Bets on Abetz Have Paid Off with Return to Forestry Role

New super-portfolio in good hands

Thu 11 Apr 24


Forestry champion Eric Abetz takes on a super-portfolio in the returned Rockliff government, serving an industry “that has always been close to my heart.”

Mr Abetz made a political comeback, winning the controversial southern electorate of Franklin for the Tasmanian Liberals in the March 23 poll.

He takes on the Ministry of Business, Industry and Resources, embracing forestry and fisheries, resuming a political career that has spanned several roles, including Minister for Forests, Fisheries, and Conservation in the Howard government from 2006 to 2007.

This week, Premier Jeremy Rockliff secured the support of the Jacqui Lambie Network to form a minority government, more than two weeks after he failed to win the state election outright.

Neither the Liberals nor Labor won the 18 seats needed to form a majority.  But despite the Liberals suffering a 12% swing against it, Rockliff could claim the win after Labor conceded hours after polls closed.

“The new portfolio of Business, Industry and Resources carries significant responsibilities at the centre of economic growth and job creation in Tasmania,” Mr Rockliff said.

Mr Abetz, with his home in Franklin, has long championed the Tasmanian timber industry, its workers and communities and has been a staunch defender of native and plantation forests.

Tasmanian Forest Products Association CEO Nick Steel welcomed the announcement, saying the incoming minister had vast experience working with Tasmania’s forestry businesses.

“Mr Abetz spent many years in the federal parliament representing our local forestry industry on the national stage,” Mr Steel said.

“He has shown he is a strong supporter of the important and sustainable work of our industry and the 5500 Tasmanians employed by it.”

Mr Steel also thanked outgoing Minister for Forestry Felix Ellis for his “unstinting efforts” in promoting and supporting Tasmanian forestry businesses.

Mr Abetz, a long-time resident of Franklin, attended school there, established a legal practice and raised a family (with his late wife, Michelle).

As a student, Mr Abetz worked as a farmhand and taxi driver and, in his private life, developed a successful advisory consultancy. He has served on numerous boards and is national campaign chair of the Australian Monarchist League.

Jane Howlett, MP Lyons, will serve as the Minister for Primary Industries and Water.

Ms Howlett grew up on a farm and worked in a small business. Her father, Colin Howlett, served as a long-term Mayor of the Southern Midlands.


  • Jim Bowden

    Jim Bowden, senior editor and co-publisher of Wood Central. Jim brings 50-plus years’ experience in agriculture and timber journalism. Since he founded Australian Timberman in 1977, he has been devoted to the forest industry – with a passion.


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