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Tuesday, 13 May 1997
Page: 3160

Senator HILL (Minister for the Environment)(3.14 p.m.) —I will respond briefly to Senator Margetts. I do not think Senator Brown added anything of use to the debate. In fact, I have not seen him make a useful contribution to the environment in the 13 months that I have been in this job. There is still a lot of shrill noise but very little constructive contribution to useful environmental outcomes.

The sad story is that the Greens are about 20 years out of date now. They are still throwing themselves in front of bulldozers, and climbing trees, when most of Australia has gone on to develop the principles of sustainable development and to look at ways in which we can gain material benefit while at the same time protecting the environment and passing it on to future generations in a better state than that in which we inherited it.

That is what most Australians are interested in. That is why landcare has been so successful, and coastcare, and all those thousands of community groups representing hundreds of thousands of Australians who do not just throw themselves in front of bulldozers; they get out there at weekends planting trees, getting rid of the weeds and doing useful things.

Senator Brown —They're getting rid of weeds while you're destroying the forests.

Senator HILL —Senator Brown, you could do it too. You could get out there on a weekend and do something constructive and help the environment. It would be much more useful than what you do in this place.

With regard to the harvesting of native timbers, your position is fundamentally different from the major parties in Australia, because the major parties are not opposed to any harvesting of native forest. The major parties believe that there should be a balance. You are opposed to all harvesting of native forest, come what may. If that is your starting point, then you have to oppose all of this harvesting, come what may.

But the major parties basically have decided, as you know, under an agreement which is not only historic but which leads the world, to try to find a good balance between providing a sustainable resource for harvesting that can provide people with the material benefits they need, whilst at the same time developing a comprehensive, adequate and representative reserve system that is as good as anything that has been developed anywhere on the globe. It is that commitment that we are putting into practice.

Under the previous government, before the process got politically corrupted, my memory is that the DFA that was prepared—the scientifically based assessment as to what would be necessary for a comprehensive, adequate and representative reserve, to which the AHC contributed—did not include the Giblett block. That is the basis of my answer, Senator Margetts. I will check that, but I think that is correct. Then, as you know, the process got corrupted and Labor decided to expand the DFA to include the whole of the national estate.

When we came to government we said that for purposes of progressing the CRA it was necessary to get back to the scientifically agreed area. We went back to the previous boundaries, but we did it through negotiation with the Western Australian government. It agreed that for a period, anyway, in excess of what they were obliged to do under the scientifically based agreement, about two-thirds of Giblett block should continue to be protected, until the CRA process was finished and we could determine absolutely what was necessary for that comprehensive, adequate and representative reserve. They are now progressing to harvest a small part of what was left.

Senator Margetts interjecting

Senator HILL —I understand that Giblett—is this right?—is a 5,000 hectare block. In agreement with us, Western Australia agreed to take out about two-thirds of that. Out of the balance, they are seeking to harvest about 500 hectares. So that is about one-tenth of the whole of the Giblett block. As I understand it, firstly, the AHC agreed that it was not necessary for a comprehensive, adequate and representative reserve; and secondly, the Western Australian government is only harvesting one-tenth of it in any event.

Senator Margetts —It's the best part.

Senator HILL —I have been there; I know it is a beautiful area, but, in all the circumstances, that seems to be a reasonable balance between providing jobs, providing material welfare for people, and on the other hand, protecting the environment.

Question resolved in the affirmative.