The Hon. Rob Lucas MLC

The Hon

Rob Lucas MLC



Private Memeber's Motion: ForestrySA

Wednesday, 6 April 2011


The Hon. R.I. LUCAS (17:18): I had not intended to speak until I heard I think probably two of the more appalling contributions to any debate that I have heard in quite some time in this chamber, from the leader of the government, the Hon. Mr Finnegan, and the Hon. Ms Zollo, trying to defend the government's indefensible position on this. It is sad; it is demeaning of both members that they should have made those contributions in the fashion that they have done.

What we have just seen is a vicious attack on community leaders and people who happen to take a particular view which is different to this government's view. We saw, as I said, firstly from the Hon. Ms Zollo and then supported by the Hon. Mr Finnigan, a vicious, premeditated attack on community leaders, council leaders, union leaders, worker representatives, forestry workers and others by the representatives of this delusional and out-of-touch government.

What they are saying—and they will not be prepared to say it outside, I am sure—is that the opposition to this position by these community leaders is not a genuinely held view; it is a view being held by some because they just want to win future political office. That is what the Labor Party representatives are saying in this chamber. They do not really believe this. They do not really believe what they are saying. They are only doing it to get a financial benefit or a future benefit for themselves by running for political office. That is what the government is saying about these political leaders, these community leaders, these union leaders, these forestry leaders, these business leaders and other representatives in the South-East.

I am proud to say that I spent almost the first 20 years of my life calling Mount Gambier home. My family are still in Mount Gambier, and members of my family and friends of mine are active participants in the forestry and forestry-related industries. Unlike the Hon. Mr Finnigan, I do not intend to turn my back on or spit in the face of former friends, acquaintances and family in Mount Gambier and the South-East and abuse them under parliamentary privilege in this chamber because they happen to have a view that is different from the government's on this issue. That is how far this debate has descended, from the government's viewpoint.

It is not just the mayors of the councils down there; we have received letters unanimously endorsed by whole councils. So, what is the Hon. Mr Finnigan and the Hon. Mrs Zollo saying—that all those members of the councils are deluded by the leadership of their mayors and do not really believe what they are supporting in terms of these resolutions? This attack is not on just the mayors but on every council member who supported those particular motions. It is on every one of those people who have signed petitions, it is an attack on every one of the protesters who came to Adelaide, who gave up their time and money to come here to try to put a point of view to this government on this issue.

People like the Hon. Mr Finnigan, who pretends to be representative of the country, who pretends to be a representative of Mount Gambier, have turned their back on them. It was not just that he did not agree, because on many occasions when you are in government you make decisions with which you do not agree; but you do not then launch premeditated, vicious assaults on the individuals who have taken a view that is different from yours.

The Hon. Mr Finnigan wants to put challenges out to people, but I put a challenge out to the Hon. Mr Finnigan: go outside of parliamentary privilege and parliament and say exactly those things—that the only reason these people are running these particular campaigns is that they want political office. That is what he is saying. If he wants to issue challenges, I issue a challenge to the Hon. Mr Finnigan: go outside and make those same statements in the community.

I bet he will not have the courage to do so, he will not have the courage to go outside this place and make all those statements in relation to attributing attitudes to those community leaders, that they do not believe the views they have been putting, that they are just making up those views because they want a financial or personal benefit by being elected to political office at some time in the future.

The Hansard record will not show it, but government members are squealing like stuck pigs over this issue at the moment. Let me put on the public record that, whilst the record will not show it, the government members—the Hon. Mr Holloway and the Hon. Mr Finnigan—are squealing like stuck pigs at the moment because they are embarrassed about the position being put by their representatives in this debate.

Let me address three or four of the issues that have been raised in supposed defence from the government. The first claim, which is unadulterated tripe, is that no decision has been taken. We had the Hon. Mr Finnigan standing up, 'No decision has been taken.' The Hon. Mrs Zollo says that no decision has been taken in relation to this issue.

Let me tell you, Mr President, having been a treasurer, nothing gets put into the forward estimates by Treasury unless there is a decision of the government to base it on. It is as simple as that. Nothing will go into the forward estimates of the budget—and the forward estimates are this year's budget and the next three years—unless there is a decision of the government. On a number of occasions, Treasury would have said to me when I was treasurer, 'Treasurer, we put this into the forward estimates because there is a decision of the cabinet to back that particular inclusion in the forward estimates.'

This is not a minor amount of money of $100,000 here or there or even $1 million here or there. This is approximately $500 million in the forward estimates which had been included by Treasury on the basis of a government decision having been announced and taken 2½ years ago at the time of the 2008-09 Mid-Year Budget Review.

It may well be, because of the strength of the community opposition and some opposition within the Labor caucus and the cabinet, as well, that the government is now reconsidering its position. That may well be the case and, if it is the case, the only reason it is the case is because of the strength of the opposition from community leaders, supported by members of parliament like the Liberal Party, the Greens and others. That would be the only reason why the decision may well be back in the melting pot.

It is a bit like the decision on the Parks Community Centre. That decision was made, included in the forward estimates as a result, but because of the community opposition to that decision, they backflipped, they backed down and they had to take it out of the forward estimates. That might be the set of circumstances that is occurring at the moment; that is, because of the strength of the opposition (which they underestimated), they thought that if the Hon. Mr Finnigan rolled over on his tummy and accepted the decision, that everyone else would roll over on their collective tummies and accept the decision, as well.

Well, that is not going to happen with the South-East. One thing I can say about the South-East is that the people pride themselves on their independence, their ability to fight for their causes and their capacity to take up the battle on behalf of their community with whatever government—Liberal or Labor—happens to take a decision contrary to their best interests.

Let's not hear this nonsense, this unadulterated tripe from government members that no decision has been taken. They might be rethinking it, they might reconsider it, but you do not get $500 million slipped into the budget forward estimates unless there is a decision of the government and of the cabinet to justify it. It is as simple as that and I can put it no more clearly than that.

The other point that the Hon. Mr Finnigan was making was that there was a predetermined outcome from a possible select committee. The benefit of a select committee is clearly to take evidence from community leaders—and not just community leaders but other representatives—and to give them a chance to put their point of view. I hope the Hon. Mr Finnigan, who says he is a representative of Mount Gambier, will have the courage to sit on the select committee. I hope he will not be a political coward and not sit on the select committee.

Let's not hear any nonsense that ministers do not sit on select committees, because I and other ministers in the former government sat on a number of select committees. Given the fact that he has virtually little to do, anyway, in his portfolios (they are so junior) he should have plenty of time to sit on a select committee and listen to the evidence. I do not know but I hope that he will not be a political coward and that he will be prepared to sit on this committee and listen to the evidence from the community, bureaucrats and others who should be called before that committee. If he does not, he will be guilty of political cowardice that has never been seen before in this chamber.

The committee will also be able to take evidence from government bureaucrats. Let us find out why Treasury put it into the forward estimates. Let us find out whether in their view a decision had been taken in relation to this particular issue. Let us find out why the regional impact statements from the bureaucrats and others have only just commenced in the last whatever the period is.

This decision, as the Hon. Mr Holloway likes to bleat, was announced back in the 2008‑09 Mid-Year Budget Review. Why didn't a regional impact statement, or anything, commence at that particular time? Again, the only reason we are seeing any of these regional impact statements and other things is because of the massive uprising, the protests, and the concern being expressed in the South-East community about this particular proposition from the government.

A number of those witnesses have not given evidence to any committee. There is no information available publicly as to the reasons why we have moved down this particular path. No reasons have been given publicly, for example, as to why the government has chosen three rotations as opposed to two, or whatever it is. What is the information available in relation to whether they will allow the shortening of rotations under private sector ownership, for example?

A number of questions need to be put to important public servants in a number of government departments, such as Treasury, possibly primary industries, certainly ForestrySA, and a range of other departments and agencies. They would need to give evidence to this particular committee. So it is not just a vehicle to listen to the community concerns, as important as that is; it is to throw some facts, some light and some evidence on the basis for the policy that the government has in mind, and what the potential implications and ramifications of that policy might be.

As I said, I did not intend to speak until I heard the vicious attacks from the Hon. Mrs Zollo and the Hon. Mr Finnigan on community leaders who are not able to represent themselves in this particular chamber and also the unadulterated tripe of some of the claims that no decisions have been taken, and that there was no point in having a select committee because we would know everything anyway in terms of the public record.

I strongly support the motion for the establishment of the select committee. I hope it is passed. I will conclude by saying again that I hope that the Hon. Mr Finnigan does not turn his back again on the people of Mount Gambier and that he has the courage and is prepared to sit on this committee and listen to the evidence first-hand.

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