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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 3 Hansard (7 March) . . Page.. 735 ..

MR KAINE (10.56): The matter raised by Mr Berry with this motion is a perplexing and complex one and I am not sure that it can be resolved by a motion as simple as the one that Mr Berry has put forward. The world has had to confront the fact over a number of decades that the workplace in many respects is a rapidly changing place. For example, the ACT public service of today is unrecognisable with the one of 10 years ago.

The same thing is happening right across the workplace, whether it is in the private sector or in government. The fact is that the workplace is changing rapidly. The logging industry is no different from the rest. Although my memory is getting a bit dim now, I worked in the forestry industry when I was a younger man. It is a hard slog, it is difficult work and it is not particularly well paid, but the fact is that the logging industry, like most sectors of industry, has changed enormously. If you look at shots on almost any television program these days which is focusing on the forestry industry, you will see huge machines taking out entire trees: they chop them up, they hold them and they strip off all the bark, branches and everything else.

When I was in the forestry industry that was all done by people. First of all, you had to use an axe and a hand-held crosscut saw to fell the tree and then you would spend probably two days cleaning up the trunk before it could be hauled away to be converted into useable timber. Not today. The number of people required in the forestry industry is changing because of mechanisation and automation, just as it is in all other occupations. It is not good enough to say that employers in the logging industry may never dispense with the services of human beings when the nature of the job changes and the human beings are not required any more. That is a fact of life; it is the nature of the 20th and 21st centuries, and I can only assume that the rate of change in the workplace, as compared to what it was in the 20th century, is going to accelerate further in the century we are just entering.

We cannot put a blind eye to the telescope and say that nothing is going to change as things are going to change. Employers and employees have to confront the fact that the workplace is a changing environment and that the need for human beings in the workplace is going to change, is going to reduce. The skills that people have in the workplace, regardless of the occupation they are engaged in, are going to change; the skill level and the nature of the skills are going to be different.

The logging industry in the ACT, the pine forests, has been an ailing industry for as long as we have had self-government and no doubt before. I do not recall that it ever made a profit. Obviously, as with other industries, the need for people in the ACT forestry industry is reducing. I can remember having a look at this problem 5, 6 or 7 years ago and just over the border towards Tumut there was a large expanse of pine forests. My recollection is that when I looked at those forests in New South Wales five or six years ago, they were about the same size in total as what we have in the ACT and they were being run by nine people.

I do not know what the difference is between an expanse of pine forests in New South Wales and one of similar size in the ACT, but they can do it with nine. I cannot tell you how many people we have, but I know that it is a lot more than nine. Mr Berry, the trade unions and the employer have to look at the problem from a different perspective. It is not a question of saying that there will be no redundancies, voluntary or otherwise. The

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