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Tuesday, 17 February 1987
Page: 209

Mr CHYNOWETH(10.48) —I have never heard such a load of garbage in all my life as we have just heard from the honourable member for Mayo (Mr Downer). The Australian Conservation Foundation does a great job in preserving for future generations the benefits Australia has to offer. What he has just said is completely wrong. I am quite certain that when the ACF replies to this scurrilous allegation that has been uttered out of his mouth, he will find that he was wrong.

I have come here this evening to talk about trees, in particular about holes in trees. Honourable members might think that this is a very strange sort of subject; however, it is very important. Our forests, which the honourable member for Mayo wants to chop down and turn into woodchips to export, are for all Australians. That includes not just humans but also our native fauna. Trees are vitally important for nature conservation, their natural beauty, their recreational aspects for man and, where necessary, their value as providers of timber for homes, furniture, paper and so forth. But there is another very important use of trees of which very few people are aware; that is, as a home for a large variety of Australian animals. The hollows in trees provide nesting and breeding sites for many different animals and therefore constitute an important aspect of woodland and forest ecology.

Very little is known about the cause, incidence or distribution of cavities in trees anywhere in Australia, largely because damaged trunks are of little commercial use and are therefore ignored, but as the native vegetation is cleared from land for primary production the total number of hollows available to animals for nesting purposes decreases very rapidly. For that reason, I believe that it is extremely important for all of us to try to understand the factors involved in the clearing of land and the effect that it has on our precious wildlife. The widespread clearing of forests has led to massive deterioration of our environment.

In Western Australia, the arrival of Europeans heralded a period of rapid changes in the landscape. The area which was most affected was the agricultural region of the State, which lies between the mouth of the Murchison River in the north and Esperance in the east. Nine different cockatoos occur in this region, eight of them being present before 1827, while one, the sulphur-crested cockatoo, was introduced some time after 1930. All of these species have been influenced by the environmental changes that have followed European settlement.

The cockatoos which occur in that area are obligate hole nesters and trees are the only source of such holes in the region. In other parts of Australia, some species do nest in holes in cliffs, but there are few such sites in the south-west of Western Australia. Some cockatoo species feed predominantly on native vegetation, but throughout the wheat belt there is little or no native vegetation under or around the remaining trees. Western Australia is one of the few places in the Western world to undergo large scale land development in recent years.

Mr Hodgman —Where is your electorate?

Mr CHYNOWETH —If the honourable member does not know, let me tell him that it is in Victoria. It is a very beautiful electorate. However, it has been cleared of trees and we do not have many cockatoos there. One of the problems in Tasmania is the reafforestation of areas where all the old trees are being pulled down. They are being replaced with those nice, you beaut, plantations. The only problem is that there are no nesting holes for birds, and so on. What is to happen to the bird population in Tasmania in a few years time? The birds will be gone forever because there will be no holes there. As I have walked through Telopea Park in Canberra on my way to Parliament House in the mornings I have seen a couple of cockatoos scratching a hole in one of the trees. It has taken them weeks to make any impression on the tree. Where will such birds nest if all the suitable trees are knocked down and turned into woodchip? The Opposition is all about destroying our native flora and fauna at a great rate. At present--

Madam SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member's time has expired.