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Wednesday, 18 March 1987
Page: 1012


Mr MAHER(11.43) —We are debating the Lemonthyme and Southern Forests (Commission of Inquiry) Bill and I am pleased to have an opportunity to comment on it. It is hard to follow the tour de force of the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Tickner), who covered the legislation with great sensitivity and, being a very experienced lawyer, with very persuasive legal argument. I feel it is important to make a comment in the national Parliament because we are debating today what I believe is the preservation of an area which may well be included on the World Heritage List. Whether or not it will be included will depend on the outcome of the Commission of Inquiry.

I preface my remarks by recounting to the House a conversation I had with a very esteemed journalist who was formerly a member of the Press Gallery, Peter Bowers. Mr Bowers, who is a most sensitive man, as we all know, told me that he had visited a number of places while travelling with various Prime Ministers. The greatest sight he had ever seen was the Victoria Falls in southern Africa and the second greatest sight was Machu Picchu in Peru, the Inca capital in the clouds. Australia's Machu Picchu is Cradle Mountain in Tasmania. Anyone who has been to northern Tasmania can see Cradle Mountain in the distance. One can see the mountain from near Launceston, at the back of Devonport and from the sea level at Ulverstone. It used to be difficult to reach Cradle Mountain but there is probably a tarred road up to it now. It is the most wonderful sight. It is not as high as Kosciusko but it is much more spectacular. The Western Tiers is another sight it is worth going to Tasmania to see. One can sit in Deloraine and some of those small towns and picturesque villages just to look at the Western Tiers and, in the distance, Cradle Mountain.

Our friend the honourable member for Braddon (Mr Miles) said that the Government had misread the Tasmanian people. I do not believe that. I have been to Tasmania on numerous occasions and I have seen no high rise development in Ross or any of those historic towns. I think that it would be sacrilege to redevelop the old parts of Hobart or of Launceston which are picturesque and tourist-oriented. It is nonsense for our opponents to come into this House and say that the Australian people want this area logged. I wonder what people are saying in north Sydney. I wonder what the young people in Killara, Lane Cove and Gladesville and people in the Liberal Party branches are saying. They are not saying that these areas should be logged. In Tasmania we have an area which I believe is our equivalent of Machu Picchu. It is a great sight and an area to which this legislation will relate. The legislation will do much to assess the forests which abut an area which is world heritage classified and which has been so classified, along with the other areas mentioned by other speakers in this debate, such as the pyramids and other extraordinary works of man and of nature.

In dealing with this Bill, I want to refer to the growth in tourism in this nation in recent times. Ministers referred to this matter in answers to questions in the House only yesterday. I am told that at present it is not possible for people travelling to or from Australia to obtain first-class seats on airlines. People are on standby to get a first-class air ticket to Australia. Anyone who has ever travelled overseas -and members tend to travel on occasion-will know that first-class seats were the cinderella of the airlines. Qantas Airways Ltd would have one or two first-class passengers. Now one cannot get a seat in first-class and potential tourists are complaining because they are wait listed first-class. I am told that the hospitality industry in Sydney is looking to 10,000 new jobs in the central business district in the next two years. Those concerned are worried that they will not be able to find trained people to serve on tables, cook and manage the hospitality industry. Surely some of this work must spin off to Tasmanians. Surely Tasmanians must be able to obtain jobs from tourism. This beautiful island State to the south of the mainland contains people of great friendliness, and it must be pointed out that not every tourist wants to lie on beaches-surely people have heard of skin cancer! I believe that in time the attractions of Tasmania will develop. It is an island State that is oriented towards tourism.

The Bill will give one year's protection from logging. There will be compensation for those who are inconvenienced and this is not being put under legal compulsion. The Government is giving compensation to those who are displaced. There have been precedents for compensation. We know that in December 1982 or January 1983 the previous Administration, the Fraser Government, offered the Tasmanian Government $500m compensation not to dam the Franklin-Lower Gordon wild Rivers. To log is a short term solution to the employment problems. I acknowledge, as do other speakers, that 30 per cent of Tasmania is on the National Estate, but that does not protect it from logging. Only about 12 per cent is on the World Heritage List.

I wanted to make a point concerning something I read some time ago and photocopied and put up in my office. It related to a book I was reading about the war, particularly the dark days in the United Kingdom. One of the points made was that Pius XII, who was the Pope during the war and who unfairly received a very bad Press over the years, brought out five points for peace during the war. The church leaders in the United Kingdom wrote a letter to the Times which caused a lot of interest. The letter was signed by all ecclesiastical leaders and was probably inspired by Archbishop Temple. It supported the Pope's plan and added an extra five points which were aimed at reconstruction after the war. In 1941 people were thinking of what would happen after the war. The final point that was made by the British ecclesiastics was:

The natural treasures of the earth are to be safeguarded, with due regard to future generations, as God's gifts to all mankind.

I thought that was a most sensitive point made at that time of great distress and gloom in the United Kingdom. If unique areas of Tasmania are logged, there is no regard to future generations. One has to skip three or four generations before there is another crop of trees, if anything ever grows there again. Foresters will probably plant pinus radiata as their normal practice. I have seen those areas. I have seen parts of Tasmania that look like a moonscape-miles and miles of pinus radiata in areas where leatherwood trees had grown, with all the potential for tourism. Those areas have now been planted with pinus radiata. I have been to these areas and electorates in Tasmania and seen areas devastated by the timber getters.

I put it to Opposition members that there are other sources of employment in tourism, and I feel that the State of Tasmania will benefit greatly from tourism. I believe that much more can be done in my own State of New South Wales for tourism in the timber area. I said this to State Ministers with responsibility for forests when I was a State member in New South Wales. Timbertown at Wauchope is a great tourist centre devoted entirely to the story of the timber industry. It is a reproduction of an old town built in the colonial fashion. It is filled with families and tourists though it was set up in a quite isolated area. It is all devoted to timber. I said to one Minister in the New South Wales Government: `Where can tourists go to see a cedar?' Cedar-getting was how the timber industry opened on the mainland. Our pioneer cedar-getters went through the forests and took the cedars out and blazed trails for the squatters and settlers to come in, particularly in the great wet around Lismore and the Northern Rivers area. But one cannot find a cedar now. There are still cedars in there, but tourists cannot go and see what a cedar tree looks like. At one time there were cedars everywhere. There were cedars in Sydney, as one sees from the old journals. The French Canadians who took part in a rebellion in Quebec, led by the Speaker of the Parliament, were brought out in 1840 to Concord, New South Wales, in my electorate. One of them kept a journal and said that the stumps of a cedar found in the grounds of the camp was 30 feet in diameter.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Mountford) —Order! Could I ask the honourable member for Lowe to come back to Tasmania?


Mr MAHER —Certainly, Mr Deputy Speaker. I thought that timber might have been germane to the debate. Nevertheless, I will come back to the legislation. I put very strongly to the House that development of tourism and tourist potential in relation to wood and forestry is an alternative form of development and employment. It provides employment for young people. They are the people we are worried about-the unskilled young people who are leaving school. I refer not just to the hospitality area but to serving meals and employment of that type.

I strongly support this legislation which I feel has support in Tasmania. Our friends from the Liberal Party who represent the five Tasmanian seats talk opposition support in Tasmania, but I have not found that when I have gone through Tasmania and visited Devonport, Ulverstone, Penguine and many such places. I have talked to people, representatives of local government and members of the Labor Party down there and I have found support for the preservation of Tasmania. The people do not want development; they do not want their countryside defaced. They want Tasmania to advance as a beautiful island. I hope that will happen as a result of the Commission of Inquiry which we are debating today, which I trust we will establish by this Bill, and which will give a year's breathing space. The inquiry will report on the wisdom of adding these areas to the world heritage area which they adjoin. If one looks at a map, one finds that the situation is quite extraordinary. I do not know whether honourable members can see the map that I am holding up, but it shows that the actual Lemonthyme area abuts the world heritage area. I went to the Minister's office to get a copy of the map and I simply could not believe what I saw. The Cradle Mountain area is right up against the area that is being logged at present. I think that it is almost sacreligious to log this part of Australia. I feel that these areas must be studied and examined. There is a very strong case for assessing the potential of these areas. The Southern Forest area joins the Franklin-Lower Gordon Wild Rivers National Park, which is also part of the World Heritage List. Parts of the Southern Forest areas are not adjacent to a world heritage area. There has been much debate as to what is on the National Estate and what is on the World Heritage List.

There have been a number of speakers in this debate and I will not canvass the matters that were raised by the honourable member for Hughes and other speakers. I know that other honourable members wish to contribute. I urge the House to support the legislation, mainly because I think it is something that we owe Australia. I know there have been other inquiries and examinations of this issue. The potential for tourism in our nation is enormous and the potential for tourism in Tasmania, as part of our nation, is very great. I trust that the House will support this legislation.