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Monday, 22 June 2009
Page: 6835

Mr ADAMS (9:20 PM) —I have a really strong grievance about the way that Tasmania has been badly maligned. There have been some severe misunderstandings regarding the issue of forestry as it relates to many of the issues being discussed today, including resource harvesting, biomass for energy and climate change. Senator Bob Brown’s call for an end to the harvesting of native forest is part of an anti-forestry agenda rather than a genuine desire to reduce Australia’s carbon emissions. Ending harvesting does not enhance Australia’s overall carbon position. It will, in fact, make it worse.

Mr Slipper —Mr Deputy Speaker, I seek to intervene. I would like to ask the honourable member—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr S Georganas)—Will the member for Lyons allow a question?


The DEPUTY SPEAKER —No question will be allowed, so I ask the member to resume his seat.

Mr ADAMS —Managed forests producing wood products store and sequester more carbon than unmanaged forests. It is noted in Australia’s state of the forests report, an Australian government publication, that carbon sequestered in native forest plantations and in new wood products offsets 8.4 per cent of Australia’s carbon emissions. We know that fossil fuels and energy intensive industries are the biggest contributors to climate change. Energy, for example, contributes 70 per cent of the national emissions, while agriculture contributes 16 per cent and transport 14 per cent.

Forestry Tasmania is a leading authority on measuring carbon in native forests. It has measured its own carbon inventory over a 50-year time frame. It took into account the effect of harvesting and net growth in both commercial and non-commercial forests maintained by Forestry Tasmania, together with carbon stored in wood products derived from those forests. This research predicted a 17 per cent increase in above-ground stored carbon. It also indicated that these managed forests offset about 24 per cent of Tasmania’s total carbon emissions.

Forestry in all its guises—native forestry and plantations together—is a solution to climate change; it is not the problem. The CSIRO has shown that planting trees on nine million hectares of agricultural land had the potential to abate about a quarter of Australia’s total emissions each year. The point is that there are many opportunities across Australia to establish new forests for multiple benefits and to mitigate risks. Senator Bob Brown—and I have to give him his full name, as we also have Senator Carol Brown, who is also from Tasmania and would not want to be associated with anything that Senator Bob Brown says or does—has successfully confused the Australian public into believing that the forestry industry is responsible for deforestation, a major contributor to climate change. This is not only wrong; it is mischievous, like much of the debate about forestry in Tasmania lately. It is misleading a lot of good-intentioned people who enjoy looking at the magnificent vistas in Tasmania. They think that Tasmania is being stripped of all its trees. When I am flying backwards and forwards to Canberra, I come across people who express huge surprise when they fly into Tasmania, because they see trees, lots of trees—and that is just down the Tamar corridor. They see a lot more trees when they drive around the great state of Tasmania.

Most people do not know the difference between an old growth forest, a regrowth forest and a plantation forest while they are driving past them, and it confuses them when they hear that all forests are being cleared. Bob Brown’s campaign is skilful propaganda that might have had a shred of truth in it 30 years ago as it related to some early private forest activities, but nowadays the only thing he is generating is a myth. Nowadays, with the regional forest agreement in place and a very rigorous process by which people can gain approval to harvest, Tasmania has some of the best kept and managed forests in the world. And you do not have to take my word for it; there is ample proof of this, as Tasmania is lauded amongst many other countries that have similar forests and those who are seeking help with theirs.

It is hard to get the general public here to understand that, whenever a native forest coupe is harvested, it is regenerated using techniques that mimic nature. Seeds collected from the harvest coupe are dropped from a helicopter into the ash bed of that coupe. This sort of forestry is not deforestation; it is managed harvesting that is then regenerated to maintain a healthy and sustainable new forest. Tasmania has a lot of good forest and will have the same amount of forest in 90 years time as there is today and probably a lot more if we can continue to ensure forestry can continue in my state. Deforestation is the permanent removal of a forest, which occurs as a result of land clearing for agriculture or expanding urban development in this country. In other countries in the Third World there have been some devastating impacts on native forests, and our foresters are at the forefront in trying to help some of those countries to develop their industries sustainably.

Through the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Primary Industry and Resources, we are getting a lot of interest in how farmers can best adapt to climate change. The committee is to hear from Dr Christine Jones who, in her submission to the committee, highlights the importance of soil health in agriculture. She says:

In addition to enabling the farming community to more effectively deal with warmer, drier conditions, the restoration of landscape function will result in the active drawdown of excessive CO2 from the atmosphere via stable biosequestration soils.

I know that forestry is one of the few industries that is actively sequestering carbon, and the committee is keen to explore how this can be done in conjunction with agriculture. Forestry Tas has already recognised this. Senator Bob Brown has deliberately overlooked the scientific fact that sustainably managed forests sequester carbon, which balances that emitted in harvesting, when he has been complaining about regeneration burns. In fact, research from many other credible sources acknowledges forestry as the only carbon-positive sector of the Australian economy.

Another area we are looking at in Tasmania is using the forest waste matter that is currently burned. It is being suggested to run a wood-fired power station in the south of the state. It would not lead to extra harvesting, but would use the residues left on the forest floor that would otherwise have been burnt during regeneration burns. This would reduce the amount of smoke released during those burns and generate sufficient green power for all homes in the south of Hobart. This wood from sustainably managed forests is a fuel for electricity generation, representing a renewable energy source which is eligible for renewable energy certificates under the Australian government’s national mandatory renewable energy target.

This would be a significant opportunity for Australia to address the reduction of carbon emissions. The biofuel harvest from state forest also represents zero net emissions, because annual growth in the forests replaces the carbon that is emitted when the biofuel is burned to produce renewable energy. But, for some reason, forestry is again being attacked by the Greens for being part of the climate change problem and they are totally opposing biomass energy. If they seriously wanted to reduce carbon emissions in regeneration burns, they would be campaigning to force Forestry Tasmania to pick up some of the residues, put them into an energy plant and replace some of the fossil fuel electricity coming across Bass Strait.

There are many good things coming out of the work being done by Forestry Tas, Private Forests and others involved in the timber industry. It seems unjust and very misleading to have this constant attack going on, without any real proof whatsoever of mismanagement. The quixotic and misguided people of this world pick up the Greens’ constant harping and add to the public debate in the most bizarre and inaccurate statements, adding to this ridiculous myth that forestry activity is no good for Tasmania. They want to make 4,000 workers redundant and, at the same time, worsen Australia’s greenhouse gas performance. This would be bad for the economy. It is bad for Tasmanians and it would be bad for the planet.