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Thursday, 5 December 2013
Page: 980

Forestry


Senator MILNE (TasmaniaLeader of the Australian Greens) (14:19): My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for the Environment, Minister Cormann. Can you confirm that Environment Minister Greg Hunt has written to the Tasmanian government guaranteeing one year, or $7.2 million, of conservation funding promised under the Tasmanian Forests Intergovernmental Agreement? If that is true, has the federal government also committed to the agreed future conservation management funding also agreed in the intergovernmental forest agreement?

The PRESIDENT: Senator Abetz.

Senator Abetz: I will answer that question on behalf of the government. We can share the answers, yes?

The PRESIDENT: I thought you were standing on a point of order. Senator Abetz has indicated that the question is best addressed by himself, so I call Senator Abetz.





Senator ABETZ (TasmaniaLeader of the Government in the Senate, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service and Minister for Employment) (14:20): I can say in answer to the Leader of the Australian Greens that I was personally briefed on this just before question time, and that is why I am providing the answer on behalf of the government. I have before me the letter from Mr Hunt to the Deputy Premier of Tasmania. It says: 'I refer to your letter concerning the outstanding payment.' So all that Mr Hunt was doing was abiding by the contractual obligation entered into by a previous government. It was an outstanding payment that needed to be paid, and in fact Mr Hunt finishes his letter by saying: 'I apologise for the delay in this matter.' So to somehow suggest, as has been done in Tasmania and elsewhere, that this payment is somehow a repudiation of our election promise in relation to Tasmanian forestry is completely and utterly without foundation. And of course the peddler of that is none other than the Deputy Premier of Tasmania, who has a few nicknames courtesy of his court appearances in that state, where he relied on the fact that he was not too good at reading documents and understanding the issues and therefore he should not be convicted. So let us be very clear as to what we are dealing with here. This is Mr Green either wantonly, or yet again accidentally, not understanding documentation that is being put in front of him. (Time expired)


Senator MILNE (TasmaniaLeader of the Australian Greens) (14:22): Mr President, I have a supplementary question. For absolute clarity, has the Abbott government repudiated the Tasmanian intergovernmental forest agreement as signed with the Tasmanian government previously?


Senator ABETZ (TasmaniaLeader of the Government in the Senate, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service and Minister for Employment) (14:23): Everybody knows what the coalition's policy was going into the election. And, as I have said on a number of occasions in this place, we have every intention of implementing our policies, and that includes in relation to the intergovernmental agreement as well.


Senator MILNE (TasmaniaLeader of the Australian Greens) (14:23): I will ask again: have you repudiated the intergovernmental agreement? Not what your policy was before the election, I am asking you now: has the Abbott government made a formal decision to repudiate the Tasmanian intergovernmental agreement and have you made a decision to repudiate the boundaries of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area?


Senator ABETZ (TasmaniaLeader of the Government in the Senate, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service and Minister for Employment) (14:23): As the Leader of the Australian Greens would be very well aware, we announced our policy. Part of that policy was to seek to repudiate the World Heritage area. Let us be clear about this: the previous Labor-Greens government, in cahoots with the Labor-Greens government in Hobart, declared as World Heritage areas pine plantations, eucalypt plantations, forest areas that had been harvested three times. There was misinformation provided to the World Heritage Commission by a wilful Labor-Greens government in Canberra and a wilful Labor-Greens government in Hobart, misrepresenting the situation. We have a duty to represent the truth to the World Heritage Commission and we intend to do so.