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Wednesday, 18 March 1987
Page: 996


Mr STAPLES(10.11) —I have really been quite disappointed by the general level of debate from those opposite. I respect the honourable member for Lyons (Mr Burr) as a person and respect the way in which he has put his case. It had some very constructive and interesting points but as far as I am concerned it belies a lot of the facts about what is occurring in Tasmania. The case being put forward by those opposite falls down in comparison with some of the contributions that have been made on this side, notably by the honourable member for Dunkley (Mr Chynoweth) last night, and the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Milton).


Mr Goodluck —Ha, ha!


Mr STAPLES —There are a few giggles from the other side, but this House should recognise the worth of those contributions. The report of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation on fiscal measures and the achievement of environmental objectives, released in this House just a few months ago, is a very important document. Rather than being involved in some of the petty politicking that is going on in Tasmania at the moment those opposite, particularly Tasmanian members, should have a good look at that report to see what constructive methods they can use and approaches they can take to the whole issue.

The case argued by those opposite-I refer, too, to the way it has been presented particularly in this House and in Tasmania by the Premier of Tasmania, Mr Gray, and some examples put forward last night demonstrated quite disgraceful behaviour-is reactionary, blatant, political exploitation of a very important issue. Not only is it a case of Mr Gray's unconstitutional and disgraceful behaviour regarding the blocking of Mr Devereux's entrance to the Senate, but his behaviour in this issue as well is blatantly confrontational. The reason the Lemonthyme and Southern Forests (Commission of Inquiry) Bill is before this House is that Mr Gray has not been willing to have dialogue with the Government on matters not only of Tasmanian importance, but of national importance. It is about time that the Tasmanian Government and representatives of Tasmania in this House and in the Senate looked to their responsibilities not only to the people they represent but also to the people of Australia. Tasmania is part of the Commonwealth of Australia.


Mr Goodluck —You could have fooled me.


Mr STAPLES —It may not be very hard to fool the honourable member for Franklin. He says that he could be fooled and I would agree. He often is. Tasmanian is a very beautiful place.


Mr Goodluck —I live there.


Mr STAPLES —That is right, but that does not detract very much from the fact that Tasmania is a very beautiful place. Tasmania is unique but Tasmanians have to realise-and they do realise it because this is a very important part of how they promote their State-that their economy is based on tourism. All they are intent on doing is finding as many ways as possible to clear as much land as they can to turn Tasmania into a temperate desert-and to no good effect. There could be some excuse for last night's behaviour. There was a full moon. But let us look at the matter now in the cold light of day. Let us look at the Bill and try to start over. The honourable member for Lyons performed creditably. Let us see whether we can get back on the track. The Bill's name should give us a good indication of what we are talking about-it is the Lemonthyme and Southern Forests (Commission of Inquiry) Bill 1987. What is the Bill going to do? It will enable a review into the world heritage values of the Lemonthyme and Southern Forests areas and into environmentally and economically prudent and feasible alternatives to forestry operations in those areas and whether the areas have world heritage value.

We are looking at alternatives for the people of Tasmania, for the people of Australia and for the people of the world. If these areas have world heritage value they will be protected for the generation sitting in the gallery above us. They will be able to see the beauty of Tasmania, not see just a lot of stumps all over the place, and that is important. This Bill will enable the Lemonthyme and Southern Forests areas to be protected during that review. Is that such a big thing, such a big problem with which the Opposition has to contend? The review under this legislation will be required to be finished within 12 months. If any commercial activities are prevented from being carried on because of the review the people affected will be compensated for their losses. What is the problem with that? This is a last ditch effort by this Government; all attempts of reason and dialogue have failed. What is wrong with people in Tasmania? What is wrong with honourable members on the other side of the House? Can they not understand reason? Are they afraid of a commission of inquiry?


Mr Goodluck —Do you think I am going to give one inch to the likes of Jonathan West, Bob Brown and Norm Sanders?


Mr STAPLES —Are they afraid of an independent, apolitical commission of inquiry that will allow--


Madam SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member for Franklin has spoken in this debate. Already the Chair has twice asked him to stop interjecting. I suggest that he heed the Chair.


Mr STAPLES —This Government has been forced into using its constitutional powers and it wants to carry out its constitutional responsibilities and do the job properly. The very fact that the Bill is before the House is because the Government of Tasmania and people such as the honourable member for Franklin refuse to allow a commission of inquiry and refuse to let an apolitical operation, which can call evidence from whatever sector-the Tasmanian Government, the people of Tasmania and honourable members opposite-to put its point of view and arguments and be judged not in a party political sense but according to reason. What is the problem? Is there a problem? What are the people in Tasmania afraid of? What are their representatives afraid of? What is the Tasmanian Government afraid of?

Let us look at the industry in Tasmania and we might see some of the problems that it is facing. Every week in Tasmania an area of forest more than 200 times the size of the Melbourne Cricket Ground is clear felled, ripped through and pulled out. That is 20,000 hectares a year. About 38 per cent of this wood supplies Tasmania's sawmills and the local paper making industries but over 60 per cent of all wood cut down or clear felled is exported straight to Japan as woodchips. That provides less than 18 per cent of forest based employment and includes all the indirect jobs as well. Tasmania exports more woodchips than all of the other States combined-2.7 million cubic metres a year out of a national total of 4.5 million. Tasmania's forestry industries are not run on a sustainable yield basis according to the woodchip companies' own environmental impact statement. Sawlogs are being cut down 40 per cent faster than they can grow back while pulp wood is being overcut by 17 per cent.

The honourable member for Lyons cannot respond now but I ask honourable members who follow him: How does that allow for future generations of forest? How does that allow for future generations of employment in the forestry industry in Tasmania? Mismanagement is forcing forestry operations into remote virgin areas. Down the track we could see woodchip companies finishing with the forests and then moving into the electorates of Franklin and Denison and woodchipping the furniture and the houses of the people there. They will not stop at anything. They are cutting down all the forests and not allowing time for regeneration.

Since 1973 over one third of all forestry jobs in Tasmania-about 4,000-have gone even though twice as many trees have been cut down every year. Over 90 saw-mills have been closed. Honourable members opposite know that. Why has this happened? New machinery is putting people out of work and so is woodchipping. No value is added to the product. The Minister for Science (Mr Barry Jones), who is at the table, has spoken for years about getting value-added products into Australian industry. What are the woodchippers doing? They are ripping timber out of the forest, chomping it up and sending it across to Japan. What does it come back as? It comes back as all these high value-added products which affect our balance of trade. That is not very smart at all.

Woodchipping entrenches clear felling. It destroys a lot of the beauty of Tasmania. It is destroying Tasmania's tourist industry, and the sooner honourable members opposite wake up to that the better. It will create tremendous erosion problems within that State; it will affect its fishing industry. These are the things honourable members opposite have to realise.

I congratulate the Minister on this legislation and I sympathise with him because of the problems he has had to put up with in respect of some of the entrenched attitudes of the Tasmanian Government and some honourable members opposite. I congratulate also the Wilderness Society Incorporated and environmentalists generally. I also congratulate the people in the Wilderness Society in my area, the Diamond Valley branch of the Wilderness Society. Environmentalists have sophisticated their campaign. No longer do they try to win the arguments in politics or in the streets simply by beautiful pictures. There is nothing wrong with beautiful pictures; Tasmania's tourist industry is built on beautiful pictures. But no longer do environmentalists simply rely on beautiful pictures to get their point across. They have developed the economic arguments, and they are beating those opposite hands down. That is what the Opposition is afraid of in respect of this Bill. Honourable members opposite are afraid of the economic arguments that will come out in this Commission of Inquiry. They are afraid of the environmental arguments that will come out in the Commission of Inquiry. That is what has them worried and that is what has the Premier of Tasmania worried. The environmentalists, the Wilderness Society and people on this side of the House such as the honourable member for Dunkley (Mr Chynoweth) have exposed honourable members opposite for what they are. The irresponsibility of their position will become more and more apparent as this Commission of Inquiry goes on. They will not be able to hold back these forces. That is what really concerns them. You can fool some of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time. The Opposition will fool no one here. I commend to the House this Lemonthyme and Southern Forests (Commission of Inquiry) Bill of 1987.