Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard   

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Tuesday, 17 March 1987
Page: 941


Mr CHYNOWETH(8.32) —I rise to speak on the Lemonthyme and Southern Forests (Commission of Inquiry) Bill, not just about the Tasmanian wilderness but also about matters of fairness and the future of Australia's heritage. It is indeed a sad indictment on this great nation-a country that prides itself on its candour and egalitarian values-when the wills of powerful enterprises and the largely unabated industry lobby have been allowed to destroy vast tracts of Tasmanian forest and wilderness in a relentless pursuit of wooden wealth.


Mr Cohen —Madam Speaker, I take a point of order. For the last half hour we listened intently to the honourable member for Bradfield and nobody on this side interrupted. The honourable member for Dunkley has been speaking for about two minutes and has hardly been able to get a word in because of the rabble opposite.


Mr Hodgman —Was this written in the Soviet Embassy?


Madam SPEAKER —The honourable member for Denison will keep quiet.


Mr Hodgman —I was asking whether the speech was written in the Soviet Embassy.


Mr Punch —Madam Speaker, I take offence at the remarks made by the honourable member for Denison when referring to the honourable member for Dunkley. I ask that he be made to withdraw them. They were absolutely and totally offensive.


Madam SPEAKER —The Chair did not find them unparliamentary. The Chair cautions the honourable member for Denison to extend the same courtesy to the honourable member for Dunkley that was extended to the honourable member for Bradfield.


Mr CHYNOWETH —Thank you, Madam Speaker. The honourable member for Denison is well known for those sorts of pointless interjections. Those opposite have sanctioned the disappearance of a precious resource that may never be seen again. Our shame is compounded in this penultimate year of the Australian Bicentenary by the irrefutable fact that in Tasmania within a fifth of a millenium some of the tallest forests in the Southern Hemisphere have been obliterated and wasted on products of dubious value. Vast areas of destruction of our forests is a pathetic legacy to be passed to future generations of this nation.

Some members of the Tasmanian Government and forest industry claim sufficient debate has occurred on the issue of logging. This is not the case. The wilderness has had no voice and the aesthetic pleasure and long term benefits created by such areas have largely been ignored by the blind and visionless drive of the logging lobby and its avaricious friends on the opposite side of the House. Aside from the argument proposed by all protagonists, the fact remains that a bequest that has taken thousands upon thousands of years to evolve can be destroyed in a matter of months. Trees which have taken hundreds of years to develop are destroyed in minutes. A heritage is lost forever. A hearing is to be carried out by a commission of inquiry and those responsible for logging abuses in Tasmania will stand charged with the destruction of precious flora and fauna.


Mr Hodgman —That is nazi legislation and you know it.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Leo McLeay) —Order! The honourable member for Denison will cease interjecting or he will be dealt with.


Mr CHYNOWETH —They are accused by this Government on behalf of the people of Australia and the world who believe that the Lemonthyme and Southern Forests must have a voice that can be heard loud and clear. It is the voice of the thousands that saved the Franklin River from destruction and, over the past decade or so, made others aware of the beauties and privileges of this magnificent planet. Undoubtedly, the sentence of this tribunal will be served by all future Australians.

Hence the Commonwealth Government, through this Bill, seeks firstly to protect those National Estate areas in Tasmania that may be of world heritage value and, secondly, to resolve once and for all the issue of whether there are any viable alternatives to forestry operations in these very contentious National Estate areas. This Bill ensures that a careful and exhaustive review will take place. The brief is clear. Are there environmental and economically prudent and feasible logging alternatives within Tasmania to the existing logging plans for National Estate areas? This Bill could not be more fair because it calls on all combatants to submit their viewpoint for ajudication. Moreover, the Bill empowers the three-member inquiry board with the tools to overcome some of the parochial hurdles and the litany of misinformation that has confronted previous investigations into the forestry debate. Most importantly, the Bill provides for the future by giving everyone the time to ponder the almost incalculable natural values of the region and the difficult social, political, economic and ecological problems of the logging industry.

If this is to be the inquiry to end all inquiries it is imperative that not one tree in the Lemonthyme or Southern Forests be felled for the duration of the inquiry's commission. Perhaps the solution for the Lemonthyme and Southern Forests can be best seen by standing on a sawn-off tree stump half way up a slope in this magnificent area. All around are trees. The biggest are high country eucalypts, with the softer, greener sassafras and myrtle and rainforest ferns running down into the gullies. I can see the smiles on the faces of Tasmanian honourable members who do not care about this sort of thing. In the Lemonthyme one witnesses a spectacular drop to the Forth River valley and the steep blue rise to Cradle Mountain in the Lake St Clair National Park, one of Tasmania's three world heritage areas. Twelve kilometres away the majestic Cradle Mountain peaks stand out, a monument to our creator's brilliance. What happens when the tranquillity is shattered by the shrill of chainsaws and the felling of prime quality trees that will be trimmed by a bulldozer and transported to a saw-mill-to be chopped into what? What happens? An environmental disaster.

The Lemonthyme and Southern Forests form part of Tasmania's western wilderness area. Some parts of this area were inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1982. However, the Lemonthyme and Southern Forests do not have similar official listings only because they have never been nominated. The desire to gain the sanctuary of certification, however, is great. In a letter of 9 February 1987 to the Federal Department of Arts, Heritage and Environment the Technical Adviser to the World Heritage Committee, Dr Jim Thorsell of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, recommended, firstly, that the upper Lemonthyme and Mersey valleys and the Southern Forests should be considered for inclusion in the world heritage area; and suggested, secondly, that logging in the Lemonthyme Forest would result in an unacceptable level of visual impact in a high-use section of the Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park.

Clearly, we do not build schools next to armament factories, nor factories within residential zones. Neither can we expect an optimum boundary of a world heritage area to be clearly delineated. A zone between the natural and cultural features of the south-western Tasmanian ecosystem and men and machinery in pursuit of profit just cannot exist. Yet the Tasmanian Government proposes to do just this. It is interesting to note that the boundaries of the current world heritage area were not drawn by the World Heritage Committee but by past Tasmanian governments, very keen to exclude forests from national parks. Such enthusiasm has led to the withdrawal of parts of national parks to give the forests to pulp companies such as Australian Newsprint Mills Ltd and Australian Paper Manufacturers Ltd.

Curiously, while Tasmania has a large area of national park, most of it is not forest. In fact, the woodchip environmental impact study states that only 2.7 per cent of Tasmania's existing national park consists of forests with a potential height greater than 42 metres. Trees nearly 100 metres tall are found outside the national park. The very fact that only one per cent of all tall eucalypt forests is protected inside the national park means that almost all of the remaining 7 per cent of Tasmania's original stands of mature tall eucalypt forests remains in unlogged and threatened areas. The Southern Forests must be saved because they contain the second tallest trees, amongst many other outstanding features. Indirectly, logging presents a great danger in the form of forestry regeneration burns that will destroy sensitive alpine vegetation. The Australian Heritage Commission, in its report on the Lemonthyme, warned that a serious fire escape from a logged area into the world heritage area was almost a certainty. I have been to Tasmania and I have seen this. The alpine vegetation in these areas evolved during the Ice Age and has no natural defence against fires. It may take centuries to recover, if in fact it recovers at all. It has been fires of this type which have destroyed large areas of sensitive alpine forest on the central highlands and in the Western Tiers. If such a fire were to be lit at Farmhouse Creek it could wipe out the vegetation on Mount Bob's, the only mountain in Australia where the rainforest to alpine transition survives on all sides of the mountain.

There must be alternatives to the logging of the Lemonthyme and Southern Forests, and the answers must give a true account of employment in the logging industry. For too long investigations into this debate have foundered upon incorrect figures and selfish value judgments. Andrew Kemp, the Chairman of the Forest Industries Association of Tasmania, claims that locking up the National Estate will cost 400 jobs.


Mr Hodgman —Correct.


Mr CHYNOWETH —However, Bryce McNair, another member of the same organisation-the honourable member who interjected should listen to this-has stated that logging of the National Estate could be deferred for over 20 years without affecting employment levels.


Mr Hodgman —Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. I submit that the honourable member is not telling the truth to this House. I know Mr Kemp is a very honourable person--


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! There is no point of order. The honourable member will resume his seat.


Mr Hodgman —He shouldn't defame decent Tasmanians like Mr Kemp.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Resume your seat!


Mr CHYNOWETH —Mr McNair's case is supported by Dr Bob Brown who argues that the woodchip industry wastes two million tonnes of wood each year. It has already closed 93 small sawmills; it has cost 300 jobs a year since 1970; and instead of creating profits for the Tasmanian Forestry Commission it has produced a debt of $209m. The urgent need for the rationalisation of the logging industry is emphasised by these figures.

This Bill seeks to find the common ground, forever mindful that the National Estate areas contain only 12 per cent of Tasmania's sawlog resource and only 15 per cent of the State's sustainable pulpwood resource. Loggers have overcut much of the remaining forest. So they really have a problem of their own making, brought about by their lust for dollars and their lack of care about their own future and the future of their fellow Tasmanians.

However, the fair spirit of this Bill allows for the resource of the Lemonthyme and Southern Forests to be made up in many other ways. Sawmilling, in the short term, has two alternatives. Firstly, it has been suggested that the Arm River area can provide the sawlogs that would have come from the Lemonthyme. Secondly, the unlogged or only partially logged forests in the Arve, Esperance Lower Styx, Russell and Lower Huon catchments can provide sawlogs that would have come from the Southern Forests.

In the longer term, sawlogs can come from uncontentious parts of the ANM concession, instead of being pulped. In 1983-84 AMN turned 95,000 cubic metres of quality building timber into newsprint-that is according to the 1985 environmental impact statement which has been quoted in this chamber this evening. In 1985-86 the figure was approximately 75,000 cubic metres. These figures are in the order of 20 per cent of the State's yearly sawlog yield. Furthermore, the thinning of areas regenerated about 20 years ago will speed up the growth of sawlogs so that larger yields will be produced in less time; that is, another sawlog crop 50 years after the first rather 90 years after. Such areas can be found in the Arve and Florentine valleys. There are also a number of alternative pulpwood resources: The 2.5 million tonnes of wood wasted every year in logging operations; 40,000 tonnes of pulpwood burnt every year in ANM's concession; the wasted sawlogs that litter the logging cops near Lake Skinner in the little Denison catchment; and the wasted sawlogs and pulpwood that litter old log landings in regenerated areas throughout the ANM concession.

Two vital questions must be addressed. Firstly, with most pulp companies in Australia changing over from cutting natural forests to using plantations they establish themselves, why are these companies so slow to follow? Is it because they are lazy or is it because the resource of trees has been so easy to obtain and at so little cost? Secondly, when will ANM adopt its stated policy of 1979 of using regrowth rather than old growth? If it changes sooner rather than later both forests and jobs can be saved and the problem can be properly resolved. There have been nine other inquiries into the Tasmanian forest industry. Each has been at public expense, and almost all have been covered up. We are determined that this Bill will not meet the same fate as the Kitchiner report, the Everett inquiry, the Stratham report, the National Parks and Wildlife Service woodchip environmental impact statement of 1985, the Forestry Commission report into the effects of logging in the southern forests, or the 1984 Legislative Council report on State forestry-all of which have never been released or never completed.


Mr Hodgman —This is nazi legislation.


Mr Cohen —Are you accusing me of being a nazi?


Mr Hodgman —I was saying that this is nazi legislation.


Mr Cohen —Don't you ever say that to me.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! The Minister and the honourable member for Denison will behave themselves.


Mr CHYNOWETH —The only one released is the Fortech report which reiterated Forestry Commission details. The Lemonthyme and Southern Forests Commission of Inquiry will not be a low budget exercise without legal powers to compel witnesses to release information. The Commonwealth's approximately $20m compensatory package is a large sum of money and serves as an outstanding testament to our determination to create a scope and time frame which is large enough to settle this issue once and for all.


Mr Hodgman —Sieg heil.


Mr CHYNOWETH —I utter these words of warning: Unless the protection of Australia's--


Mr Staples —Mr Deputy Speaker, I take a point of order. Throughout this contribution by the honourable member for Dunkley, the honourable member for Denison has made repeated comments about nazi legislation, Hitler and, just then, he said `sieg heil'. I and many other members in this chamber, especially the Minister for Arts, Heritage and Environment, who is at the table, find this reprehensible and disgusting. I ask that it be withdrawn.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —I have drawn the attention of the honourable member for Denison to the fact that he should behave himself. I guess that members on both sides might reflect that in the course of this debate it might suit some people to be dealt with harshly by the Chair. The Chair will not allow that to occur. But the Chair will insist that members on both sides are heard with the civility that is required. The honourable member for Denison, who has been a member of this Parliament for a while-and a Minister-should ensure that he gives to others the same courtesy that he would expect himself.


Mr CHYNOWETH —Mr Deputy Speaker, if we are talking about fascism, one has only to look at what is happening--


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —It might help if the honourable member for Dunkley did not.


Mr CHYNOWETH —With the proposed blocking of the candidate for the Senate. I utter these words--


Mr Smith —Mr Deputy Speaker, I take a point of order. I find that remark offensive. It has nothing to do with the debate. I ask that he be asked to withdraw.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —There is no point of order.


Mr CHYNOWETH —I utter these words of warning: Unless the protection of Australia's dwindling forest and wildlife heritage in Tasmania-the Lemonthyme and Southern Forests-is assured, we and our children will never again be able to see the wood or the trees.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Before I call the honourable member for Franklin, I ask members on both sides, even though they may have strong views on various arguments in this debate, to listen to their colleagues respectfully. I am sure that the honourable member for Franklin will be heard in silence. Ensuing speakers should also be heard in silence.