23 November 2021

Urgency Motion

With its latest glossy document, the Morrison-Joyce government claim to have a plan to address climate change and achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. But the reality is that this lightweight pamphlet does little to explore the real-world impacts of this target. Like always, the Coalition have refused to take responsibility and have instead passed the buck.

Fortunately, the Centre of Policy Studies at Victoria University recently published a working paper titled Zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050: what it means for the Australian economy, industries and regions.

After reading through the marketing materials that the Coalition have called a ‘plan’, it’s great to see some research that actually explores the real-world effects of achieving net zero by 2050. The working paper dives deeply into several areas. But today I want to particularly focus on what net zero means for Australia’s timber industry.

This is an industry that is very close to my heart. For a long time, a job in the timber industry has meant decent pay, good conditions and reliable work—the sort of job you can depend on as you build a life, buy a house and raise a family. It’s heartening to see that the research predicts that by pursuing net zero by 2050 our forestry industry will be almost twice the size that it would be if we do not take action on climate change.

Sustainable forestry is essential to achieving net zero, as demonstrated by this important research. However, the Morrison-Joyce government’s summary barely mentions forestry or wood processing. By treating net zero as a political problem rather than an economic opportunity, the Coalition are overlooking the impacts their decisions will have on industries and on workers.

Under the Liberals and Nationals, Australia’s plantation estate has shrunk by 500 million trees, down 10 per cent since 2014. This must change if we are going to achieve net zero by 2050.

The research also demonstrates the foolishness of those who seek to damage our forestry industry in the name of climate change. The paper shows that the forestry industry, as our greenest form of carbon capture, will need to grow to meet our targets. Those who seek to damage or disrupt the activities of our timber workers are not only hurting the livelihoods of working families and regional communities; they are also making it harder for us to hit our climate goals.

Tree plantations in Victoria store 8.4 million tonnes of carbon dioxide every year. It is wrong to attack this industry, when its work is essential to limiting climate change. We cannot afford to be distracted by some radicals who are more concerned with making themselves feel good than with protecting our planet.

I back our timber workers, and so does the research by Victoria University. The real climate heroes are providing sustainable, green building materials to our construction industry. They are taking and storing carbon from our forests and regrowing the harvested trees to store even more carbon. They are working in an industry that provides good jobs and the foundation of local economies right around Australia, including in regional Australia. It’s an industry that needs to be supported to expand if we are going to meet our targets.

The Morrison-Joyce government needs to understand that leadership isn’t just waving a brochure around at a press conference; leadership is assessing the impact of your decisions on the Australian economy, so we can help those who will need a leg-up and create jobs right here in Australia.

Activists need to understand that attacking the timber industry is not going to prevent climate change. You are targeting an industry that needs to get bigger, not smaller, to protect our planet. We cannot be tricked into believing that we need to choose between jobs and the environment.

The research from the Centre of Policy Studies confirms that this is a false choice. I look forward to continuing to support timber workers and their communities, because federal Labor is on their side.