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Wednesday, 18 March 1987
Page: 1021

Mr HOLLIS(12.37) —I am pleased to speak on the Lemonthyme and Southern Forests (Commission of Inquiry) Bill. Of course I reject the amendment moved by the Opposition and I support the Bill. It is interesting to look at the number of honourable members who wish to speak on this Bill. It shows the interest there is in this House in conservation matters. I venture to suggest that if a few years ago such a Bill had come before the House there would not have been a lot of members from both sides wishing to speak on it. There has been a wide range of speakers on the Bill and a wide-ranging debate. I feel that we members of the House and the Australian people owe a debt to the conservation movement because it is through the activities of those involved in conservation issues that many of us have become aware of how important the conservation movement is and how important it is for us in Australia to conserve that part of our country that we have left. From the comments the Opposition has made on this Bill one would think the whole of Tasmania was going to be locked up.

Mr Goodluck —Thirty per cent is.

Mr HOLLIS —It is not 30 per cent that will be locked up-certainly not under this Bill that we are now debating-because we are debating a moratorium for 12 months so that the facts can be established and some of the nonsense that has been put up in the debate will not be put up. A lot of hysterical ideas have been put forward about what the Commonwealth is trying to do. People are saying that the Commonwealth is seeking to abuse the Constitution and put timber workers out of work. These hysterical comments are not based on one ounce of fact. It is suggested that there be a 12-month moratorium while an inquiry is carried out. As my colleague the honourable member for Makin (Mr Duncan) said, there is no need to log this area within the next 12 months.

The Commonwealth Government through this Bill seeks firstly to protect those National Estate areas in Tasmania that may be of world heritage value and, secondly, to resolve once and for all the issue of whether there are viable alternatives to forestry operations in these contentious National Estate areas. The Bill will ensure that a careful and exhaustive review will take place. Its brief is very clear. Are there environmentally and economically prudent and feasible logging alternatives within Tasmania to the existing logging plans for National Estate areas? In my opinion the Bill could not be more fair for it calls upon all those involved in the debate to submit their views for adjudication. The Bill empowers the three-member inquiry board with the tools to overcome some of the parochial hurdles and the litany of misinformation that has confronted previous investigations into the forestry debate. More importantly, the Bill provides for the future by giving everyone the time to ponder the almost unbelievable natural values of the region and the difficult social, political, economic and ecological problems of the logging industry.

If this is to be the inquiry to end all other inquiries it is imperative that not one tree in the Lemonthyme and Southern Forests be felled for the duration of the inquiry's commission. I will not be critical of the Tasmanian members in this chamber-I know that some of my colleagues have been critical of them-because they feel that they have a case to put and as well as representing the National Estate, as it were, we come here with a mandate from our electoral areas. The Tasmanians feels that they have to put the case that has been put to them by some, but not all, Tasmanians. We in this Parliament have to take the national view. We must escape the parochial view. We have a national responsibility in regard to this.

I am very sympathetic to the needs of the timber industry. Members of my family on the north coast of New South Wales are involved in the timber industry. I also appreciate the need to protect jobs. All that having been said, I suggest that a 12-month moratorium while the facts are established is reasonable. That is all that this Bill is seeking to do-to say that we will have a 12-month moratorium on all logging so the facts can be established before the decision to fell trees can be made. Once the trees are felled it is too late to come back and say: `We made a mistake'. How often do we say that today? We say: `If it happened today this would not happen or that would not happen'. It is too late once the trees are down to say that we made a terrible and wrong decision and we will put the trees back. What we are saying in this Bill is that we will have an inquiry which will go for 12 months. All sides-the timber industry, governments and the conservation movement-can and will put their arguments. Based on fact the decision can then be made.

It is a great pity that the Gray Liberal Government in Tasmania is playing party politics on this issue. As the honourable member for Makin said, to get to the area that the Tasmanians are talking about logging they have to go past other areas-so they are just playing party politics on this matter. I know that the Tasmanian members have spoken with much emotion on this Bill, but we have a national responsibility. Twelve months is not a terribly long time to wait. The facts will be established. I support the Bill. I reject the amendment and I commend the Bill to the House.

Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2 p.m.