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Thursday, 26 August 1999
Page: 7812

Senator BROWN (11:12 AM) —Chair, I do not want to make your position invidious, but I will ask the rhetorical question.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN —You cannot make my position invidious.

Senator BROWN —No. Nor would I dare trespass into that territory. But I ask the rhetorical question: can anybody in the chair ever have seen such a failure to respond by a minister or a representative of the minister on such an important matter? This is an extremely important matter, and we have a hapless government representative who skirted around some forests in Tasmania on a visit or two down there but simply did not get into the matter. She has been handed the responsibility for one of the most important pieces of legislation that has come before this parliament as far as the nation's environment is concerned, and she has been put in the position of defending the indefensible.

None of the parliamentary secretary's senior colleagues have had the gumption to take the chair because, as I said earlier, the regional forest agreements themselves are built on a lie about protecting the forest environment when they are not. That is why they are going to fail. That is why they will not stand up. The Senate committee heard that from many witnesses—that signing on the dotted line a death warrant for the forests of Australia is simply not going to mean that that sentence will be carried out. Sure, there will be lots of damage, but people are not accepting it in Western Australia—and they are not accepting it in Tasmania, I can tell you.

Senator Sherry —They are accepting it in Tasmania.

Senator BROWN —Senator Sherry just intervened and said they are accepting it.

Senator Sherry —You do not accept it. The majority of the community accept it.

Senator BROWN —Senator Sherry has been wrong in the past and he is going to be shown to be wrong again. He might accept non-Tasmanian entities ruling over this resource. He might accept the destruction of a job creating Tasmanian asset, but the people of Tasmania will not. If he has a constructive input—

Senator Sherry interjecting

Senator BROWN —I will not get into grandstanding in this place, as you want to, Senator Sherry, because that is a diversion, and you might lose that argument as well.

If Senator Sherry has a constructive component to bring to this debate, then he has the opportunity to do so. In fact what he is doing is sitting bolted to his seat, the same as the parliamentary secretary, because he has nothing worth while to add.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN —Senator Brown, I cannot make the parliamentary secretary or any minister of the government, nor any member of this chamber, participate in this debate or in any other debate. I have the responsibility for the conduct of the debate and it is as simple as that. I am sure you realise that.