we all would have thought were impossible.

The different groups around the table have already surprised everybody at how co-operative they are willing to be on providing some certainty for people's jobs and providing a conservation outcome beyond what might have ever been thought possible.

So I don't want to underestimate the good will. I don't want to be naive about the history and the conflict that's been there for so long, but people have already been able to surprise us about how much good will there can be around the table; and I'm willing to take that at face value.

LEON COMPTON: The good will around the table. It was very interesting to have a chat to Tony Burke a little earlier this morning.

You've had a chance to listen to him. Do you think this might get the sort of environmental outcomes and business certainty that both sides of the discussion are aiming for?