GAYLE TIERNEY (Western Victoria – Minister for Training and Skills, Minister for Higher Education, Minister for Agriculture) (12:19): Today I would like to acknowledge the challenges faced by Victoria’s native timber workers. For three years there has not been stable native timber supply in this state due to increasing severe bushfires, sustained legal action and decisions of higher courts. On budget day I delivered the news in Gippsland, along with the Minister for Regional Development, that Victoria will exit native timber harvesting on 1 January 2024. Our government has had to make a tough decision, as painful as it is, to provide a measure of certainty that timber workers and their families deserve. Unlike some, we take absolutely no satisfaction in this decision, nor do we underestimate the challenges ahead. The news that an industry that you have devoted your life to is being redefined by unprecedented challenges is an incredibly hard thing. I know because I have stood with and fought alongside workers facing life-altering moments like this before in the car industry. Everyone processes it differently, in their own way and in their own time.
What I can assure this place is that we are going to deal with this sensitively. We are going to put timber workers and communities front and centre. This budget commits $200 million to support the new transition time frame, bringing our total investment in forestry to over $875 million since 2019. We will back local communities with financial support, mental health support, secure jobs and training and the intensive one-on-one case management they need. We will match workers and their skills to jobs in land management and bushfire response. We will retrain others to help them fill skill shortages in truck driving, construction and other areas that align to their background and experience. We will deliver on our commitment to a managed transition, and timber workers will not face this challenge alone.
Jaclyn Symes: I should have said at the start of question time that Minister Erdogan is on paternity leave and I will be acting in his capacity for this week and possibly next sitting week as well – definitely this week.
The PRESIDENT: Congratulations to Minister Erdogan.