Question without notice – Timber shortages impacting Big Housing Build

Melina BATH (Eastern Victoria) (12:33): (339) My question is to the Minister for Housing.

Minister, the government has advised the building and construction industry not to use native timber hardwood varieties in design and construction of new homes, including flooring, staircases,  beams, doors, windows, decking and cladding. Will the government still be able to deliver its promised 80,000 new homes per year given the lack of hardwood timber supply?

Harriet SHING (Eastern Victoria – Minister for Housing, Minister for Water, Minister for Equality) (12:34): Ms Bath, I am very happy to talk about social housing. Within the 80,000 homes
per year for the next 10 years there is absolutely a component of social housing. The bulk of your question, though, appears to me to relate to investment within the private sector for private market housing to come online. To that end I am very happy to perhaps combine some information from Minister Brooks in the other place, who is dealing with the private market investment in that. Just while I am on my feet, though, I do want to note that there is still significant opportunity for the investment in cosmetic and non-structural use of timber in new development. One of the examples that I just want to put onto the record is Australian Sustainable Hardwoods in Heyfield, an operation which, despite what may wish to be advanced as a narrative from certain people, was the subject of record investment from the Andrews Labor government to the tune of around $50 million. Vince Hurley, who is the CEO of Australian Sustainable Hardwoods, is really, really clear about the growth and the expansion of opportunities at that particular mill. They are putting on new workers to meet the demand associated with their world-class product. In addition to that, I just want to also make it really clear that native timber is not used as structural timber – that in fact the vast majority of wood that is used in construction is plantation timber and that,
to the extent that your question relates to cosmetic and internal fittings and use such as staircases and flooring, I am very happy to seek some information for you from Minister Brooks as that relates to private development. We do not have staircases and flooring in social housing which relates to that sort of thing. When you go to social housing as far as the developments that we are doing are concerned, it is about energy efficiency in terms of materials that are easy to clean and easy to use. The lino floor and the flooring that we have in our social homes is really intended to be as user-friendly as possible. There are not wooden staircases in these homes. Perhaps I can be of assistance to you in seeking some further information from Minister Brooks on the private development space.

Melina BATH (Eastern Victoria) (12:37): I thank the minister for her response, noting that hardwood timber can still be used in social housing for structural purposes. Is it the government’s
policy to recommend using imported hardwood from overseas, with poorer environmental standards than Australia, to ensure the promised thousands of homes are built?

Harriet SHING (Eastern Victoria – Minister for Housing, Minister for Water, Minister for Equality) (12:37): That is squarely within Minister Brooks’s portfolio, so again perhaps you might like
me to, in accordance with the standing orders, seek an answer from him to be provided to you.

Members interjecting.

The PRESIDENT: The minister’s answer was that it is not her responsibility under general orders, but she has offered – and I think quite generously, because I was going to suggest it is outside the
standing orders – within the standing orders to get answers from Minister Brooks.

Members interjecting.

The PRESIDENT: Order! I started question time late. I am wondering if a couple of people want to get out early to lunch via the behaviour that was just displayed