Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 2 Hansard (28 February) . . Page.. 382..
MR SMYTH (continuing):
After we received a consultant's report and after it had been through cabinet, the workers were informed of what the next steps were.
MR STANHOPE: Mr Speaker, I ask a supplementary question. Will the minister confirm, as he has just suggested, that the reason given for ignoring the consultation clauses was that the decision to sack the forestry workers was made by cabinet and was therefore subject to cabinet confidentiality? Can the minister explain to the Assembly how it is that cabinet confidentiality can override the industrial law, or is this simply a sorry excuse to cover up for his lack of courage in facing his own workers?
MR SMYTH: There is a clear process that is followed here-and it is not just by this government; it is by all governments-on how they come to their decisions. Those opposite may smirk, as they do. Indeed, there were two reports in the early 1990s that the Labor Party and Labor governments just ignored. The forestry workers today may not be facing what is occurring today if the work had been done better in the early 1990s.
Mistakes were made 10, 20, 30 years ago-when reports were ignored in the early 1990s, when over-clearing occurred in the 1980s, when under-planting occurred under a Liberal government in the 1960s-that have come home to roost. We foreshadowed in this year's budget that there was a review that may lead to a reform process in the forestry industry.
It is not just about ACT Forests. Beyond ACT Forests, in the region, are some 350 jobs already and the opportunity to expand that. But what we deliver through ACT Forests is an impediment to that. Our overheads are double the national average and we have to reform the industry, or the risk is that the entire industry goes. If Mr Stanhope is suggesting that the entire industry should go, then Mr Stanhope is not considering the greater good of the entire industry in the region-and there is opportunity for it to expand, and that offers the opportunity for further jobs.
We believe that the process is appropriate. The process has been foreshadowed for some time now-and everyone knew that these consultancies were going on. It is foreshadowed in the budget. There is a note in the budget that says these are the figures but it is subject to review and possible reform, and that reform is now occurring.
MR BERRY: My question is directed to the Minister for Urban Services-well known to have received some training in Peter Reith's office-and it relates to ACT Forests. The minister claims that the government's decision to axe 20 jobs is in response to a review. Just by way of illumination, one of the jobs that are going is that of a person who has received the Canberran of the Year award-and I hold that up for members to see and to see if I can get some shame out of the government-another award from the ACT government for 15 years of loyal service and a national medal for 25 years of loyal service to the community of the ACT. These are the sorts of workers that have been stitched up by this Reith-trained minister.