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Tuesday, 17 March 1987
Page: 953

Mr PUNCH(9.47) —Mr Deputy Speaker, I commence by congratulating you on your actions earlier in the evening and the manner in which you expelled the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman). It was quite plain to me, sitting on this side of the House, that the honourable member's actions were quite cynical and were designed to have him thrown out. He is clearly attempting to establish himself as a martyr to his one per cent margin in the seat of Denison.

Tonight the Opposition would have us believe that this Government is all about two things: Firstly, locking up most of the available forest land in Tasmania; and, secondly, causing a massive job loss in Tasmania. Indeed, its rhetoric tonight and in other places has all of the hallmarks of conservative politics 1987 style. If one cannot win the argument on its merits, one misrepresents it; if one cannot be constructive about a complex problem, one simplifies and sensationalises it. Worse still, the conservatives' response again on this issue seeks to cheapen the Constitution of this nation by hiding behind the old furphy of States' rights to the exclusion of the rights of Australian citizens right across this continent who seek to speak their mind through the national Parliament. (Quorum formed) Far from this diatribe that we have heard from the Opposition tonight, designed purely for political purposes, the Government's legislation, by contrast, is a constructive, detailed and responsible attempt to reconcile our moral and treaty obligations to the environment in Tasmania and Australia generally and our proper responsibility towards the Tasmanian timber industry. The Government's purpose in setting up a commission of inquiry is to identify and to protect areas that should be included in the World Heritage area as recommended by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources. I quote a recommendation from an IUCN inspector early in the year:

That review of the adequacy of the boundaries of the existing World Heritage site be undertaken. In our view, the optimum boundary of the area would include the full range of the natural and cultural features of the South Western Tasmania `ecosystem' as called for in the operational guidelines to the World Heritage Convention. A modified boundary should also attempt to minimise factors that would lead to a diminution in value of the core of the property due to alterations from industrial activities.

The importance of this action in world terms cannot be underestimated. The western Tasmanian wilderness national parks are one of the last remaining temperate wilderness areas in the world and one of only eight places which meet both the cultural and natural criteria of outstanding universal value. That is something that every honourable member should be cognisant of.

The matter goes much further than that-indeed, much deeper. The inquiry has as one of its main tasks which are included in this legislation the necessity of seeking alternatives so that the timber industry, far from being killed off as the Liberal Party would suggest, would emerge after 12 months in a stronger and more secure position with assured supplies of timber country, having not a short term planning capability but the ability for longer range planning. On this issue the conservatives opposite take the same view as they take on industrial relations, for instance. They are not seeking to reconcile the very real and honest differences between the timber industry and the environmental movement in Tasmania. Rather, they are trying to encourage conflict for cynical political gain. Once again, as with industrial relations, for cynical political gain they are in the political market-place, not knowing one tree from another, I bet, and trying to encourage conflict between environmentalists, who come from all sorts of backgrounds in this country, and the timber industry.

Tonight the conservatives, especially the Tasmanian members, talked about the timber workers and their families. I regard the double standards of those opposite as absolutely breathtaking. No doubt tomorrow, if not the day after, those same people will speak in the same vaulted terms about denying those very same workers pay rises so that their wages and salaries can at least partially keep abreast of the increase in the cost of living. They will deny them that, but tonight they talk about the workers and their families' interests as though they mean it. Tomorrow or the next day they will deny those workers the rights of their trade unions. (Quorum formed)

As I was saying, tomorrow or the next day the very same people in this House will deny the very right of existence, the very right of operation, or those same timber workers' unions, but in the next breath they will stand on whatever stage they can find in Tasmania and claim to represent their interests. What has to be said is that those opposite who put on a mock appearance in this chamber tonight-and doubtless on the front page of the Hobart Mercury tomorrow morning-are not interested in the welfare of those workers or their families. They are interested in one thing and one thing only-and that is their votes. If and when they get them, they will not want to know them after that. Rather than this cynical operation by those opposite, the Government is looking towards a proper inquiry that will have the result of lowering conflict not only in Tasmania but also more generally on the conservation front line to the benefit of both the environmental cause and the timber industry in general, particularly that in Tasmania.

In this context several points have to be raised about the Government's legislation. Firstly, the Government has excluded current logging areas as far as is known from this ambit legislation. Secondly, the inquiry makes it a priority to identify areas which are definitely not qualifying areas and, as a result, the interim protection accorded to the subject area in the Lemonthyme and Southern Forests (Commission of Inquiry) Bill will be quickly removed for such areas so identified by the Commission. Thirdly, it has to be said-and this point has clearly been missed by those opposite-that the main effect of this legislation will be on the Lemonthyme. It must be remembered that this is a relatively small area with a resultant relatively small yield in comparison with potential alternatives. This whole dispute is about 80 hectares. That is what it boils down to.

Mr Burr —How much?

Mr PUNCH —It is about 80 hectares-30 in the Lemonthyme and 50 in the Southern Forests. I ask those opposite to compare this figure with the average farm in Australia, which is about 1,200 hectares. That point is so salient that those opposite really should re-examine their position on this issue. Earlier this evening the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Connolly), before he resorted to calling quorums, had a colourful map on which he attempted to portray by colour, unless I misunderstood him, greenie-occupied areas of Tasmania. It reminded me of when I was very much younger and saw Bob Santamaria on television with his maps of the red hordes coming down. The honourable member for Bradfield now has green hordes coming up from under. The Opposition's cynicism knows no bounds and, with that style of operation from the honourable member for Bradfield, I look forward to him once again bringing busloads of his St Ives branch members to my electorate to man the polling booths at the next election because the Barton Liberals cannot man one. I look forward to his further appearances and just hope that he lifts his game a little, at least to make a contest of it.

On the issue of the loss of jobs, it should be said that every Liberal here tonight and outside this place has mentioned a different figure. We have heard that there will be 200 jobs lost, 400 jobs lost and 800 jobs lost. Unless I am quite wrong, the honourable member for Denison, before he was ejected from the chamber, was mumbling something about thousands of jobs lost. It seems that the Opposition has resorted to something of the order of its own taxation policies. Its members pick a figure, add a couple of noughts and claim the figure to be credible. If those opposite were really concerned about Tasmanian timber workers and the welfare of the environment in this country-on previous occasions they have shown that they are not-they would join the Government tonight in attempting to find a useful, workable formula for the long term security of those jobs and for the environmental protection of valuable areas across this country, and in particular in Tasmania.

Those opposite have had trouble in the past in adhering to agreements on this. In particular, it must be noted that this legislation has come about after the Tasmanian Liberal Government ignored the dispute-settling mechanism that was previously agreed to by it and the Commonwealth Government for the facilitation of settlement of disputes of this kind. Earlier this year, Tasmania's relevant Minister, Mr Groom, a former member of this House, refused to meet the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Kerin). Five meetings after he was cornered into having meetings between the Commonwealth and the Tasmanian Government the Tasmanian Government refused to take a long term view in the interests of the people in purports to represent.

The evidence of all these issues lies not in words but in actions. The compensation provisions of this Bill are more than adequate proof of this Government's bona fides in this matter. The Bill provides for reasonable compensation to those persons who refrain from or are prevented from carrying out actions that this Bill makes unlawful and who thus suffer loss or damage. It goes even further to provide, where there is disagreement on the extent of compensation, that this can ultimately be determined by the Federal Court of Australia. I ask those opposite: Is that not fair? Further, in this legislation the way is left open for those outside the immediate area affected who seek to claim damages to apply for compensation from the Commonwealth Government. It has to be said that this is not a matter that this Government has taken lightly or a matter into which any on this side of the House have entered lightly.

World heritage listing extends to only 247 places on the globe. They are such places as Mount Everest, the Pyramids in Egypt and the Grand Canyon in the United States. South-West Tasmania is a world class piece of environmental real estate. Its continued existence and that of the timber industry is not incompatible in the long run if we on both sides of the House-and I ask once again for those opposite to join the Government in this matter-have the courage to take up the challenge to find a solution to this complex and often bitterly contested question. Once again, I commend the Bill to this House and call on those opposite to come clean and get serious about helping not only Tasmanian timber workers but also the cause of environmental protection in the long run in Australia and in particular in Tasmania.