Questions Without Notice TIMBER INDUSTRY

April 7, 2022 – Questions Without Notice TIMBER INDUSTRY

Ms BATH (Eastern Victoria) (12:32): My question is to the Attorney. This week in Parliament I met with David, a forestry contractor whose staff have all been sitting idle since Christmas Eve due to legal injunctions issued after third-party action by green groups. Noting the fifth litigation case against the timber industry was thrown out of court yesterday, that is 5-0 in favour of the native timber industry. Will you, Attorney, meet with David and other timber industry workers—people the Labor Party used to support—and explain why the government has failed to support changes to legislation to protect the industry from this green lawfare?

Ms SYMES (Northern Victoria—Leader of the Government, Attorney-General, Minister for Emergency Services) (12:33): Ms Bath, you know that that is not a question that you should be directing to me. You are conflating a lot of issues and saying, ‘It’s a legal issue. It’s a matter for the Attorney’. That is a really inappropriate way to construct your question. It is trying to conflate an issue into something to make it an issue in this house when it is not.

Members interjecting.

Ms SYMES: It is not an issue for question time to be addressed to me—I am not in a position to provide advice on court outcomes and court litigation—and I think it is really unfair that you are trying to pretend that it is, because you know that it is not. I think that is a really disingenuous way to treat your constituents, who I know you work closely with. We have a transition plan. We want to support the forest industry to transition. We want to support jobs in those local communities, and you like to keep trying to stomp on their ability to work with government and look forward to what can be the future in relation to these issues. It is not appropriate for me to talk about legal cases because I am the Attorney-General—it does not work like that—and I think you should be pretty ashamed of trying to do it in that way, because you are just trying to use people and trying to give them a false sense that I can step in and fix a legal problem. That is not my role.

Ms BATH (Eastern Victoria) (12:34): To the minister: David’s business was paid $82 000 in compensation by the government in January alone for enforced shutdown, when all his workers want to do is go and have an honest day and work for their community, for their families.

As the state’s top lawyer, you could legislate to stop this. You could legislate; you could bring in legislation to stop this. What action will you take to help these workers get back to work?

Ms SYMES (Northern Victoria—Leader of the Government, Attorney-General, Minister for Emergency Services) (12:35): Ms Bath, I believe I probably expressed this in my response to your previous question. A lot of people have the misconception—I do not think that you do. I think that you know exactly the truth—that as Attorney-General I do not have responsibility for every law. That is not how it works. There are bills that apply to the forestry industry; they are not mine. You are effectively saying that every piece of legislation that affects the law or creates a law is a matter for the Attorney-General, and you know that is false. I know why you are asking those questions, and it is appalling conduct.