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Thursday, 19 February 1987
Page: 385

Mr MILES —by leave-I commend to the House the Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation report entitled `Fiscal Measures and the Achievement of Environmental Objectives'. I would like to highlight a few points in that report. As has been pointed out by the Committee's Chairman, the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Milton), the purpose of this inquiry was to look into fiscal measures which influence environmental matters. We looked at a wide range of matters, including forestry conservation, vegetation conservation, land degradation and heritage conservation.

It was interesting that we found that, the Treasury in particular, when making decisions about the environment, often uses a set of criteria which assumes that our national resources are unending. As a nation, when we make wise, sensible judgments about economic policies, we must also remember that our environment has not got an unlimited supply of natural resources such as forestry or timber products and soil. Just as we have overcut our forestry resources, partly because of the economic policies of this nation in the 1930s and 1940s when we thought that our resources were unlimited-we now find that they are terribly limited-we are also diminishing our soil resources. At the moment we do not appreciate that our soil resources, just like our timber resources, are unlimited. As we make economic judgments about the future of this nation it is very important that we ensure that the resource on which so much of our export income and earnings depend-our soil-is also preserved. This report has brought down recommendations which will enable that to occur. Even though economic issues seem to dominate continually, we must realise that certain resources are limited and one day we will have to wake up to ourselves and take our natural resources into account when we make our economic policies. I believe that is very important.

Another point I would like to raise is the polluter pay principle. Our Chairman has noted that we have indicated that it would be a good thing if there were an obligation on mining companies involved in producing income and increasing living standards to restore the environment to a state which is beneficial and aesthetically pleasing. I think that is the only wise and sensible way to use our resources-to use them but then to try to restore the environment. The companies involved in mining should have to restore the mined areas.

The Committee went on to say that if the community requires private individuals to incur added costs because they own a farm or other property classified as part of the National Estate the community should pay some compensation to those people. For example, people who live in a National Estate house incur an added cost. If the community wants those properties properly maintained as part of our heritage it should compensate those people for that added cost.

Lastly, I would like to comment on the types of programs which have been put into place in relation to private forestry in Tasmania. Work has been undertaken by the Commonwealth and Tasmanian governments, in co-operation, to ensure that there are eucalypt forests in Tasmania. The programs which have been undertaken by private companies and the State Government have been a real bonus to Tasmania. It would be good to encourage all States to take on programs to encourage private land-holders to do reafforestation. Large areas of Tasmania were cleared for agricultural purposes and those areas are now being replanted with eucalypt forests. In many cases they are in plantation form, but it would be better for the environment to use plantation form eucalypts for woodchips and saw logs in the future than to continue to cut down our natural forests. It is also a much more effective way of producing wood material, because a managed forest produces between 10 and 25 times more wood material than a natural forest. So it is a wise way to go about it.

The amount of money that is available to undertake these programs is severely limited, relative to the number of people in Tasmania who want to take on that sort of program. One person in my area would like to plant 300 hectares of eucalypts per year, because he sees that as a viable economic proposition. It certainly is, but the funds and the capacity for an individual to do that are just not there. I believe that this report encourages us as a nation to put in place economic strategies which will encourage private people to undertake those types of programs. We would benefit as a nation if we took account of this report.