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Thursday, 29 March 2007
Page: 72

Senator TROOD (2:05 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Fisheries, Forestry and Conservation, Senator Abetz. Will the minister outline to the Senate how the Howard government is leading the world in acting to reduce deforestation and in doing so helping to reduce carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere? Is the minister aware of any alternative policies?

Senator ABETZ (Minister for Fisheries, Forestry and Conservation) —Senator Trood is right: Australia is a world leader in forest conservation and forest management, with almost 22 million hectares of forest reserved in this country. Whilst those on the other side seek to whip up hysteria about climate change and propose ridiculous, job-destroying responses, we on this side are getting on with the job of providing real, practical, balanced solutions which do not destroy jobs.

In fact, in Australia we have some 7.9 hectares of forest per head of population. Australia is second only to Canada in that regard—not that you would believe that if you listened to the absent Senator Bob Brown. In fact, together with our working and plantation forests, Australia’s massive and growing forest estate sequesters over 43 million net tonnes of carbon dioxide per annum. Not many countries boast such an impressive record in forest management. Not many countries are like us and plant at least twice as many trees as we harvest.

In South-East Asia and the South Pacific, we know that vast amounts of forests are being illegally logged and deforested. Last year I released the draft illegal logging policy, which is designed to address this issue and focuses on how we can encourage a shift in our South-East Asian neighbours to not permanently cut down their forests. Today I am pleased to advise the Senate that the Prime Minister announced that we will contribute $200 million to assist our neighbours in this process—a real, practical solution to reduce deforestation in South-East Asia; a solution which aims to reduce world CO emissions by a massive 20 per cent without costing a single Australian job. It is the experienced Howard government that takes the real, practical, balanced, sensible measures to address climate change, while those on the other side continue with their insane job-destroying policies.

For example, the Labor Party’s proposal to reduce only Australia’s carbon dioxide emissions by 60 per cent by 2050 would cost literally thousands of Australian jobs, while not making one iota of difference to the world’s temperature.

As for the Greens, Senator Brown continues with his never-ending crusade to close down the Australian forestry sector and to throw 83,000 people out of work—all based on the false premise that forestry in Australia is somehow contributing to climate change. In fact, forestry is the only sector of our economy which is carbon positive. If Senator Brown’s proposal to close down the forest industry were enacted, there would actually be more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere than there is now. That is the sort of nonsense the Australian people are being subjected to by the Australian Greens and the Australian Labor Party—job-destroying, illogical policies which will make no difference to climate change and will, in the case of Senator Brown’s proposal, actually make it worse.

The Howard government is working to offer a 20 per cent reduction in world CO levels without the cost of one single Australian job. Labor and the Greens want to halve only Australia’s emissions, at the cost of thousands of Australian jobs. The choice for the working men and women of Australia could not be clearer. (Time expired)