Labor set to back forestry bill

THE government is poised to pass new forestry legislation today, as Labor prepares to outline its new position.

The opposition is not expected to oppose the Liberals' plans to tear up the forest peace deal, but has not ruled out adopting a position that would have allowed logging in protected areas earlier than the government's legislation.

The Rebuilding the Forest Industry Bill aims to unlock 400,000 hectares of forests earmarked for protection to logging in six years' time, and would allow specialty timbers to be available for harvest if needed.

Opposition Leader Bryan Green has remained tight-lipped on how Labor will vote, but said he had been ``working hard on a position''. 

The decision comes as a report into Labor's disastrous result found the peace deal ``poisoned'' the Labor brand in timber communities. 

Resources Minister Paul Harriss told Parliament yesterday that  D-Day had arrived for Mr Green.

``You cannot run or hide any longer on your process of shutting down the industry and locking up the forests,'' Mr Harriss said.

Mr Green said he expected ``a lot of scrutiny'' on his position. 

``It's alright to stand up and make out that you're tough and you're going to grow the forest industry, but any fair reading of the legislation does not allow that to happen,'' Mr Green said.

``It's the biggest piece of red and green tape you'll ever see,'' he said.

Forest Industries Association of Tasmania chairman Glenn Britton said industry had been in a ``state of flux'', waiting for a definitive position.

``We're in a `wait and see' situation,'' Mr Britton said.

If the government had stuck with the Tasmanian Forests Agreement, Mr Harriss could have blocked the creation of the remaining reserves set for permanent protection through a progress report, which would have killed the deal.

``At the end of the day, that's exactly what they could have done,'' Mr Green said.

``I'm confident, based on consultation with industry, that we will have a position that is sensible and allows industry to grow and prosper,'' he said.


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