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- Start of Business
- MINISTERIAL ARRANGEMENTS
QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
(Mr BEAZLEY, Mr TIM FISCHER)
(Mr McDOUGALL, Mr COSTELLO)
(Mr GARETH EVANS, Mr TIM FISCHER)
(Mr NUGENT, Mr COSTELLO)
Regional Headquarters Program
(Mr BEAZLEY, Mr TIM FISCHER)
Former Government Business Enterprises
(Mr HICKS, Mr FAHEY)
(Mr MARTIN, Mr TIM FISCHER, Mr BRUCE SCOTT)
(Mr LLOYD, Dr KEMP)
(Ms MACKLIN, Mrs MOYLAN)
Wreath Laying Ceremonies
(Mr DONDAS, Mr BRUCE SCOTT)
(Mr TED GRACE, Mrs MOYLAN)
Fraser, Mr Justin
(Mr TAYLOR, Mr TIM FISCHER)
(Mr GARETH EVANS, Mr RUDDOCK)
(Mr WAKELIN, Mr SHARP)
(Mr SAWFORD, Mrs MOYLAN)
(Mrs DRAPER, Mr WILLIAMS)
ABC: Rugby League Broadcasts on Radio
(Mr MAREK, Mr JULL)
Kids Help Line
(Mr BEDDALL, Mr TIM FISCHER)
(Dr NELSON, Mr SHARP)
- QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE: ADDITIONAL RESPONSES
(Mr KELVIN THOMSON, Mr ACTING SPEAKER)
Newspaper Clipping Service
(Mr SLIPPER, Mr ACTING SPEAKER)
Minister for Family Services
(Mr SAWFORD, Mr ACTING SPEAKER, Mr LEO McLEAY)
- JOINT HOUSE DEPARTMENT
- PERSONAL EXPLANATIONS
- AUDITOR-GENERAL'S REPORTS
- MATTERS OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE
- WOODCHIP EXPORT REGULATIONS
- APPROPRIATION BILL (No. 1) 1996-97
- MATTERS REFERRED TO MAIN COMMITTEE
- Western Australian Police Force
- Textiles, Clothing and Footwear Industry
- Tribal Colours of the Pacific
- Information Technology
- Captain Cook Commemoration
- Lindsay By-election
- Procedural Text
QUESTIONS ON NOTICE
Alice Springs to Tarcoola Rail Line
(Mr Tanner, Mr Sharp)
(Dr Lawrence, Mr Warwick Smith)
(Dr Lawrence, Mr Warwick Smith)
(Mrs Crosio, Mr Sharp)
Western Sydney Regional Development Organisation
(Mrs Crosio, Mr Sharp)
Aboriginal Land Councils
(Mr Tuckey, Dr Wooldridge)
(Mr Mossfield, Mr Downer)
(Mr Crean, Mr Prosser)
New Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Building, Barton ACT
(Mr Hardgrave, Mr Jull)
- Alice Springs to Tarcoola Rail Line
Tuesday, 17 September 1996
Mr ANDERSON (Minister for Primary Industries and Energy)(4.07 p.m.) —I move:
That, pursuant to section 49 of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901, the House approves the making of regulations the same in substance as the regulations contained in Statutory Rules 1995 Nos. 386, 387 and 388 and Statutory Rules 1996 No. 22 made under the Export Control Act 1982, which were deemed to have been disallowed by the House.
The motion before the House today is essentially procedural in nature. It will allow the government to make the regulations necessary to implement the new woodchip export regime that we proposed, and it is widely known and understood, I believe, without exposing those new regulations to the risk of successful legal challenge.
The former regulations were introduced hurriedly and without adequate consultation by the previous government in November last year. They lacked intellectual certainty and quality. They were illogical. They were unsustainable. That is why several months ago I gave notice of this government's intention to disallow those regulations. At the time, the government was still deliberating over this most difficult issue and, had I not given notice at that time, we would have limited prematurely the options open to us.
Subsequent to that, the government announced its intention to establish a new woodchip export regime to operate during the transition to regional forest agreements. The key elements of the new regime are: retention of the current 5.251 million tonne ceiling on export volumes, additional quantities of up to one million tonnes of woodchips to be sourced from sawmill residues and silvicultural thinnings from regrowth forests, and case by case approval for the export of woodchips sourced from the clearing of degraded private forests for the establishment of hardwood plantations. In addition, the first and second stage licensing system will be abolished, the licences issued will be for terms of up to three years and effective from 1997 and, finally, woodchip exports from areas not covered by regional forest agreements will be ceased from 1 January 2000.
Obviously, there are similarities between the government's announced policy on woodchip exports and the regulations which operated previously. There was in fact some ill-informed banter—which is probably the best way to put it—about this place that suggested these similarities meant that the government could not give legislative effect to its policy. This was always untrue. That has not stopped those who are opposed to the implementation of rational forest policy in this country from promoting all sorts of weird and wonderful distortions of reality. They have really become extremely skilled at making a great deal out of nothing.
Last week, the former regulations were deemed to have been disallowed in accordance with section 48 of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901, and that brings me to the purpose of the motion now before the House. Section 49 of the Acts Interpretation Act provides that any regulation being the same in substance as the regulation so disallowed, or deemed to have been disallowed, has no effect if made within six months of disallowance, but it also identifies two circumstances where this provision does not apply.
The circumstances relevant to the motion now before the House states that a regulation the same in substance may be made where the house of parliament in which a regulation was deemed to have been disallowed resolves to approve the making of such a regulation. Passage of this motion is essential if the government is to give full legislative effect to its policy. However, like the regulations which will be made in the near future, it is not essential for the government to implement its policy.
The regulations in existence today, the old unprocessed wood regulations which predated Labor's ill-conceived arrangements, are adequate to implement the government's transitional woodchip licensing system, but it is the government's very strong preference to now secure the new arrangements in regulations. There are obvious benefits in doing so, not the least of which is keeping the pressure on the states to stay the course with implementing regional forest agreements. This will be achieved by ensuring that woodchip exports cease from areas not covered by regional forest agreements by the year 2000.
Having said this, I want to make it absolutely plain that I am completely confident that the cooperative federalism—in which we have engaged since coming to government, in contrast to the very heavy-handed approach of the previous government—will ensure that the year 2000 sanction will not be required. It will not have to be used. It will not have to be invoked.
The public has not been misled into believing that all woodchip exports from our forests will cease after 2000. Woodchips will continue to be exported after regional forest agreements as part of an integrated, sustainable and internationally competitive native forest logging industry—and I will return to this in a moment. I should just note, lest anybody wanted to make a political point out of that, that the previous government's position, despite their attempts to hide officegate or whatever on this matter, was in fact precisely the same. So let us not have any fudging or attempts to mislead in that regard.
As I have said, I will return to this shortly, but I want firstly to talk about the other key aim of the national forest policy statement—that is, the creation of a comprehensive, adequate and representative forest reserve system. There are those who would have it that our forests are not well protected. Essentially, this is simply not the case. A little over a fifth of our forests enjoy some form of protection, whether they be national parks, state conservation reserves or other protected areas. This is substantially more than the international benchmark of 10 per cent of existing forests set by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. We have already the basis for the CAR reserve system envisaged under the national forest policy statement, an outcome to which this government is absolutely committed.
The government remains committed to seeking 15 per cent of the distribution of each forest type that existed prior to European settlement as a target, but it must be understood clearly that this target will be extremely difficult or impossible to achieve in some areas, most particularly in northern New South Wales and south-east Queensland. In these areas, the government will proceed carefully, taking full and proper account of the social and economic consequences that would flow from locking away large tracts of forest. We will not decimate—I repeat, we will not decimate—rural communities.
It is important to set down on the public record a few facts about the forest industries. In particular, it needs to be understood that the timber industry is sawlog driven. Forest coupes are felled to supply timber for milling. Woodchips are produced from the leftovers—from the logs that failed to make milling grade, from sawmill and timber harvesting residue and from silviculture thinnings in regrowth forests.
The reality is that a large volume of the timber that is felled ends up as woodchips— or, rather, could end up as woodchips if the industry were not so heavily constrained by current regulation. This integrated harvesting, the taking of both sawlogs and pulpwood, makes sense. It underpins the profitability of our native forest based industry. It maximises the use of the available resource and adds significantly to the nation's export income.
Integrated harvesting is more than merely good economics; it represents good environmental practice as well in many of the eucalypt forests of Australia where the forest canopy needs to be opened up in order to get the forest to regenerate. Prior to European settlement, fire was the regenerator; in the managed forests of today, where fire is feared, modified clear-fell harvesting fulfils this role.
In those forests where intensive logging is inappropriate, state forest managers permit selective logging only. The message here is that the harvesting method is tailored to the forest type. As the member for Page (Mr Causley), who is here today, would well know, those forestry management techniques are highly sophisticated, very carefully thought through and increasingly are reflective of a culture of immense expertise. That needs to be clearly understood.
Under the previous export arrangements the timber industry, regulated by the states through strict planning procedures and codes of environmental practice, was not allowed to utilise much of the wood it harvested. That is the simple reality that was left behind by the absurdity of the previous government's attempts to satisfy the Greens. They failed in that, so they got it wrong from an industry perspective, wrong from a conservation perspective—and wrong certainly from the point of view of regional Australia, as is quite adequately reflected by the make-up of the opposition today: wrong with a capital `W' in regional Australia.
The results of their politicisation and cynicism in this whole thing was that a large amount of wood was either burned or left to rot on the forest floor—which, in itself, heightens future fire risk and seriously retards post-harvest regeneration. The benefits of collecting, processing and selling this wood are quite obvious.
I come to a very interesting point; it is very reflective and I think it should be well taken in that it indicates the way in which this debate is so often manipulated for cynical ends. Often, we hear the claim that 80 per cent of Australians are opposed to export woodchipping. But Australians need to understand the origins of this particular claim. It has its genesis in a survey conducted by environmentalists a decade ago in which respondents were asked, in essence, whether they approved of Australia's native forests being felled and exported to Japan as woodchips.
I can understand why, in response to a question of that sort, 80 per cent of Australians might answer no. But of course we had the former minister on the other side with her outstanding record of understanding forest industries! So magnificent was that record that the previous minister for primary industries, who had to be brought in to clean up the mess left behind by the previous minister for resources, took himself over to Western Australia on a weekend to fly around photographing the forests in that state. He did this so that he could go back to cabinet and prove to cabinet that the ex-minister there—and I will be very interested to hear what she has to say in a moment or two—did not know what she was talking about, at the least, or, at the worst, was deliberately manipulating the debate.
Let us just concentrate for a moment on the question of integrity in this debate, because another survey on the very same issue, conducted by the Roy Morgan Research Centre last year and couched in less emotive terms, produced a completely different result. The question was:
When trees are harvested for timber, there are defective logs and residue that cannot be used in sawmills. In some areas, they are converted into woodchips to produce paper products. In other areas, woodchipping of residue is banned and, after the removal of sawlogs, the remainder is burnt. Recent studies have shown that chipping of this material could provide significant export earnings, substantial job opportunities and a base for further processing. In your opinion, should all defective logs and residue be allowed to be converted to woodchips or should existing bans be maintained?
Not surprisingly, more than three-quarters of respondents supported conversion of residues to woodchips. That is what happened.
Dr Lawrence —When you ask a question like that, it is not surprising.
Mr ANDERSON —Thank you. I will repeat myself. I would enjoy it very much. I go back to the earlier emotive one and say that the way that is framed would obviously produce the result that it got there.
Dr Lawrence —Both are unsatisfactory. I am recommending to you that—
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Vaile) —Order! The member for Fremantle might not get her opportunity to speak shortly.
Mr Causley —We will not miss her.
Mr ANDERSON —We will not miss her? No, I want to hear what she has to say, I really do. Ask a logical question, put the facts before the Australian people and we learn a very interesting thing: the general public is well capable of sorting out the facts in this highly emotive issue.
The visual contrast between a pile of woodchips and a forest is stark, but it does not somehow illegitimise the forest industry. It really ought to be of great interest to Australians to note that here we are as a country of just 18 million people on a vast island continent where we produce such vast quantities, for example, of beef—as the member for Dawson (Mrs De-Anne Kelly), immediately behind me, would be well aware—that we export 70 per cent of it because we do not need it here, it is surplus to our requirements; such vast quantities of grain that we export vast amounts of that as well. The same applies to dairy, to a whole range of agricultural pursuits.
Yet, in the case of this industry, such an utter mess was made of it by the previous regime that we are importing $3 billion worth of everybody else's timber and paper product. In net terms, around 10 per cent of our trade deficit is made up of timber and paper products. Why? Because of the cynicism, the opportunism and the lack of policy, as opposed to politics, that the previous government engaged in—as is well recognised by many on your own side.
I just wish you would raise some of these issues a bit more often to let me get some of these facts out in the open, because there are a lot more of them to come. The trouble with you mob is that you cannot agree amongst yourselves on what they are. I would really welcome the opportunity to highlight that a bit more—but, unfortunately, you will not give me that opportunity.
When the new government announced these new woodchip export arrangements in July, it was acknowledged that they would not meet all the demands of all of the stakeholders. They remain, however, an appropriate and well thought through compromise between competing interests during the transitional period between now and the establishment of regional forest agreements in all the major wood producing native forests of Australia.
We are very fortunate in this country—we can have our cake too. We can have a better than world-class conservation reserve system where we preserve magnificent forests for this and all future generations at the same time as we can have a sensible and sustainable forest industry, given that we are a people who love to use timber and timber-based products—and we do use vast quantities of them. Therefore, we ought to be sensible enough and mature enough to be able to put in place policy parameters which deliver desirable outcomes on all fronts.
To that end, the motion before the House today reflects a very sound policy position. It is necessary to give legislative effect to the new regulations. I recommend them to the House.