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Monday, 21 October 2002
Page: 8095

Mr McARTHUR (1:47 PM) —The Wilderness Society is now trying to implement its policies using the Corporations Law to set the agenda in public companies' annual general meetings. Commonwealth Bank shareholders are currently receiving documents associated with the company's annual general meeting on 1 November. The bank is obliged to forward the text of a proposed resolution from a group of 159 shareholders representing the Wilderness Society to amend the company's constitution to bar investment in what they term `high conservation value' or `old growth' forest. The relevant investment is the bank's stake in Gunns Ltd, a Tasmanian forest products company.

These 159 shareholders make some spurious claims about sustainable forestry. One scientifically unproved claim is that sustainable forestry leads to species extinction. Sweeping claims are made that timber harvesting threatens the wedge-tailed eagle, reduces water supplies and involves the so-called clearing of forests. The wedge-tailed eagle will nest just about anywhere, including telephone poles. Water experts confirm that forest harvesting has practically no effect on water supplies. Sustainable forestry is not forest clearing. There is no net loss of trees, due to regrowth and regeneration. I urge all shareholders to vote against the resolution, because its claims about the timber industry are patently wrong.