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Tuesday, 17 March 1987
Page: 946


Mr MILTON(9.06) —I hope that my contribution to this debate will be more logical and rational than was the speech of the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Goodluck). In supporting the Lemonthyme and Southern Forests (Commission of Inquiry) Bill 1987 I first wish to express my regret that this Bill is necessary because of the intransigence and political chicanery of the Premier of Tasmania, Mr Robin Gray.


Mr Hodgman —Come off it, comrade.


Mr MILTON —It is true. As the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Environment (Mr Cohen) pointed out in his second reading speech, the Commonwealth Government has made every possible attempt to negotiate and consult with the Tasmanian Government on the sensitive issue of logging in the Lemonthyme and Southern Forests. The purpose of the Bill before the House is to establish a Commission of Inquiry which will examine and report on whether the Lemonthyme and Southern Forests form part of the cultural heritage or natural heritage as defined in articles 1 and 2 of the World Heritage Convention, or whether the two areas concerned contribute to the value or integrity of Tasmanian world heritage areas. The Commission will also report on whether there are forestry resources with Tasmania whose exploitation will cause no detriment to the Tasmanian forestry industry and would be an environmentally and economically prudent and feasible alternative to the exploitation of any forestry resources in the Lemonthyme and Southern Forests. I am also glad to note that the Bill provides for the prohibition of activities such as the cutting down of trees and the construction of roads and excavation works for the interim period of the inquiry, which would in relation to cultural or national heritage resources probably mean a prohibition period of 12 months plus 42 days.

As Chairman of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation, I am particularly pleased to support this Bill. During the four years in which I have been Chairman and the honourable member for Dunkley (Mr Chynoweth) has been an active member of that Committee we have visited all the world heritage areas in Australia, including the forests of South West Tasmania. As the Minister has pointed out, this Government is determined to protect Australia's natural and cultural heritage in conformity with the International Convention for the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage.


Mr Hodgman —This is Canberra, not Moscow.


Mr MILTON —The honourable member for Denison should be proud that his State has such beautiful areas that we will protect. Australia ratified the Convention in August 1974 and since the Convention came into force in December 1975, 92 countries have ratified and become parties to the Convention. The Commonwealth Government has an obligation to protect the world heritage areas in Australia not only for Australians but for all peoples of the world. Parties to the Convention commit themselves to use all their powers which include legal, administrative and financial measures--


Mr Hodgman —On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker-and this is a valid point of order-this Bill does not relate to world heritage areas; it relates to areas which are not on the World Heritage List. Therefore, the honourable member has not read the Bill and is out of order.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Leo McLeay) —There is no point of order.


Mr MILTON —Thank you for your protection, Mr Deputy Speaker. I would point out to honourable members opposite that what we are talking about here are buffer zones which are necessary to protect the world heritage area. I know what I am talking about because I have been there, and the honourable member for Braddon (Mr Miles) was with me. Apart from world heritage values, it is also a fact that more than half of Australia's forests have been cleared for agriculture and urban purposes since European settlement. Accordingly, it is a matter of urgency that the remaining forests are protected and managed in a manner which will ensure that the present degradation of our forests does not continue. In May last year the Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation visited Tasmania to conduct inspections and to hold informal discussions relating to the fiscal measures inquiry, the report of which was tabled in the House last November. Our Committee carried out inspections and held discussions with private forestry owners, representatives of the timber and paper pulp industries, Tasmanian Forestry Commission officers and officers from the National Parks and Wildlife Service. The Committee toured the Lemonthyme State Forest, the Tahune State Forest and the Picton Weld/Esperance area, in addition to visiting forest plantations. I wish it to make it clear to the House, despite all the interruptions from the other side of the House and the various babblings from certain members, that I am speaking as one who has some practical knowledge of the complicated issues involved. As one who has visited Tasmania on a number of occasions in order to gain an informed view, it is appropriate for me to be speaking to this Bill.

In visiting the Lemonthyme Forest, which adjoins the world Heritage Cradle Mountain and Lake St Clair National Park, it was clear to me that the management of forestry operations in such world heritage buffer zones must be carefully prescribed and regulated. Note that these are buffer zones. The Lemonthyme Forest can be clearly seen by the many hikers and campers enjoying the rich beauty and grandeur of the wilderness area and it is difficult to see how the clearing of timber in the Lemonthyme would not degrade the value of the world heritage area. In fact, it seems quite strange to me that the Lemonthyme Forest was not included as part of the world heritage area because it would have been expected that the natural and logical boundary of the wilderness area would include the forest ridges and spurs of the Lemonthyme. It was as though someone had deliberately drawn the National Park boundary to exclude any areas of potential commercial forest in contradiction of the calls of the conservation movement since the early 1970s for the Lemonthyme to be included in order to provide proper protection for the area's unique alpine vegetation and wilderness values.


Mr Chynoweth —Of course it was deliberate.


Mr MILTON —It seems to me that the comment by the honourable member for Dunkley is correct-it was done deliberately. One of the problems we face when discussing the protection and conservation of forests is the view that managing a forest is a satisfactory method of conserving a forest. A managed forest is not a natural forest and, whilst a managed forest which has been logged may be preserved for future generations, it will inevitably lose certain unique environmental qualities which constitute a world heritage area. Inevitably the flora and fauna will be degraded and changed and the forest will no longer be natural and of wilderness status. A former Commissioner of Management of the Forestry Commission, Mr Cunningham, stated in 1983:

Logging and roading in virgin forest adjacent to wilderness must reduce the area of wilderness. We cannot mitigate the effect of roads on access to the wilderness. We can, however, affect the visual impact of both roading and logging.

This is what the Forestry Commission officials told us. We can reduce the visual impact, but the area is still degraded; and that is what we are particularly concerned about. I have no doubt that the visual impact can be reduced. The point is that the Lemonthyme should not be logged, not only because of the visual impact but also because the logging will inevitably degrade the value of the adjacent world heritage area. Unfortunately the Tasmanian Forestry Commission does not seem to recognise that wilderness means country that is both primitive and remote-a place that is remote from roads and other evidence of modern civilisation. Thus to protect a wilderness area, which is essentially what the South West Tasmanian world heritage area represents, it is necessary to maintain around it a tract of undeveloped and roadless country. It is essential for honourable members at least to appreciate that a wilderness area is one that offers challenge, adventure and a respite from the noise and stress of modern urban life. In addition, a wilderness is a place of spiritual refreshment which offers sanctuary in a world where much of the unique flora and fauna is rapidly being destroyed.

Having said all that, let me make it clear that I understand the need for Tasmania to preserve and enhance job opportunities for its population. Despite what members on the opposite side--


Mr Hodgman —Crocodile tears.


Mr MILTON —If the honourable member for Denison will listen I will put some positive suggestions for improving job opportunities.


Mr Hodgman —We are going to replay your speech right up to the election.


Mr MILTON —I will be very proud of this speech. Over a period of 12 years the forestry industry has lost about 4,000 jobs and those job losses have coincided with major expansions in production, mainly due to the woodchip export industry. This expansion was not accompanied by improvements in forest management and as a consequence the areas being logged each year in Tasmania have risen dramatically. Thus not only are jobs being lost in the forestry industry, but the last remaining stands of mature native forest are also being lost. Forest industries directly employ about 8,350 people or 4.5 per cent of Tasmania's labour force. That is true, is it not? Honourable members opposite will not argue about that. Total employment dependent on forest industries, which includes indirect and derived employment, is about 19,000 people or 10 per cent of the Tasmanian labour force. The forest industries in Tasmania are involved in five major activities-exporting woodchips, primarily to the Japanese pulp and paper industries; making printing and writing paper and newsprint for the Australian market; saw-milling and manufacturing wood products, primarily for the Tasmanian and Victorian markets.


Mr Hodgman —The best in the world.


Mr MILTON —Yes, I agree that they are probably the best in the world. The other activities are logging and carting, mainly by small contractors, and forest management by both the Tasmanian Forestry Commission and woodchip and paper companies.

A number of criticisms can be levelled at the forest industry. Large areas are logged each year and relatively small investments of labour or capital are made to improve the growth rates or timber quality of the regenerated stands. I appreciate that a different approach is now being taken by both the Forestry Commission and the private forest owners, but that is no excuse for degrading areas such as the Lemonthyme and the Southern Forests. The Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation recognises that taxation and other financial arrangements have only served to discourage proper forest management and have encouraged land clearing and clear felling. In its fiscal measures report the Committee has made a number of recommendations which it believes will encourage improved forest management practice in the future. Particularly, there is a need for reafforestation programs and for incentives to be provided for an expansion of plantation forestry. However, it still remains that large amounts of commercially usable timber are left to burn on the logging coupe. Large quantities of timber suitable for fuel wood are wasted throughout the State each year. The saw-milling industry is in crisis due to severe cuts in saw log quotas and yet saw logs are pulped at the Australian Newsprint Mills Boyer plant. Saw-millers have told me in personal interviews that there is inadequate segregation of saw logs from pulp logs. Statements have also been made by saw-millers that future saw logs are being reduced by the pulping of trees which, if left longer in the forest, would have matured into saw logs.

Several years have passed since the Forest Action Network, comprising the Australian Conservation Foundation and the Tasmanian Conservation Trust, proposed a forest industry strategy for Tasmania to protect both jobs and forests. Forest research officers Keith Tarlo and Jonathan Miller produced an excellent booklet which outlined a strategy for dealing both with the jobs crisis in the forest industries and the need to protect some of the last remaining stands of unlogged native forest. The plan proposed a package of industry developments which included the following proposals--


Mr Hodgman —It sold very well in Moscow.


Mr MILTON —I ask the honourable member for Denison to listen to this. He says that we cannot put forward anything positive. Well, here are some positive suggestions. The honourable member for Denison has left the House now. That just shows that he is not interested in hearing about these positive proposals. He just wants to take the same negative attitude as his Premier. The package includes, firstly, further processing of sawn wood into seasoned and dressed timber, mouldings and veneers; secondly, increasing the recovery of sawn timber from each saw log; thirdly, upgrading the design quality of wood products and furniture; fourthly, construction of a new pulp and paper mill to process some of the wood currently exported as chips into paper, employ as many or more people than the woodchip exports it replaces, and be in conjunction with increased cogeneration of electricity, improved pollution control and increased waste paper recovery; fifthly, converting some industrial boilers from oil to wood wastes; and, sixthly, sensitively developing tourism in forest areas reserved from logging.

The plan also proposed eight improved forest management techniques as follows: Firstly, thinning of regenerated stands on selected sites to increase yields and speed up growth; secondly, establishing pulp wood plantations on selected sites; thirdly, increasing recovery of saw logs and pulp wood; fourthly, bringing forward logging of some areas outside the proposed reserves until intensively managed stands become productive; fifthly, replacing the pulp wood concession system with volume licences lasting 10 to 20 years; sixthly, increasing the harvest of fuel wood after logging; seventhly, specifying timber grades so that logs match the needs of each mill more closely; and, eighthly, increasing regeneration and plantation establishment on private land. Increasing royalties to provide a surplus over the Forestry Commission's wood production costs were also proposed--


Mr Hodgman —Get on with it. Why are you supporting nazi legislation? Not even Hitler would have brought in a law like this. It is nazi legislation.


Mr MILTON —For the protection of environmentally significant forest areas from logging through assistance--


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Blanchard) —Order! Will the honourable member please resume his seat. I take this opportunity to remind the honourable member for Denison that his behaviour is conducive to a poor relationship in this House.


Mr Hodgman —A point of order--


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —There is no point of order.


Mr Hodgman —There is a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker, and you cannot say there is not one before you have even heard me. They do not even do that in the Reichstag. My point of order is that this member has misrepresented the position. He has not spoken to the Bill--


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


Mr Hodgman —With great respect, Mr Deputy Speaker, I would suggest you ought--


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —The honourable member will resume his seat.


Mr Hodgman —Mr Deputy Speaker, if you are not prepared to hear a point of order this place has become Moscow.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —The honourable member will resume his seat.


Mr Hodgman —This is Moscow.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —I call on the honourable member to resume his seat.


Mr Hodgman —This is nazi legislation. This place is becoming Moscow. Communists.


Mr MILTON —I can only think the honourable member for Denison must have been having a rather--


Mr Chynoweth —On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker: The honourable member for Denison called me a communist, and I am greatly offended. I want that withdrawn.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Will the honourable member for Denison please withdraw that remark?


Mr Hodgman —You are supporting nazi legislation. You are saying exactly what comes out of the Soviet Embassy. No, I will not.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! I ask--


Mr Hodgman —I will not withdraw.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —If the honourable member does not withdraw when the Chair requests him to do so, I will be inclined to name him.


Mr Hodgman —I was not even talking to him, Mr Deputy Speaker.


Mr Chynoweth —He pointed at me.


Mr Hodgman —I never even spoke to him. You are supporting nazi legislation, as you well know, and I will not withdraw that.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! Will the honourable member for Denison please withdraw?


Mr Hodgman —I will not withdraw what I said about nazi legislation, because that is what it is.


Mr Cohen —You called him a communist.


Mr Hodgman —You are all behaving like a bunch of communists. This place is becoming Moscow.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —I name the honourable member.


Mr Hodgman —For what?


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —For refusing to withdraw.

Motion (by Mr Cohen) put:

That the honourable member for Denison be suspended from the service of the House.