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Tuesday, 24 March 1987
Page: 1240


Senator WALTERS(8.19) —Tonight we are debating the Lemonthyme and Southern Forests (Commission of Inquiry) Bill 1987, which was brought to us by the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) and hatched by his advisers, his minders, at a time when, in sheer desperation, they were hunting around for a few more votes to boost their flagging spirits. It was after the by-election in Keating's electorate, where Labor lost 20 per cent of its vote, that Bob Hawke and his minders got together and said: `Let's look and see where we can get a few more votes'. When they lost 20 per cent of their vote in Keating's electorate they said: `We have got to find a few more votes'. Where did they get them? They got them from the good old hardy perennials-the greenies. Well, the greenies will not come to the aid of Senator Richardson's Party enough this time. His Party is on its own. Have a look at the polls. Have a look at the results of the poll that will be released tomorrow. The Labor Party will be looking for more votes again. The poll will show that it is down the drain again.


Senator Richardson —Not in New South Wales.


Senator WALTERS —We will come to New South Wales in a minute. Mr Hawke engages in this cynical exercise when he is hunting for a few votes. He went up to Kakadu, laid on his back and, with a few expletives deleted, said: `How wonderful'. Then he looked as far south as he could and said: `We won't have any forests cut down in Tasmania'. He had not been to Tasmania. He did not come down and look to see what he was talking about. He made this decision.

Let there be no misunderstanding of what that man is doing down there. Neil Batt, the previous President of the Labor Party and now the Leader of the Opposition in Tasmania, came up here and told Mr Hawke just what he thought of him, just what an idiot he was making of himself. He came back when Mr Hawke would not accept anything and said that he was a blundering hypocrite. That was Mr Batt's opinion of the Prime Minister. What did the Australian Council of Trade Unions say about Tasmania? The ACTU, Senator Richardson, has left the Labor Party high and dry in Tasmania. The ACTU has also said: `You are wrong'. So we have Neil Batt, the Labor Party Leader of the Opposition, saying that the Prime Minister is a blundering hypocrite. We have the ACTU saying: `You are wrong'. We have the Liberal Party saying that the Government is wrong. Mr Hawke and his minders cooked up this proposal because of the 20 per cent drop in support in Keating's electorate. They think this will save them, but I can assure them that it will not.

We have an interesting situation tonight. Senator Aulich came into the chamber for a few minutes so that he could say that he had been here during the debate, but he has gone. At least Senator Coates is the only Tasmanian Labor senator who has any honesty in respect of this matter. He is the only Tasmanian in the Labor Party who is willing to get up and tell the truth about what he feels.


Senator Coates —How do you know that?


Senator WALTERS —Maybe he is not going to do that. Maybe he will cross the floor. But I do not think that Senator Coates will cross the floor. I think he genuinely agrees with Bob Hawke because he is very supportive of the greenies.


Senator Newman —Senator Devlin might be persuaded.


Senator WALTERS —Senator Devlin will not say anything-he never does. Senator Aulich has fled from the chamber because back home his research officer was sent to the loggers and to the unions and told to say: `Look, this is not a political matter. The Labor Party is really all on side. My boss is very on side'. Indeed, Senator Aulich's research officer was down there competing in a toss a greenie competition. We do not know how far he threw the greenie. Senator Aulich is ducking for cover. He is not game to be in here during the debate while members of the Opposition are talking. Where is Senator Tate? Where is Senator Grimes? Where are the Tasmanians? There is one Tasmanian senator in the chamber at the moment. Every Liberal Tasmanian senator is on the speakers' list and we will hear from all of them. Only one-an apology for one-out of five Labor Tasmanians is participating in this debate. This is because the others are saying: `Look, we don't really agree.'. We live in a democracy in this country and they know that they will be tossed out if they vote the way they say they feel when they are back home. They have to vote for Bob Hawke's legislation.

Let me make it quite clear what the situation is in Tasmania. Tasmanian Labor Party members of the Federal Parliament can say what they like when they are in Tasmania. They can say that they disagree with this legislation. But when the crunch comes and they vote on the floor of the Senate, we can guarantee that they will not be crossing the chamber. They lack the courage to do that.


Senator Messner —What would Senator Coates's view be?


Senator WALTERS —At least Senator Coates is honest; he is backing the greenies. Senator Richardson was very generous when he spoke of the amount of land that he believes should be set aside in Tasmania. Let us have a look at what is happening. At the moment 12 1/2 per cent of the land in Tasmania is tied up in national parks. How much land do honourable senators think that the next State on the list, Senator Richardson's State, has tied up in national parks? New South Wales has 3.6 per cent tied up for this purpose. Victoria has 3.3 per cent. We have already got 12 1/2 per cent of land tied up-without the additional area that is proposed under this legislation. Another 5 per cent will be added in this area if the legislation is passed. If the Government gets its way, 33 per cent of land, if we include the National Estate areas, will be tied up in Tasmania. I can assure the Senate that we will not take that. Tasmanians will not allow this to happen.

What would happen if New South Wales were asked to allocate 33 per cent of its land for this purpose? I can assure honourable senators that if this were to happen, Senator Richardson would not be here debating matters. He would have gone to water in the same way as have Senator Aulich, Senator Tate, Senator Grimes and Senator Devlin.

Let us have a look and see what is the excuse for this legislation. Let us see what advice has been given to the Minister for Industry, Technology and Commerce (Senator Button). The Forestry and Forest Product Industry Council, one of the 11 Federal Government manufacturing industry councils, advises that Australia's forest based industries are capable of increasing their market share against imports provided that the timber resources can be made available. That advice to the Minister has been discarded and their products have not been made available.

Under normal situations, the Government has no right or power to interfere in domestic industries. I am sure we all remember the way in which this Government used the foreign affairs head of power in the Franklin Dam case. The Government won that case in the High Court of Australia. The other States had better take note, because the use of this power has been extended radically. Let me explain this to honourable senators. Previously the head of power was used because the area in question had already been on the World Heritage List. The area which is the subject of this legislation is not a world heritage area. An inquiry is to be conducted to see whether it has any world heritage value. In the meantime there will be no development in the area. The other States had better watch out, because if such a thing can happen in Tasmania it can happen anywhere else.

Senator Richardson tonight referred to a memorandum of understanding and I will read from it. It says in part:

In entering into this Memorandum, the Commonwealth recognises the professionalism and competence of the Tasmanian Forestry Commission and accepts that the Tasmanian Government acting through the Tasmanian Forestry Commission will duly and efficiently perform the many activities necessary on its part to give effect to this Memorandum.

Indeed, that is what happened. We also have a whole list of things in the appendix, one of which says unequivocally that export licences will include the condition that:

Forest Operations in the Lemonthyme will be in accordance with the Management Plan for the Lemonthyme State Forest 1983.

All that was being done, and so the Lemonthyme was able to be logged. Export licences were granted and it was possible to have forestry management in the Lemonthyme Valley. Absolutely nothing was mentioned about coming back to the Minister. There was absolutely nothing, despite what Senator Richardson claimed tonight, about the Minister having to give approvals. It just states that the Lemonthyme can be logged. The Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) has done this in his usual high-handed way. We have to remember that he is a centralist; that he has always believed the States are only a nuisance. Indeed, in one of his Boyer lectures he said:

I must confess that I do not have any idea what `States' Rights' are.

The Prime Minister said he had no idea. He continued:

I do not understand, speaking as a person who happens to live within an area designated on the map of Australia as the State of Victoria, what `rights' that State has.

Well, I am telling the Prime Minister right now that his State has locked away 3.3 per cent of land for national parks. Our State of Tasmania has 12 1/2 per cent, and we have a right to say: `Enough, there will be no more. We will not put up with it'. In his Boyer lecture the Prime Minister went on to say:

I believe the logical implication of this . . . is that Australians would be better served by the elimination of the second tier of government-that is the States-which no longer serve their original purpose and act as a positive impediment to achieving good government in our current community.

The Prime Minister says: `Let's get rid of the States'. He has been trying to do that ever since he became Prime Minister. He has greatly embarrassed his Minister for Primary Industry, Mr Kerin. That Minister honestly came down and agreed with our Tasmanian Minister, Mr Groom, and they both signed that memorandum. That memorandum was still in action in November last year, and Mr Kerin was extremely embarrassed when it was overriden. Mr Cohen, the Minister for Arts, Heritage and Environment, needed a bit of education, and I am quite sure that Mr Kerin is rather delighted to see Mr Cohen getting that education. This Government has now decided that it will look at the Lemonthyme to see whether there is any World Heritage value in it. It has had a road through it for 60 years. Only 40 per cent of the Lemonthyme will be logged. Honourable senators may ask: Why worry about only 40 per cent? We worry because we need those mature logs for our industries and we are being denied that development while we have an inquiry.

I believe that in drafting this legislation the Government realised that if it took out two important areas of the Southern Forests our veneer factory would close. It had a second look and so it gave us back two small areas so that the veneer factory would not close. Why in the heck does it not have a second look at the whole operation and realise that if we do not have that area not only the veneer factory but many of our other timber industries will be penalised, if not completely closed down, and people will be out of jobs. I will come to that in a few minutes.

As has already been said, we have private land in the upper Mersey areas of the Lemonthyme where no development can take place. There has been no consultation with the landowners. I wonder how Senator Richardson would like it if his private area of land was suddenly closed down for 12 months with no development allowed.


Senator Kilgariff —He would yell.


Senator WALTERS —As Senator Kilgariff says, we would certainly hear about it. We are told that we need that Southern Forests area because it is a buffer zone to the park. But there is already a buffer zone between six and 12 kilometres wide on the western side of the Southern Forests that the Government has no intention of logging. When our previous Premier put up the western area for World Heritage nomination the buffer zone was already included. I would just like to read the following to honourable senators because I believe it is very important:

In confirming the Western Tasmanian Wilderness Parks listing the Commonwealth concluded-

this is when we put it up to the World Heritage-

`it-

that is, the area nominated-

is large enough to survive as a wilderness and to maintain genetic diversity despite influences from surrounding areas and to permit the experience of solitude. The nominated region is an outstanding example of one of the few remaining temperate areas which is of sufficient size for natural processes to continue. The geology and climate of the three parks have resulted in a unique environment which contains 83 per cent of Tasmania's wilderness area.

When that park was put up for listing the Government had already said it was unique, that it already provided the feeling of solitude and that there was no need for any buffer zones. Now, of course, the Ministers and Senator Richardson tonight are talking about nothing else but buffer zones. As I said earlier, the inquiry is being conducted, firstly, to see whether there is any World Heritage value within that designated area; and secondly, if there is to see whether any alternate forestry areas outside those areas can be logged in a feasible, economic and environmental way. If not-I turn now to the Bill-we are told that it should all be done with the least detriment to the Tasmanian forestry industry. Do honourable senators realise what that means? Once again the Prime Minister has promised us that no jobs will be lost. Remember the dam? No jobs were to be lost there. The Government should tell that to the Tasmanians on the west coast. Once again the Prime Minister has repeated that no jobs will be lost but in the Bill he says: `If we cannot do it properly we will do it with the least detriment to the Tasmanian forestry industry'.


Senator Kilgariff —What does that mean?


Senator WALTERS —It means that if he cannot do it without loss of jobs he will do it anyway and the Bill states that it will be done with the least detriment possible to the Tasmanian forestry industry. That means he has no intention at all of keeping that promise to us. He realises that he cannot, he realises that there will be loss of jobs and so in the Bill he promises that there will be the least detriment possible to Tasmania.

We are told that there will be compensation. I was delighted to hear what Senator Richardson said tonight. I think his words were `anyone affected by this Bill'-we will get Hansard tomorrow-`will receive compensation'. I was delighted to hear him say that because that is not what the Bill says. I foreshadow an amendment that will include what Senator Richardson said-that anyone who is affected by this Bill will receive compensation. That will be very interesting.


Senator Coates —Do not misquote him.


Senator WALTERS —We will see because I will get Hansard and if necessary I will listen to the tape too. Senator Richardson may well like to support the amendment I am foreshadowing. A lot of people will be affected by this legislation, not just the companies but the loggers, the log hauliers, the dealers in machinery component parts, repairers of machinery as well as employees of the Forestry Commission of the State of Tasmania. A tremendous number of people will be affected by this legislation. How would Senator Richardson like to have spent his whole life's money on log hauling equipment, on big timber jinkers, and have mortgaged his home, how would he like to have all of his money tied up in such a way and a government say: `You have to stop. Your job is gone for a year while we look and see if there is any world heritage value in that area in which you are working'. How would he like it, particularly if he knew that if was just a political exercise that was hatched because of a by-election in Mr Keating's area where the Australian Labor Party lost 20 per cent of the vote? How cynical can a government be when it does that to the people of Australia? Let the people of Australia realise that this is the sort of government it has to deal with.

There have been nine inquiries. Senator Richardson said that we will have this inquiry and then we will know. Nine inquiries have all told us the same thing; they have all told us what we know and this will be the tenth inquiry. I was going to quote from Peter Bennett and Associates Pty Ltd but my time is running out and therefore I will just--


Senator Coates —Bad luck.


Senator WALTERS —I am sure Senator Coates would know of the Bennett and Associates inquiry that gave us complete assurance about many areas that are of great importance to us. I repeat for honourable senators from other States that this legislation is terribly important to every State in Australia. Once it goes through we have had our chips. Once this has been done to Tasmania, if Labor gets another 20 per cent fall in votes in another Labor electorate, another State will be picked off because the Government cannot go any further than it has with Tasmania. In Labor States the Labor Leader may ask Bob Hawke not to do it, as Mr Batt has done. Members of the Australian Council of Trade Unions in other States may be pleading with the Prime Minister but for cynical reasons he will not take any notice.

Finally let me state what the Government has already got from Tasmania and what it is asking of it. The Government already has 12 1/2 per cent of our State to walk in if it wants to. We are not giving it any more. In this legislation the Government is asking for another 5 per cent. Senator Richardson comes from a State where only 3.6 per cent is tied up; in Victoria the figure is 3.3 per cent. Tasmania is being asked eventually to give 33 per cent of its State and I am now telling the Government that it is just not on.