WHAT FOREST INDUSTRIES
NEED THIS ELECTION

Click on AFPA’s “10 Actions for Growth” document below and see extended information on each policy request below it.

GOVERNMENT LEADERSHIP

  • Appoint a Minister with direct responsibility for forestry;
  • Revert the Federal Department of Agriculture’s name to the ‘Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry’;
  • Establish a Ministerial Council for forestry ministers to better align state and national forestry policy.

How the Federal Government represents, fosters and promotes Australia’s forest industries matters both symbolically and pragmatically. Symbolically, because it demonstrates the level of government commitment and energy towards the sector and practically for purposeful policy reform and focus by government staff. Currently, Federal Government responsibility for forestry sits with the Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources. The next Federal Government needs to appoint a Minister with direct responsibility for forestry, this is important symbolically as it will represent the new Federal Government’s commitment and interest to the sector, and it will allow the Minister to wholeheartedly focus on their obligations to the sector. Reverting the Federal Department of Agriculture and Water Resources’ name back to the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, properly represents the forestry sector in the Department charged with working through its interests at the Federal Government level. Establishing a formal Ministerial Council for the Federal and State forestry Ministers will allow for better collaboration and alignment of State and Federal policy related to forest industries. It should result in better strategic direction and policy outcomes, by allowing Ministers at each level to develop, manage and track goals for the sector.

MORE TREES, IN THE RIGHT PLACES, AT THE RIGHT SCALE

  • Remove Carbon Farming Initiative (CFI)/Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF) barriers for both plantation and farm forestry projects;
  • Support and incentivise new CFI/ERF projects which have multiple benefits, such as emission reduction in industry, plantation and farm forestry projects.

Trees are a renewable and sustainable resource that can store huge amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) in standing timber and innovative wood, paper and bioproducts, and for many years afterwards by the recovery and recycling of these renewable products. However, Australia’s plantation estate is declining amid record global and domestic demand for timber and wood products. AFPA has identified an additional 400,000 hectares of plantations are needed for the future. That includes 300,000 hectares of new plantations and 100,000 hectares of new farm forestry plantings. These additional plantings will help the Government achieve its goal of 1 billion new plantation trees as outlined in the ‘Growing a better Australia: A billion trees for jobs and growth’ policy released by the Federal Government in 2018. One of the best ways to achieve the goal of new plantations is to remove the rainfall restriction on plantations in the Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF) plantation forestry method. Currently, potential new forest plantation projects are effectively excluded from consideration as an eligible offset project if planted in an area with excess of 600mm annual rainfall under the Carbon Farming Initiative (CFI) Plantation Forest methodology.

Farm forestry is the integration of commercial tree plantings into holistic farming systems, allowing farmers to capture multiple on farm benefits like stock shelter, soil improvement and diversification of income. However due to the CFI rule, projects can only be carried out on areas of land up to 100 hectares or 30 per cent of farm area, whichever is smaller (where annual rainfall is greater than 400 mm) or 300 hectares or 30 per cent of farm area, whichever is smaller (where annual rainfall less than 400 mm) which is of insufficient scale to be viable for timber production. The removal of both the 600mm and 400mm rainfall restriction is needed to promote increased uptake and new plantation investment. 

REGIONAL FOREST INDUSTRY HUBS

  • Provide $13 million to progress the rollout of 13 Regional Forest Industry Hubs (including the nine already announced). The funding will support all levels of government, landowners and industry to develop growth plans for the regions that will guide future investment in   infrastructure, new plantation areas including farm forestry, and processing innovation;
  • Prioritise investment in Regional Forest Industry Hubs from existing government infrastructure, skills and innovation programs, and informed by the Regional Forestry Hub assessments. Potential investment could include roads, bridges, ports, manufacturing, telecommunications and training facilities;
  • Deliver competitive and efficient energy networks and pricing for wood and paper product manufacturing users, including gas.

After years of pushing from AFPA, the Federal Government launched the idea of establishing Regional Forest Industry Hubs in its ‘Growing a Better Australia: A billion trees for jobs and growth’ policy in 2018, as an underpinning strategy to help deliver the planting of one billion new plantation trees. Preceding the commitment was the Forest Industry Advisory Council (FIAC) recommendation that plantation expansion occurs ‘in the right places, at the right scale and with the right species’.

The Federal Government’s policy is to create these key areas which are to be located across Australia within key forestry regions, in partnership with industry. AFPA has been campaigning for the creation of Hubs to turbocharge the sector for the past few years, having initially called for the formation of 31 small Hubs with defined areas. The Federal Government has now announced 9 Hub areas with exact boundaries to be defined by Hub Committees. AFPA is arguing for an additional 4 Hubs (total 13), which will cover essentially the same areas as the original 31. It is essential each Hub establishes a steering committee to employ a Hub Manager who will assist in the creation of a strategic plan and begin the vital work of mapping the barriers to sustainable growth of the industry. Each of the 13 Hubs need $1 million of funding over four years.

The 13 locations that are needed are:

Already funded ($1 million over four years)

  • South West Western Australia
  • North/North West Tasmania
  • North East NSW
  • Green Triangle SA/VIC

Not yet funded.

  • Gippsland Victoria
  • North East Victoria
  • South West Slopes NSW
  • Central West NSW
  • South East NSW
  • South East QLD
  • North QLD
  • North Northern Territory
  • Southern Tasmania

Background on point three under REGIONAL FOREST INDUSTRY HUBS

Manufacturers of wood, paper and engineered wood products are significant energy users and have experienced huge energy price rises over the last few years that threaten their continued viability. Like much of manufacturing, forest industries have experienced little to no price increases for their products coupled with increasing quality and performance demands. Internationally competitive energy costs are essential if manufacturing in Australia is to survive. Appropriate energy and climate change policy mechanisms need to be developed and implemented to stabilise energy use and improve energy productivity while competitive and efficient (low cost) energy networks, including affordable gas and associated gas infrastructure needs to be delivered. Competition in the wholesale electricity market needs significant improvement and increased and broadened transparency of the rules for increasing network investment to reduce costs for energy users.

Bioenergy, including renewable heat, should be recognised and incentivised in the design of any energy policy mechanism.

CERTAINTY FOR NATIVE FORESTRY

  • Support 20-year Regional Forest Agreements (RFAs) on a rolling five-year basis;
  • Commit to no more forest lock-ups and no net loss in timber supply for industry;
  • Sustainably manage private native forestry;
  • Support a national program of mechanical fuel reduction to reduce the risk of bushfires.

Australia leads the world in the sustainable management of our vast native forest estate, only a tiny fraction of which is used for timber production. Of Australia’s 123 million hectares of native forest, only 100,000ha of the native forest area in Australia is harvested for timber annually (less than 0.06% of Australia’s total native forests).

After harvest, all native forest harvested is sustainably regrown, with the regrowth quickly becoming an abundant food source and habitat for native species. 100% of AFPA’s native forest operations are independently certified to comply with the world’s best sustainable forest management practices, compared with the global average of 8% percent, meaning Australia is a leader when it comes to ensuring the sustainability of forest practices.

Our native forest industries which support tens of thousands of jobs around Australia are regulated through Federal and State Government agreements known as Regional Forest Agreements (RFAs). These 20-year agreements seek to balance and protect the full range of environmental, social, economic and heritage values that forests provide for current and future generations. The RFA framework delegates environmental regulation to the state governments and are independently reviewed every five years to ensure they are meeting their objectives.

In establishing the RFAs in the 1990s, forest industries lost significantly large areas of production forest that was converted to permanent reserves. As a direct result of the RFAs and public land use decisions since the early 1990s, over 13.6 million hectares have been added to Australia’s forest conservation reserve system.  The area of native forests in conservation reserves has almost trebled since 1990, from 6 per cent to 16 per cent of all native forests.

The native forestry industry is now at the point where it cannot sustain any further reduction in production forest. That is why it is vital, going forward, both Ste and Federal governments give much greater emphasis to providing certainty to industry in the extended RFAs.

Over the past 18 months, following community consultation, independent reviews and renewal processes, NSW, Western Australia, and Tasmania have all extended their RFAs with the Commonwealth for a further 20 years, with the addition of five-year extensions upon the successful completion of independent reviews. Only Victoria is yet to extend the state’s three RFAs.

Our forest industries need resource security. This election, AFPA is seeking clear commitments from political parties and candidates that they support our national RFA framework, and that they support a guarantee that there will be no more lock-ups of our multi-use forests upon which our forest industries depend on.

SKILLS AND TRAINING

  • Provide $5 million for a national forest industries skills and training strategy;
  • Provide $2 million to support industry efforts to develop industry leaders with a focus on women, indigenous and young people in regional Australia.

A national forest industries skills and training strategy, which will be designed in consultation with the forest industry and relevant stakeholders, to support the changes in technology and the growth of the many skillsets contained in the forest industry sector, is being called for by AFPA. The forest industry contains a wide array of critical skillsets which underpins economic activity in many sectors of the Australian economy and is therefore a strategic investment in Australia’s economy. This strategy should have the capacity to recognise the high level of in-house training taking place in parts of the forest industry, as well as the potential for use of e-learning platforms for the more remote locations of the industry.

Increasing diversity of future leaders in the forest industry will increase the future industry’s strength. AFPA is seeking a commitment from the next Federal Government for $2 million to assist the industry in increasing the diversity of future leaders. This request is in addition to the national forest industries skills and training strategy.

RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT

  • Provide $40 million for the National Institute for Forest Products Innovation (NIFPI) across a national network of centres;
  • Guarantee Forest and Wood Products Australia’s (FWPA’s) independence and no reduction in funding levels.

It’s essential to the future of forestry research and development that there is guaranteed funding from the Federal Government.

Following pressure from AFPA, during the 2016 Federal Election Campaign, the Federal Government committed $4 million to support the establishment of two National Institute for Forest Products Innovation (NIFPI) centres with matched funding by the Tasmanian and South Australian Governments. This funding allowed for the creation of two NIFPI centres, Mount Gambier and Launceston.  The availability of funding for new projects in both of these centres is finishing in the 2018/19 financial year thus ending the ability for new projects from either centre.

AFPA is now seeking $40 million to fund the current NIFPI centres in Launceston and Mount Gambier, as well as a network of further locations.

Australia has experienced a huge decline in the number of scientists working on forestry related research. According to the State of the Forests Report 2018, there were 733 forest scientists in 2008, but in 2016 there were just 276. These figures show investment in forest-based R&D has significantly fallen over the past decade, the lack of funding has been further compounded by poor national coordination of research and development work currently underway.

There needs to be a NIFPI steering committee overseeing the NIFPI model to set the themes of the individual centres and to ensure duplication of research is not being undertaken. Each NIFPI will also have its own committee.

Forest and Wood Products Australia (FWPA) is the forest and wood products industry research and development body which is funded by the Australian Government and an industry levy. The Australian Government offers annual matching funds for primary industry research and development activities up to a statutory limit of 0.5% of the sector’s gross value of production (GVP). The forest and wood products sector GVP was $2.34 billion in 2017/18, which would qualify it for matching funds of $12 million. FWPA claimed approximately $6 million in 2017/18 for levies spent on research and development across the industry. Therefore, an additional $6 million can be accessed if matched by industry (total $12 million). However, the forest industry cannot access the full quantum of this funding through the matched voluntary industry contributions as it’s the only industry with a cap on its voluntary funding.  In order to access vital funding for research and development we are asking for all Federal parties to support the removal of the forest industry matched voluntary cap.

FWPA is invaluable to the success of the forestry industry; any loss of Australian government funding or technical services would directly result in job losses and potentially threaten the future of the forestry industry.  The support of all sides of Federal politics is needed to protect FWPA into the future by guaranteeing its independence and ability to access funding.

A BIOFUTURES REVOLUTION

  • Provide $1 million to develop a National Biofutures Roadmap;
  • Provide $20 million to establish a National Biofutures Industry Development and Commercialisation Fund;
  • Fast track development of relevant Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF) methodologies for low emissions-intensive wood building materials produced by Australian industry, harvested wood products in landfill (using life cycle assessment principles), enhanced sustainably managed (harvested and regrown) native forests, and the renewable use of   harvest and processing residues;
  • Recognise bioenergy and renewable heat in the design of any energy and climate change policy mechanism.

Wood fibre is an amazing natural, renewable, recyclable and sustainable resource. Policy makers should recognise that renewable forest, wood and paper products industries can play a significant role in storing carbon in trees and products, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, converting fibre into bioproducts that substitute for products sourced from fossil fuels, and transitioning to a carbon constrained future.

With an expanding population in the South-East Asia region and high forecast demand for renewable products, our forest industries have the potential to provide a versatile range of bio-based products for construction, paper, engineered wood, biochemical and bioenergy uses. Fibre based products involve lower energy inputs in production and provide a range of emissions reduction and carbon storage benefits relative to other alternative materials.

Manufacturers of wood, paper, and engineered wood products are significant energy users, and continue to be under crippling cost pressures due to rapidly rising gas and energy contract prices. Delivering policy reforms which address energy security and affordability, the transition to low emission energy, and reducing emissions is a complex problem, and one that will need balanced and effective reform of energy, climate change and industry policy.

Policy makers should recognise that bioenergy is a unique renewable source that can be used across all three energy sectors (transport, heat and electricity). Bioenergy can be both dispatchable and deliver baseload power 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The policy framework needs to be stable, predictable and avoid complexity to help minimise investment uncertainty, and not expose Australian export and import competing industries to costs not faced by their competitors in other countries.

SUPPORT FOR THE CIRCULAR ECONOMY

  • Support circular economy solutions, including implementing the National Waste Policy, incentivising recycling and circular economy initiatives, and updating the National Waste  Strategy with circular economy principles.

Many of the members of our industry have the capacity to contribute to a circular economy, through their carbon storing, recycling, bioenergy and waste to energy projects being undertaken across Australia. AFPA is ready help further with the national waste challenge with the Federal Government’s support. Positive work has been undertaken to update the Federal Government’s 2018 National Waste Policy. Many of the strategies outlined in this policy document need adequate funding in order to be given operational capacity and unlock the true benefit for the industries involved.

TRADE AND PROCUREMENT POLICY

  • Allocate a dedicated Department of Agriculture and Water Resources trade officer in Asia to assist Australian forest industries;
  • Strengthen anti-dumping systems to protect domestic manufacturing from unfair importing practices;
  • Ensure equitable outcomes for forest industries in trade negotiations;
  • Review government procurement to prioritise sustainability, local economic activity and jobs, recycling and socio-economic issues;
  • Encourage adoption of green building and wood encouragement policies to support domestic manufacturing.

Our renewable forest, wood and paper products industry is one of Australia’s largest manufacturing industries with an annual turnover of approximately $24 billion. Australia’s commercial environment is completely exposed to international trade, but it is not a level playing field. Australian producers face significant international competition, and there are increased incidences of producers engaging in predatory pricing, as well as selling products with varying levels of quality, dubious standards and environmental compliance, and imports that are produced with government support. The price of these products may not reflect the ‘true’ cost of inputs for competing products around the globe.

A stable and transparent investment and trade environment is needed. Our forest industries support the high-level principles of trade liberalisation to support global trade by removing unnecessary trade barriers and promoting greater efficiency, innovation and investment, including: implementation of equitable free trade principles (i.e. equity in reduction of tariffs and their timing) between trading nations; Australian producers should have full access to trade remedies available under the WTO, including anti-dumping and countervailing measures; Australia’s ability to develop and apply technical regulations, standards, testing and certification procedures must remain unaffected; Australia’s ability to apply the rights and obligations under the WTO agreements on Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) measures and Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) must remain unaffected; and FTA market access outcomes should be reviewed after implementation for their impacts.

Policy makers should recognise that sustainable wood and paper products procurement by all levels of government is important to lead Australia’s progression into a carbon constrained future. Government agencies need to implement and monitor their sustainability guidelines and consider the advantages of locally produced wood and paper products in their procurement decisions.

COMMUNITY EDUCATION

  • Create a $2 million fund to develop education programs on the environmental benefits of choosing products from Australia’s sustainable and renewable forest industries.

There are a lot of misconceptions about how our modern forest industries operate. Ours is an industry that aims to plant or regrow more trees than we use. Our production trees store carbon from the atmosphere as they grow and continue to store carbon after they’ve been turned into products. We are the lifeblood of many regional communities around Australia. We want to communicate to all Australians that our renewable forest industries are literally growing Australia’s future. We are good for the environment and can play a vital role in Australia’s climate change strategy. But we need more resources to promote this message. We want to build on the good work of Forest and Wood Products Australia (FWPA) to promote that message, through their Wood. Naturally Better marketing campaign, and through their Forest Learning program in schools that provides teachers with free resources and ideas to integrate forest education into their learning programs.