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Wednesday, 16 August 1972
Page: 98

Senator CAVANAGH (South Australia) - Like Senator- Byrne, - 1 - do not want to prolong the debate. In my ' contribution to the debate I -thought I had raised many questions as to the : meaning of the amendment and' 'I '-thought that Senator Byrne, rather than the -Minister, would have thrown some light on the points I raised, especially as it is his amendment. I wanted to "know what was meant by certain terms and what' would be an acceptable legal definition, pf those terms. However, we are faced with the situation of putting our own interpretation

On what may be the effect of the amendment. Anyone who is interested in the environment would be forced to support the amendment because we may do irreparable harm if we simply allow States to go ahead with the destruction of indigenous forests in order to plant softwoods. It could lead possibly to the destruction of fauna in the area, or the fauna will leave and will not return to the pine forest.

I think that the whole question of uniform Commonwealth-State legislation should be considered. The form of this legislation is decided by various Ministers meeting in conference, and this completely deprives the people's representatives of the right to make amendments. They dare not alter the legislation because to do so would be to destroy the uniformity. Therefore, we are getting a system of government by 7 people. In respect of most uniform legislation, and in regard to the agreement thai is before us, it is a question of 'adopt and the Commonwealth makes a grant or refuse and you get nought'. Therefore it is obvious that the States must accept whatever we do by way of legislation. I think that, in conditions which involve a grant by the Commonwealth to the States, the Commonwealth should discuss the legislation and the agreement that it is prepared to enter into. It should then be up to the States to decide whether they will become participants in the agreement or whether they will forfeit the financial benefit that the Commonwealth is prepared to offer. Such an arrangement would permit a full discussion of. what we, as the people's elected representatives here think should be the Commonwealth terms. We would not have hanging over us the threat of this kind of legislation having to go back to the States on every occasion.

There is another point. There are 2 fields of thought ' in Australia and, as Senator Byrne said, we are getting more environment conscious. Senator Byrne took credit for the Australian Democratic Labor Party in apprising us of the necessity of this.

Senator Byrne - We were the first. Thank you, Senator.

Senator CAVANAGH - I am not disputing it. I do not know.

Senator Byrne - I assure you that is right.

Senator CAVANAGH - I say that the honourable senator claims it. But if he commenced before Senator Mulvihill I can assure him that it was only because of age that he succeeded. Of course, this thinking has reached the proportion, on some occasions, where it is asserted that we should destroy nothing, even for progress. We have reached a stage where it is considered that we should make Australia a country fit only for animals to live in. We could well reach a stage where, instead of killing animals for feeding humans, we may need to kill humans in order to feed animals because they will have become so precious. I see the necessity for the non-destruction of our environment. However, I also see the necessity for developmental work. We cannot retard Australia's progress because there is some kind of animal kingdom in a particular area. Where one draws the line between these 2 points of view, I do not know. I do not know whether the amendment moved by Senator Byrne seeks to do that. However, in the absence of measures which let the States destroy willy-nilly natural growth and animal life without affording any protection to them, one is forced into the position of supporting the amendment.

In view of the high priority that we put on the environment today I think that this subject should be given more careful study in the future. We should know all the arguments - the pros and cons - and draw the line somewhere between what we should do to protect the natural fauna and flora and what is necessary - and there must be some necessity for destruction - for the purpose of the progress of Australia.

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