8 November 2022


Just a fortnight after it was announced, more holes in Labor’s ‘1 million new homes’ policy have been exposed following the revelation that two key Ministers and their Departments have never spoken about how the houses will be constructed.

At a Senate Estimates hearing in Canberra on Monday night, Forestry Minister Murray Watt and his Departmental officials were forced to concede that no discussions had such occurred in relation to the use of timber in the homes.

They were asked a number of questions about the interaction between Minister Watt and Housing Minister, Julie Collins, as well as between Treasury and the Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Department, on the issue.

In response, an official said no such consultation had occurred and no modelling had been done – and that “the Department (of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry) didn’t contribute” to the policy.

On 27 October, the major forestry organisation, the Australian Forest Products Association, made clear that “building one million houses using timber could deliver a 14 million tonne CO2 mitigation towards the Government’s legislated target of reducing emissions by 43 per cent by 2030. That’s the equivalent of taking six million cars off the road for a whole year!”

However, it appears none of this has featured in Labor’s deliberations at all.

In additional revelations in the Forestry component of this week’s hearings, Minister Watt and his officials were also forced to admit that a promised industry roundtable had never been held.

In its pre-election ‘A Future Grown in Australia’ policy on Forestry, Labor committed to “hold a roundtable with the forestry sector, unions, States and Territories to develop a Timber Fibre Strategy to ensure our existing forestry resources are being best utilised”.

But a Government that tried to make big play of the apparent urgency to industries and workers of its national Jobs and Skills Summit has still remained unable for six months to convene a basic roundtable discussion between forestry stakeholders.