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Wednesday, 25 March 1987
Page: 1288

Senator BROWNHILL(12.18) —I support my colleague Senator Knowles. I especially support the shadow Minister for Arts, Heritage and Environment, Senator Collard, in his total opposition to the Lemonthyme and Southern Forests (Commission of Inquiry) Bill. Supporters of this Government appear to have become latter day greenies. I think they are running dead scared that the conservation vote might be the turning point in whether they win or lose the next election. Of course, right thinking Australians know full well that whatever this Government tries to do to shore up electoral support the facts still remain that the country is in a terrific economic and financial morass. Interest rates are high and are sending thousands of business people broke. The Government has obviously lost complete direction and I believe that is shown by the legislation before us. This latter day Australian Labor Party conversion by the conservation issue seems to have also taken hold in my own State of New South Wales. Recently New South Wales newspapers ran a picture of Premier Unsworth strol-ling through national parks in a back to nature pose.

Senator Puplick —Not a pretty sight.

Senator BROWNHILL —It was not a pretty sight, as Senator Puplick says. I believe the issue on national parks and wilderness areas has reached an absurd level with seemingly every second week someone somewhere screaming that development cannot take place because of unique wilderness characteristics of that area. I am certainly not one to ignore the environment. As a farmer, I have a passionate interest in conservation and I am only too well aware of the dangers of the uncontrolled development of any area at all. I believe, though, that any development that affects the land should be carefully monitored, but I am not concerned about this to the extent that some conservationists are.

At present some 30 million hectares of Australia is designated national parks or wilderness areas. Translated to percentages of land, in New South Wales, for example, nearly 11 per cent of the whole of the State has been declared national park. Yet, according to the Federal and New South Wales governments that is not nearly enough and they are seeking more land. Already the National Party in New South Wales has announced that it will not accept any more wilderness legislation and when in government will review all existing wilderness legislation. I think it is ridiculous to claim that some 200 years after the first settlers came to New South Wales there are any original wilderness areas left. There are not, and no amount of wishing it or otherwise will change that fact. Land that has already been developed in New South Wales can never again be regarded as original. Those who already own supposedly freehold land should not be put under any threat of resumption.

Those who advocate that more land should be allocated to national park or included in the National Estate seem to forget that if land cannot be used for productive purposes we will have less land with which to produce income for this country. Without our crops, livestock and timber industries we would not have the quality of life, the quality of food and our present standard of living which are the result of the success of our rural products on our export markets.

The mere mention of the word `logging' seems to so offend some people that they forget the facts. They ignore the realities and they seem to keep rabbiting on about virgin country, about unspoiled God's country. But like the animal welfare debate, the environment debate is equally weak in fact and overly burdened with emotion. In the eyes of some people, if one is not a total greenie one must be in favour of development at any cost. There is never any half-way compromise. This is a pity because people get painted into corners which they often do not wish to be painted into.

The timber industry, for example, has become accustomed to being abused and considered criminal. The industry is only too aware that its source of income-that is, timber-must be carefully managed in order to provide a continuing source of employment and revenue. I do not think anyone in the community wants to forget either that most of the buildings in which we live have some timber characteristics. We would not be able to live in the way we do if timber were not used in those places. In the same way, farmers must cultivate their soil carefully if they are not to lose it through erosion and leaching. They must look after their stock carefully. Obviously the people in the timber industry have to look after their areas as well. Yet farmers also are subject to the emotionally based abuse of greenies and libbers, as are the loggers and other people who use timber for houses or whatever.

The shadow Minister has outlined the amendments that the Opposition would like moved to this legislation. I support those amendments. In so doing I call for less emotion and more reality on issues such as conservation. The environment is too precious to be bandied about by politicians and others who use cheap emotional rhetoric to score points. Development and conservation can go hand in hand without the establishment of more boards of inquiry, commissions and wilderness declarations that do little to advance Australians or Australia as a whole.