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Wednesday, 18 March 1987
Page: 1069


Mr CONNOLLY(5.46) —These amendments which have been moved by the Minister for Arts, Heritage and Environment (Mr Cohen) are, as usual, a case of too little, too late. The way in which he handled the non-speech which he has just made to the Committee suggests very clearly that he does not quite know what he is talking about. For the benefit of the Committee, I wish to draw attention to some of the points that the Minister made when he summed up in his address on the second reading debate. He alleged that States should not expect to be treated differently, but this is precisely the issue that my Tasmanian colleagues find so onerous in this legislation. This Government is treating the States differently. I made this point in the second reading debate and I take this opportunity to reiterate it: Some two years ago when the nation was convulsed about the question of the Daintree Forest and the protection which many people claimed it should have, this Minister specifically stated in this House at Question Time and before the Press in his media interviews that he did not think it appropriate that a Federal government should involve itself in interfering with State land control and administration matters. That was his argument then. What is his argument now? His argument now is that parts of Tasmania should be seen as contiguous to world heritage areas and therefore treated in the same way as those world heritage listings. The absurdity of that should stand for all to see. If one wanted to work on that basis one would simply argue that valley upon valley upon valley should be treated in a certain way because it is contiguous to a piece of land which is on the National Estate or, as in this case, on the World Heritage List.

The Minister went on to make another observation. He said that all he was excluding from logging and other timber activity was 284,000 hectares-a mere bagatelle, so we are told, of no great significance. After all, he pointed out, in terms of the Lemonthyme it would mean that perhaps one or two coupes would not be developed, a mere 50 hectares. I think the point needs to be made: If, as the Minister claims, the total area which could be affected is some 600 hectares, why on earth is it necessary for him to then claim that 284,000 hectares must be frozen from all further activity for at least the period of this inquiry, which is 12 months? He knows as well as members of the Opposition know, even if members of the Government obviously do not, that when one conducts an inquiry of this nature it is very difficult to put a specific date on its completion. It is equally difficult to say conclusively when the recommendations of that inquiry will be carried through. All those points were enunciated during the second reading debate by members of the Opposition who represent Federal seats in Tasmania. This is the contradiction because there is nobody, nobody in this chamber on the Government side, who can offer a voice for the State of Tasmania. That demonstrates more than clearly what the people of Tasmania think of the Hawke Labor Government. If the Minister goes down to Tasmania he should not be surprised if he catches a few rotten eggs because I have not the slightest doubt that he would not be welcome in that part of the land.

I refer now to the amendments to clause 19 of the Bill. The Minister has finally realised that the area the Government seeks to lock up includes significant areas of private property. Belatedly some compensation provisions are being included in the Bill to cover the loss of revenue that private forest owners in particular will obviously suffer if these resources are locked up and these provisions are allowed to proceed. This does not go nearly far enough. No thought has been given to the secondary and the tertiary industries which depend on the logging activities in these forest areas-a mere bagatelle, a mere 50 hectares in the Lemonthyme or a mere 600 hectares overall, as the Minister in his generosity told us earlier.

Let us refer now to the clause 21 amendment. We have seen that it seeks to exclude from the proposed boundaries some of the areas that were originally proposed for the harvesting of high quality veneer logs in Tasmania. What the Minister finds very difficult to understand, again until the last moment, is that we are not talking about one tree being the same as another. Various trees and areas of Tasmania-areas which the Government has decided to lock up in the context of this legislation-have specific characteristics which are relevant to the long term economic viability of the jobs and the industries which depend upon the ability to harvest that particular timber. I refer specifically to the veneer logs. That is a very specific and specialised area of technology. It involves people who are trained; it involves substantial equipment and large capital costs, all of which can obviously be affected if decisions are taken by this Parliament which restrict access on a reasonable basis, an access which gives adequate protection to environmental qualities and values while at the same time ensuring that industries have a throughput of raw material to keep them viable.

Quite clearly, Commonwealth officials, presumably depending on the kindness of the Minister in this case, are rushing around trying to soften the impact which can be seen only as hastily conceived and drafted intrusive legislation into the domestic affairs of Tasmania. The Government is now starting to realise under pressure that it has gone too far and that it has gone there too fast, that it cannot draw lines on maps and lockup forests in Tasmania and not have a significant effect on the employment in the forest industries.

What is the rational logic of now excluding some further areas of the Australian Newsprint Mills Ltd concession, which will insist on preventing logging in the Farmhouse Creek and the Lemonthyme areas where currently domestic logging must proceed to supply local saw-mills and where logging has been in place for at least the last hundred years? Has the Hawke Government already decided that some areas of its 284,000 hectare lockup are now not quite as important as it thought they were initially, or is it because this Government has finally discovered that the intelligence upon which it based its decisions in relation to this legislation came from the very small group of environmentalists in Tasmania who have given it a log of claims which are not economically or environmentally viable?

Those of us who have been to Lemonthyme and to these other areas which are now subject to this legislation are absolutely certain that the decisions taken by the Government in relation to this legislation are fundamentally wrong. They are wrong in terms of constitutional realities; they are wrong in terms of the basic environmental requisites which it claims are the basis of this legislation; and they are certainly wrong for the people of Tasmania.