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Wednesday, 21 March 2012
Page: 2434

Senator COLBECK (Tasmania) (13:37): I rise on a matter of public interest: World Forestry Day. This occurs today, 21 March, which is the 43rd World Forestry Day. World Forestry Day was first observed in November 1971 by the International Food and Agriculture Organisation at the request of the European Confederation of Agriculture. Since then many countries—such as Switzerland, Nigeria, Finland and the United States of America—have supported World Forestry Day and it is something I would like to recognise today.

In preparation for today's event we put together in my office a little Facebook page inviting people to come forward and give information on why they love wood, the product of our forest industry. We titled the site 'Wood—how do I love thee? Let me count the ways', and I must acknowledge the author of the quote we used in doing that, Elizabeth Barrett Browning. It was an opportunity for people to come forward and talk to us about their interaction with wood, timber and the industry that they are involved with. The variances of how people decided to interact with us on that site were quite enlightening.

Clarissa Brandt from Brisbane said to us that she loved her wooden spoons when she was cooking. Kaara Shaw from Queensland said that she recognised electricity poles that brought the power to her home and, as someone on the land, mentioned the split posts and the strainers that were part of their farm environment. I certainly recall a harvesting for split posts and strainers when I was living on the farm but, more strenuously, putting the straining posts into the ground to build the fences. And for something we all take for granted, toilet paper, she wondered whether there was anything that could replace it. It is a good question.

Sally Chandler from Devonport in Tasmania talked about her amazing celery-top pine kitchen. I have seen that kitchen. It is a wonderful place for the family's communal activities. John Clarke talked to us about how he loved sitting at his marri timber table on his jarrah floor, looking at his timber deck, dreaming of the winter to come and the wood fire glowing in the fireplace. Even more, he said, 'I love the fact that all these wood products will be available forever, provided they're not locked away and all our forests locked up.'

George Harris aka Merlin from Tasmania talked about Cary Lewincamp, at the Salamanca market, playing his semi-acoustic guitar made by Gary Rizzolo. George posted on the website some absolutely magnificent examples of the guitars Gary makes, including one called a Thylacine. It is a magnificent piece of art as well as a wonderful instrument. I have been challenged to play the air guitar here in the chamber this afternoon. It would not come up too well in Hansard. I told George that I might be prepared to have a crack at the thylacine, which he will give me an opportunity to try when I next go to Hobart. Tamara Campbell talked about how she loved her wooden door, which welcomed her when she came home. Graham McAlpine from Western Australia said: 'I'm originally a carpenter and joiner by trade and had the fortune to learn my skills from English tradesmen. A deep oneness with wood and timber I have from them. I grew up and now enjoy, in nature, the appreciation for fine timber.' As a carpenter and joiner myself I can very much sympathise with those sentiments.

I took the opportunity to post a few things onto the website myself, including a piece of music I enjoy from the Brothers in Arms performance by Dire Straits. Just imagine Mark Knopfler in that particular circumstance, playing with a brilliant orchestra but having no guitar made of wood. In fact, in that clip there was a violin, a cello, a harp, a tambourine and a piano. Even the conductor's baton was made out of timber. All these things are features of our forest industry. Trevor Brown, who is not always successful as a woodworker, said he cannot throw his failed metalwork projects on the fire but he can keep warm with his failed woodwork projects.

Tim Bartels posted from the Netherlands a quite extraordinary photograph of a bridge called the Moses Bridge, which is made of acetylated wood. It is submerged up to the railings. It is quite an extraordinary picture. I encourage people to go onto the 'Wood—how do I love thee? Let me count the ways' site and have a look at these things. David Houghton talked about eating his breakfast seated on Tasmanian blackwood chairs at a Tasmanian blackwood table and using a wooden pepper grinder 'to add to my lightly poached eggs on toast'. He had a knife with a wooden handle to cut the bread and a wooden handled knife to cut the toast. The cutlery is stored in a Huon pine cabinet along with the paper serviettes—of course, made from wood. John Innes from Vancouver in British Colombia posted an absolutely magnificent series of photographs of the faculty of forestry at the University of British Columbia, which is regarded as one of the coolest places on campus to hang out. Wood is everywhere. It is just magnificent to see.

It was interesting to hear Senator Brown talk earlier about the utilisation of our forests. One of his friends, someone he admires, is currently in a tree-sit in Tasmania. Obviously they have perspectives on this, but I differ very much from those perspectives. Senator Brown talks about these ancient forests that are being destroyed in Tasmania. You could almost, on the back of Senator Brown's description of these forests, describe him as the ancient Senator Brown, because these forests are younger than he is. Many of these forests are regrowth forests. I can recall in the seventies a photograph that was displayed from the Picton Valley, where the landscape had been cleared. According to Senator Brown, that forest had been destroyed forever. That forest is now part of the high-conservation value claim the Greens and the NGOs have in Tasmania in their attempts to close down the native forest industry.

I need to pull Senator Brown up on one thing: these forests are not destroyed because they are regenerated. They are regenerated with seed that comes from the site of the harvest. The trees are not destroyed; they are transformed. They are transformed into the timber products that people have posted on the website. The magnificent surroundings that we sit in here today in this Parliament House are made out of magnificent Tasmanian and Australian timbers. So they are not destroyed; they are transformed for us all to enjoy.

What we are doing here in Australia, unfortunately, is offshoring our responsibilities with respect to the environment by not being prepared to responsibly and sustainably harvest our forests but push it off to imports from overseas so we have almost a $2 billion deficit in imports for timber coming into this country because we refuse to responsibly use our own timber. As a result of the fires in Victoria, they changed the standards to require hard timbers, solid timbers, to stand up to the potential of fire in the future. The absurdity is that it is difficult to get the local timbers which have those qualities, are grown in those environments and can withstand those environments because we are not allowed to harvest them, so we have to import from rainforests overseas. It just does not stack up.

I would like to acknowledge in the advisers box today my parliamentary intern, Mandi Caldwell. She is here from the United States working with me in the office. I have asked her to do a study of the attitudes and the science in relation to forestry, particularly focusing on biomass—given that was such a topical issue this week—because of the differences that exist between here and other countries, particularly in the Northern Hemisphere.

We have been sadly misled in this country in relation to how we utilise our forests, I think, having travelled to the Northern Hemisphere and having seen how they approach biomass—and we had a significant debate on that in the last few days, particularly in the House. Countries in the Northern Hemisphere are looking to generate up to 50 per cent of their energy from biomass. Yet here we have the government, despite one of their own members chairing a committee that said we should be utilising native forest biomass in the generation of energy, putting a regulation through this place to say it is prohibited. It is completely absurd.

The Greens want to push us towards a plantation based forest industry. If you look at the science and the reality, a native forest based industry is better for carbon storage. It is better for biodiversity. It is better for water quality. It does not use any chemicals. It is better for landscape values. It is better for tourism and it has higher value forest outcomes as well. All of the values that environmental groups claim that they would like to see are best achieved from a native forest based industry, and yet the Greens in Australia want to entirely close down the native forest based industry—that is their stated objective—in favour of a plantation based industry, which pushes forests out of the forests onto our farmlands because that is the only place they can grow.

I will close with a quote from the president of the Institute of Foresters of Australia. It is interesting to note the difference between the attitudes of those who claim to be scientists and these forest professionals. He says:

Public calls for the cessation of harvesting in regrowth native forest … because they have biodiversity values is actually positive proof that foresters are creating valuable multiple use forests and not the reverse. This should comfort many in our community who want to know our magnificent forests are sustainably managed.

So spare a thought on World Forestry Day for Australia's wonderful forests and the amazing people who have spent their careers not only protecting them but providing us with many valuable and sustainable products. (Time expired)