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Thursday, 19 February 1987
Page: 348

Mr BURR(1.40) —In the grievance debate today I wish to raise the issue of Tasmanian forestry management. It is one of which I am sure all honourable members have been aware as a result of the recent publicity given to it. I want today to put aside some of the myths, politics and emotion that have been part and parcel of this debate for so long. The suggestion has been paraded around the country, by conservation groups and others, that the Tasmanian Government and the Tasmania forestry industry are denuding the State of all of its native and natural forest resources. I assure this House and the people of Australia that nothing could be further from the truth. Without question Tasmania has by far the best forest management program of any State in Australia, one management program of which we are justifiably very, very proud. In that regard I compliment the Tasmania Government, but I would also have to compliment previous Tasmanian governments of both political persuasions. Tasmania's forest management is not something that has suddenly been cooked up by the Premier of Tasmania for political reasons. I remind honourable members that forest management is not something that can be used for political purposes. It is not something that can be chopped and changed to suit expedience.

Forest management must extend over the time that it takes for a native forest tree to reach its full maturity. In the case of the eucalypt tree of Tasmania that is a period of between 70 and 80 years. Therefore, any forest management program must extend over that period. We are seeing a very well prepared and thought out forest management program being distorted for very clear and obvious political reasons. While some politicians and groups within Australia might think that they can gain some political brownie points from doing that I assure them and the people of Australia that the result will be to undermine very seriously the forest management program of Tasmania. It will very seriously inhibit the regrowth, the regeneration, of our forests to the detriment of future Tasmanians. I ask them, please, to consider the serious long term implications.

The history of Tasmanian forests for over 150 years has been one of trees logged at random, without any thought of regeneration. The old bushmen simply went into the bush, cut the best trees and thought nothing of regeneration. Consequently, over a long period all the best timber was taken with only the rubbish and the trees that had no commercial value being left. That situation reached a very serious point by 1970 when it was decided, very correctly, to introduce a forest management program which would clear away the uncommercial forest that had been left behind and replace it with good quality regenerated timber that would be of great value to future generations. As part of that forest management program it was necessary to clear away all the old and unrequired trees. That is what we call a woodchip industry. We then had available to us a commercial program that allowed us to clear those uneconomic forests and regenerate them. But we could do it on a commercial basis by getting some monetary value for the trees that were being cleared.

Mr Goodluck —I wonder what the greenies want, Max.

Mr BURR —I am not at all sure. I agree with my colleague, but I am not at all sure what they want.

I assure the House, Mr Deputy Speaker, that there is no denuding of Tasmanian forests. What is happening is that the areas of old and uneconomic forest are being cleared on a mosaic pattern. They are being cleared by what is called a `coop pattern', which means that forests are being cleared by areas of 1,500 or thereabouts hectares. The areas surrounding those coop areas are not being logged immediately. The area of coop that has been logged is regenerated and at a later time when that regeneration has reached a degree of maturity-10 to 15 years on-the other areas surrounding it are then logged. That is done purposely to protect the habitat for wildlife and the native flora and fauna. It does not disrupt all of the conservation issues, or the conservation aspects, that the conservation movement seems to be so concerned about.

What worries me at the moment, Mr Deputy Speaker, is that the well-based forest management program that has been in place in Tasmania since 1970 is being distorted for blatant political reasons. It will not win this Government political brownie points, but it will do enormous damage to the forest management program and therefore the regeneration and having good-quality forests in Tasmania for many years into the future. It takes 70 or 80 years for a eucalypt tree to reach maturity and what this Government is doing is distorting that management program halfway down its track. It cannot do that without distorting the total program over 70 or 80 years. I ask the Government to think seriously about that. What is happening is that the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) has now decided that, in light of a coming election, he wants to attract the conservation vote in Australia. And because he wants to attract the conservation vote in Australia, he is prepared to totally distort the forest management program in Tasmania. He is doing it for his own expedient political reasons. Nothing, I believe, could be more cynical.

If we look at the forest management program, we see that areas such as the Lemonthyme Valley, Jackeys Marsh, and the southern forests in my colleague's electorate of Franklin have always been planned as logging areas But now we are finding that the conservation movement says: `Oh, no, you cannot log there'. Albeit that those areas have been in a forest management plan since 1970, they are now saying: `No, you cannot log there'. In fact, the area of Jackeys Marsh in my electorate has been logged for 150 years; for 150 years people have been taking timber out of that area. It has been logged under the present forest management plan since 1980, yet nobody has said a word about that. Suddenly, for political reasons, this Government wants to distort that program. It is now suggesting that there be a committee appointed to review the logging in those areas.

I ask the House, Mr Deputy Speaker: Why should those areas by reviewed by a Federal Government committee or by any committee? Last year the Tasmanian Government and the Federal Government, through their respective Ministers, met and agreed on a program of logging of forest operations in Tasmania. That agreement was put into a memorandum of understanding and since that time the Tasmanian Government and the Tasmanian forest industry have struck rigidly to that memorandum of understanding. But now the Government has said, `We are going to tear up that memorandum of understanding because the conservation movement wants us to. Therefore we insist that you, the Tasmanian Government, have a review of this program'. I say to this Government that the Tasmanians, the Tasmanian industry and the Tasmanian Government, will not bow to this political browbeating, this political blackmail, that is being played out for blatant political reasons. We have much greater respect for our forest industry.