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Thursday, 15 May 1997
Page: 3434


Senator LEES (Deputy Leader of the Australian Democrats)(12.35 p.m.) —I realise that time is of the essence, but I do have to make it abundantly clear that at the moment farmers have two options. They can leave their forests untouched—by `untouched' I mean probably open to stock—and get nothing from them. Maybe there is a small percentage who are prepared to keep on doing that, but I believe that, unfortunately, that percentage is reducing.

There certainly are some out there who are prepared to set aside their land for wildlife. Many of them have stickers to that effect on their front gates. But some of those who have some of the most important areas are looking at a second option; that is, to clear-fell all or most of it and put in plantations. In Tasmania, hectare after hectare is going under blue gums and nitens.

All I am saying is that we should give them a third option; that is, some money to conserve—hopefully with a decent state government program that involves locking some of it away, yes, but allowing other areas to be selectively logged, with the environment as the highest priority. And that will need some money for things like fencing and, hopefully, money towards some proper management advice also. While Senator Brown and I obviously have the same end in mind—that is, conserving our native forests—when you are looking at forests on private land, it often unfortunately comes down to economics.

This government's incentives are to clear-fell—they have removed the restrictions on woodchipping from private land—or to plant plantations. They are even putting in plantations in forestry areas in Tasmania now—pseudo-plantations, because you are getting some regrowth coming back—and with the rest of it they are trying to hand plant selected and chosen species. Unfortunately, I am not able to support this amendment, but I hope that is not twisted around to mean in some way I am not trying to do everything I possibly can to protect what forests remain on private land.