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Wednesday, 21 April 1999
Page: 4041

Senator ABETZ (4:05 PM) —Free speech is a treasured part of our freedom as a society. So when there is a matter about freedom of speech, I take some great interest. As with any other right within our community, there is a countervailing obligation—that is, if you want to exercise free speech, you have to tell the truth. So let us consider this matter which talks about censoring free speech. But, first, let me advise that in 1996 I displayed a poster produced by the Forest Protection Society in my Parliament House office. Guess what? A Mr Blakers, a name well known to Senator Brown because a Margaret Blakers in fact works for him, wrote me a letter threatening legal action that if I did not remove the poster they would sue me. Talk about legal bludgeoning! That is a wonderful example of it.

Senator Brown —Mr Acting Deputy President, I raise a point of order which goes to the matter of misleading of the Senate. What Senator Abetz is now talking about is an infringement of copyright, which is very much different from freedom of speech, and he knows it.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Sherry) —That is not a point of order, Senator Brown, as you well know.

Senator Brown —I have made my point.

Senator ABETZ —If Senator Brown had allowed me the courtesy of continuing, I was going to say, yes, it was a matter of copyright, and I therefore made the offer to appropriately note on the poster that the photograph was taken by Mr Blakers. But of course that was not good enough. Why? Because the poster was such a devastating revelation of the untruths being told by the Wilderness Society that they wanted only one thing and that was the removal of the poster. Anything I offered to do to remedy the alleged breach of copyright was not good enough and therefore the poster had to come down.

Senator Brown now has the expression on his face of the dog that hit the electric fence. Senator Brown, the people around you have been engaging in legal bludgeoning in exactly the same way that you are accusing the National Association of Forest Industries of doing. But let us deal with this book. On the very back cover it says:

This book is published with the support of the Wilderness Society and BBC Hardware.

We were told by Senator Brown that this book had been taken into the heart of BBC Hardware. Let us listen to what BBC Hardware has to say. A BBC Hardware spokesperson on 8 April 1999 said that the company had not authorised use of its name in the publication by the Wilderness Society. A complete untruth—completely deceptive, dishonest. It is a cruel hoax on the consumer, whom Senator Brown alleges he is somehow defending. In fact, it is unconscionable conduct by those who produced this book.

We then have, also in relation to this book, the assertion that a major sawmiller had broken ranks with the National Association of Forest Industries. They quoted one Mr Kim Booth, the former failed Green candidate in the last state elections. And guess why he is against native forest harvesting. He tells us that he is the largest distributor of Oregon timber in Tasmania. He imports timbers from across the world to sell in Tasmania. Of course he does not want our local forest products to be used. He wants to use those nasty imports, Senator Brown, that you continually rail against. When it comes to importing timbers or using Australian timbers, I stand on the side of Australian timber. It has also been alleged in this book that our forests are disappearing. The foreword says:

As Australia's native forests continue to disappear at an alarming rate . . .

What are the facts? According to ABARE, Australia's forest cover has been growing since around 1980. For the last decade Australia's forest cover has been growing and that has been scientifically shown by ABARE, an independent organisation. But when you are running an extreme green campaign you never let the truth or the facts get in the way of a good story. Unfortunately for the Wilderness Society, on this occasion truth has come out and as a result a lot of people are now saying that they will not be associated with this booklet. Another example from the booklet is in the acknowledgments that appear on the front page. It says:

The following companies have also generously assisted with time and information:

Guess what the acknowledgments before that include. Margaret Blakers, a name I have mentioned before—an adviser to Senator Brown—and Senator Bob Brown himself. Undoubtedly he did assist with the untruths that are contained in this document. There are a number of companies such as French Pine from Tasmania which are deliberately listed in the acknowledgments. But what does French Pine from our home state of Tasmania have to say about this? Kevin French, managing director, said on 14 April 1999:

I wish to advise that at no time leading up to the publication of the above did myself or any other company personnel have any contact with the authors of this publication. We have not and definitely would not give support for a booklet of this nature.

And yet they quote French Pine as supporting these outrageous allegations in this document. Senator Brown has had the audacity to come in here and claim that he is somehow championing the cause of the consumer. He has championed the causes of misinformation, deceptive advertising and the misleading of consumers. He is guilty of conduct unbecoming of a senator.