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Wednesday, 18 March 1987
Page: 1070

Mr BURR(5.53) —As my colleague the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Connolly) has pointed out, these amendments have been rushed in by the Government in a last minute effort because it has suddenly realised that there was great merit in the arguments being put by my colleagues from Tasmania during the second reading debate. I would like to think that that were the case. If it is not, the cynicism with which the Minister for Arts, Heritage and Environment (Mr Cohen) brings forward these amendments is even greater than that with which he has brought forward the original legislation. Let me point out to you, Mr Chairman, and to the House the impact of these amendments which have been moved by the Government. The Government has suddenly realised that the areas that it intends to lock up will exclude all of those logs of high quality that can be used for veneer purposes.

At the moment in Tasmania there is the imminent closure of all the veneer plants. Associated Pulp and Paper Mills Ltd has said that it will immediately close its Somerset plant and dismiss at least 200 workers. That is the impact of the original legislation. The Government now proposes to excise a small portion of its original lockup area so that veneer quality logs can be gained to supply the mills at Somerset for their purposes, so as to stave off the closure of that plant and therefore save 200 jobs. In the moving of these amendments the Government is acknowledging that its legislation will cost jobs in Tasmania. It is prepared now to excise a small area of its lockup area so that the veneer plants can be saved and 200 jobs can be saved.

If that is the theory, why on earth does it proceed with this legislation, knowing that by locking up the Lemonthyme Valley it will cost jobs at J. and T. Gunn Timber? It knows that it will cost jobs at that plant. It knows that by locking up the Southern Forests and the Farmhouse Creek area Risby Forest Industries Pty Ltd will have to lay off workers. Why then does the Government single out Associated Pulp and Paper Mills Ltd and say `We will allow you to take your veneer logs so that you do not have to sack your 200 workers' when it will put the other plants-Gunn's and Risby's-in the position where they must sack workers from their plants? Why does it single out APPM for special treatment?

I draw to the attention of the Minister the cynicism with which the Government is moving these amendments. The ultimate cynicism is that the Government is on the verge of announcing a May election. It does not want to go into a May election with the publicity being given to it that its actions through this legislation have forced more people into the dole queues. That would be untenable for a government that parades itself as creating employment and as being the hero of the working class people of this country. Yet its legislation will force people out of work. It is suddenly realising now the import of it.

I would like to give the Minister and the Government the benefit of the doubt that maybe they are catching a glimmer of common sense. Maybe they are just starting to realise the import of this legislation. Maybe they have some compassion for the workers in Tasmania, and maybe they are demonstrating that by moving these amendments. I would like to think that but, in light of all this Government has done with all of this legislation, I cannot give it the benefit of that doubt. I believe that this amendment demonstrates even greater cynicism than was originally demonstrated by the original legislation. I believe that what this Government and the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) are doing will ultimately demonstrate their cynicism to the Australian people because these amendments are not designed for the purposes which were covered by the Minister in his speech; they are designed only because the Prime Minister now wants an early election.