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Wednesday, 15 July 1998
Page: 6111


Mr CAMPBELL (12:12 PM) —I rise to support the government's Regional Forest Agreements Bill 1998 . I am surprised that this bill has come forward, particularly when you see in my home state of Western Australia the National Party doing deals with the Greens. I say from the onset that the Commonwealth should be right out of the forest industry. The Commonwealth has little or no expertise in this area and the Commonwealth has always been driven by the pressure of the green movement. It is these half-baked Trots that comprise the green movement that have driven federal government policy.

I notice today the enduring member for Denison (Mr Kerr) referring to Dr Clark as though she has some real expertise. What the people of Australia have to understand about PhDs is that, for every PhD, there is an equal and opposite PhD. PhDs without experience are basically valueless. Dr Clark at the ANU has brought down a political doctrine. Let us face it: she is a Trot. That is basically her persuasion—stop all development. That is endorsed by people in the Labor Party. This is not evidence.

The member for Hotham (Mr Crean) talks about the need for value adding. I was in the Labor Party caucus pleading for value adding and pleading for industry policy. We did not hear much support from the member for Hotham then. His defence was, `I'm in the ministry.' I would have thought that that was a very good platform to speak out from. But the truth is there could be no real development and no investment in value adding while there was such resource insecurity in the industry.

I find it tiresome to hear people get up in this House and say that Australia must seek world's best practice in forestry. We have had world's best practice in forestry for years and years and years. No-one in the world does forestry better than Australia, but, because of the policy of the previous government, we have seen forestry driven offshore. We have seen it driven out of this country, where you had good management, up into South-East Asia, where it has been burning ever since. That is the grim reality of this situation. I advocate value adding wherever possible, but you cannot get that value adding until you have the necessary resource security, and it has never been available until now.

This legislation must go through. In some ways, it is too little too late in places like Tasmania, which is in an economic crisis. The timber industry is a natural for Tasmania. We should be doing everything we possibly can to assist it. The decision by Amcor to close down their plant there is premature and short-sighted but, given the governments we have had over years, you can understand this.

I am glad the member for Perth (Mr Stephen Smith) has come into the chamber. While he is here I might have a few words to say. I listened with care to his speech. The member for Perth, I know, was interviewed at length by Mr Pearce, who went to see him. Mr Pearce is the spokesman for the Forest Industries Federation in Western Australia and he knows their position. I know the member for Perth knows what the Labor Party is doing is not in the best interests of the nation or the timber industry. I say this to the member for Perth: I have no doubt that you will one day be Prime Minister of this country, but you must remember that power without integrity is never in anyone's long-term interests. I suggest to the member for Perth that, rather than kowtowing to the member for Denison (Mr Kerr) on issues like this, he should speak out and do what he knows to be correct, not what he thinks is going to serve his short-term interests in the Labor Party. Speaking as someone who found that trying to do that was not good for the career, maybe the judgment of the member for Perth is not so bad after all. Maybe what this world needs is the type of doublespeak and hypocrisy that abound in this place.

About 100 years ago Napoleon III in France set in train the planting in Bourdeaux of a million hectares of pine plantations—in Christian measurements that is 2½ million acres—and it succeeded very well. Anyone who goes to Bourdeaux now can see that they solved the rising groundwater problem and the enormous erosion problems they had at that time. It worked very well. Nobody is more conscious of this need for plantations than the Department of Conservation and Land Management in Perth. The Department of Conservation and Land Management has planted more trees in the last five years than has been planted in the previous 50 years. They have made an enormous effort there.

The member for Fremantle (Dr Lawrence) was lamenting conservation matters. The Department of Conservation and Land Management in Western Australia have done more to return Australian native marsupials to the environment than the rest of Australia combined. They have done more than everyone else put together. They have a tremendous record of achievement in this regard, unlike the departments in New South Wales and Victoria which probably spearheaded the illegal export of our fauna, but we continually see them denigrated.

It is important that with this legislation we get some stability in these areas and that it is built upon and passed by this parliament. To see the Labor Party once more engaging in stalling tactics is an absolute indictment of their commitment both to the environment and to jobs.

There are lots of things we can do in value adding to our product. We are not helped by governments that cut down on research and development as the present government has done. If we were serious about this, we would be pouring resources into research and development in the timber industry—not cutting them off, as we have. We have a situation now where the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Tim Fischer) of this country can stand up and officially open the office of an organisation that is putting forward a tax avoidance plan, saying it is a good thing for Australia. We have the tax office bearing down on these people. While these tax schemes are used by big business it did not matter. It was only when small business started to use them that the tax office became anxious and tried to stop them. It is a very inefficient way to do R&D—through tax avoidance. But when there is no other R&D, it is important that we do at least get some research and development done. There are lots of things that we can do to research and develop our timber products and new species of timber, but that will not happen unless investment is put in there.

When you look at the state of Tasmania, I believe it is absolutely essential that this agreement goes ahead and we get some stability there. I saw statistics the other day that said that in 40 years time the population of Perth, the capital of my state, will increase by a million people, but that the population of Tasmania is likely to decrease by 50 per cent. I do not want the population of my state to increase by a million people—nor do the people of Perth. Nor do I want to see the population of Tasmania shrink. We, as a nation, have an obligation to Tasmania. It has been hit by the continuing policies of both Labor and Liberal.

The Labor Party under Keating deskilled this country. The destruction of the manufacturing industry has put the real skids under Tasmania. We have no industry policy. It makes me sick to hear the member for Hotham (Mr Crean) bleating about industry policy when he did nothing when he had the power to do it. I got no support within the Labor Party for the introduction of an industry policy.

If the state of Tasmania were to receive the per capita grants which go to the citizens of the Northern Territory, the state of Tasmania could fund a pulp mill. That would put Tasmania on its feet. There is every reason that the citizens of Tasmania should be receiving per capita the same as the people of the Northern Territory. That is something the whole of Australia should be pushing for.

I think it is odd that we are debating this very important legislation on this day back in Canberra—a day which I cannot find a real reason for. It is important that this legislation goes through. It is important not only to workers, who in my view are paramount, but also in the national and environmental interests. I say to the Labor Party: get real. If you don't, you will be swept away. You will be seen by the people as being redundant.