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Tuesday, 24 March 1987
Page: 1248

Senator TOWNLEY(9.13) —We are debating the Lemonthyme and Southern Forests (Commission of Inquiry) Bill, which is so important to Tasmania. I am pleased to be associated with the opposition to this Bill for reasons that I will mention in a moment. The said purpose of the Bill is to establish an inquiry into the effects of logging on the Lemonthyme and Southern Forests and to determine ways of continuing the Tasmanian logging industry without detriment to the industry and the environment. That is the purpose of the Bill as stated in one paper that I have seen. I think it would be useful to give a little background to this legislation. Those two forests are located adjacent to the Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair world heritage area in the north-west of Tasmania. The Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair area was listed on the World Heritage Register in 1982, along with part of South West Tasmania. Such world heritage areas must be distinguished from areas listed on the National Estate which, although of recognised value, are not accorded the same degree of protection as are world heritage areas.

In December 1985, as part of the renewed export licences for Tasmanian woodchips, the Commonwealth and Tasmanian governments began to negotiate an agreement that would allow logging to continue while protecting what were called the more valuable areas. The resulting memorandum of understanding was signed in June 1986. It contained provisions for consultation in the event of disagreement, and allowed logging in the Lemonthyme Forest and Jackeys Marsh, subject to satisfactory environmental studies and management plans. Those provisions were contained in the memorandum of understanding. Following the agreement, a Commonwealth consultative committee was established to consider environmental aspects of proposed logging.

The first disagreement relating to the MOU-the memorandum of understanding-arose as a result of the commencement of logging in the Jackeys Marsh area, which is listed on the National Estate. That happened on 5 November last year. A spokesman for the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) stated in a media release that while the MOU does canvass exploitation of Jackeys Marsh in accordance with the environmental impact studies, the clause upon which the Premier of Tasmania appears to be relying, it also provides for a series of consultative measures in the case of areas listed as part of the National Estate.

The disagreement over the interpretation of that memorandum of understanding has continued. I will not go into the details; suffice it to say that eventually there was a dispute between the Federal Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Kerin), who approved the logging, and the Minister for Arts, Heritage and Environment (Mr Cohen) who did not approve. The matter was resolved all of a sudden when some people within the Australian Labor Party decided that there were a few votes that they might be able to win during an election period. The Prime Minister, along with the two Ministers that I mentioned a moment ago, released a statement affirming the desire to protect areas of the National Estate that may be of world heritage value. The Ministers also announced that a review would be undertaken to establish if there were commercially and environmentally sound alternatives to logging in the National Estate areas.

As a Tasmanian, I am just about fed up with the number of inquiries we have had into logging and the interference we have had in the State over the last few years. There have been nine major inquiries into Tasmanian forestry since 1972. I see that Senator Jessop is in the chamber. He and I have been part of two of those inquiries. In 1975 the Senate Standing Committee on Science and the Environment undertook an inquiry, the report of which was entitled `Woodchips and the Environment'. In 1978 the Senate Standing Committee on Science and the Environment presented a supplementary report entitled `Woodchips and the Environment'. In other words, we have looked into the matter perhaps more than anyone else in this chamber. We have done so over many years and in many areas. We can apply our knowledge to areas other than the particular areas that we looked at at that time. We looked at the entire matter. I know that this is not a woodchipping matter. It deals with the other products of the forest-something which Tasmania needs to have because of its resource-based industries and the number of people who are employed in forestry industries in Tasmania. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a list of the inquiries that have taken place since 1972. They number nine, as I said a moment ago.

Leave granted.

The list read as follows-


Each of these 9 major public inquiries into forestry and the forest-based industries have taken detailed evidence on technical, economic and environmental considerations.

Each of these 9 major inquiries has established that there is no overriding environmental reasons why balanced forest development should not proceed.

1. 1972 Tasmanian Legislative Council Select Committee ``Inquiry into Forest Regeneration'' 1972.

2. 1975 Federal Working Group ``Economic & Environmental Aspects of Export Hardwood Woodchip Industry'' Parliamentary Papers No. 116 and 117.

3. 1975 Senate Standing Committee on Science and Environment ``Woodchips and the Environment''.

4. 1977 State Government Board of Inquiry into Private Forestry Development in Tasmania by Mr Justice M. G. Everett.

5. 1978 Senate Standing Committee on Science and Environment ``Woodchips and the Environment'' Supplementary Report.

6. 1981 Senate Standing Committee on Trade & Commerce ``Australian Forestry and Forest Products Industries''.

7. 1985 Tasmanian Legislative Council Select Committee ``State Forestry Report''.

8. 1985 Tasmanian Legislative Council Select Committee ``Woodchip Export Licences''.

9. 1985 ``Environmental Impact Study on Tasmanian Woodchip Exports Beyond 1988'' & ``Supplement to the Draft Environmental Impact Statement''.

Senator TOWNLEY —I thank the Senate. Of course, during the inquiry it will be unlawful to do certain things. It is interesting to note what those things are. It will be unlawful to do certain acts in a protected area from the time that the inquiry period starts until 42 days after it ends without the written consent of the Minister for Arts, Heritage and Environment. Those who have had any dealings with environmental matters with the Minister will know that to get such permission would be almost impossible. The Bill says that one is not able to damage or remove any part of a tree from the protected area for forestry operations, build roads or tracks in the protected area, excavate or do any act which is prescribed as capable of adversely affecting the protected area. It will also be unlawful if the owner or occupier of land in that area fails without the Minister's consent to take reasonable steps, whatever reasonable steps may mean, to prevent unlawful acts.

The point about this is that it not only stops logging; it effectively ties up that entire area. It is obvious that this Bill will have a profound and long term effect on the economic position and confidence particularly of the domestic timber industry in Tasmania, but also of the mining industry. I do not think that has been mentioned so far today. The Government is in the middle of a land grab, and I am sure that most Tasmanians are sick and tired of being told what they should do by the Prime Minister from his ivory tower here in Canberra. Most Tasmanians are against the actions of Canberra. They know that somebody up here cannot direct things as well as their local government can.

I note that Senator Richardson led for the Labor Party. Why was it not one of the other senators, perhaps a Tasmanian. Why did the Labor Party get Senator Richardson to lead in this matter? Because it knows that he is the Prime Minister's numbers man, he has more knowledge of the vote that is available from the green sector of the community, and he thinks that by getting an extra one per cent or 2 per cent in the election that may be held at any time he will be doing the right thing.

This is purely a political act of sabotage of the Tasmanian economy. I shall not say that the Prime Minister will regret it in Tasmania, because he will not get any candidate selected in Tasmania. He will have the minimum number returned to this place and none in the other House, whenever the election is held, because of the craziness of this legislation.

Senator Jessop —Are the unions supporting him in this?

Senator TOWNLEY —The unions in Tasmania do not support the Prime Minister in this action. We all know that Mr Hawke would like total power. He would be happy if there were no State governments. He said that in lectures before he even came into Parliament. He would be only too happy if we had just the Federal Government. We Tasmanians know what he would do to us if he had total control.

We are informed that this inquiry will take only 12 months, but I do not believe that it is an appropriate inquiry. It is not needed. I have mentioned that we have already had nine inquiries. It is a waste of money and the Government has asked for it for purely political reasons, without any regard whatsoever to the livelihood of those people who will be directly affected by the action. There will be loss of confidence in the whole industry in Tasmania and, along with it, there could well be loss of investment that we might otherwise get.

I have always believed that the people associated with the timber industry are well aware of the way they have to look after the forests. Many have been working for several generations in the forests. I have found in my examinations of the forestry industries, and most recently a couple of weeks ago in the Eden area, that the people involved in forestry recognise that it has to be a long term industry and they want it to be such.

Senator Jessop —The foresters are all conservationists, aren't they?

Senator TOWNLEY —Most foresters certainly are conservationists. These days, following a couple of the reports that we have put down, they are following quite strongly many of the recommendations. I move on to talk about some of the constitutional matters that are involved. I believe this Government's intention to regulate and legislate in this matter will set undesirable constitutional and legal precedents for the prohibition of exploration, mining and forestry in National Estate areas. We must remember that it is not only the forestry industry that is involved. The mining industry, which is so important to Tasmania, will also find it very difficult to operate if the restrictions are applied to them. It was well put by the Minister for Forests in Tasmania, the Hon. Ray Groom, speaking on the effect of this Bill, on 3 March. It is reported:

Tasmanian Government Treasury officials have estimated that more than 900 jobs will be lost throughout the State if the Federal Labor Government's year-long ban on logging is enforced.

The Minister for Forests, Mr Ray Groom, said today the jobs would go in the forests, in timber mills, joinery, transport and wholesale and retail areas.

The report continued:

The long-term effects are even more devastating with the threat to investment in Tasmania of more than $1000 million and many new job opportunities.

The Federal Labor Government has now thrown a cloud over three major projects, a pulp mill in the north, a new paper facility in the south and the Huon Forest Products' proposal, Mr Groom said. He said the economy of Tasmania could not withstand such disruption.

All of us who come from Tasmania realise that we cannot afford to lose jobs through the actions of a government that does not care about Tasmania. It does not have one worry about what happens there. It is interested only in the votes of the trendy greenies who live in the suburbs of Melbourne and Sydney. The report of Mr Groom's remarks also said:

. . . the Hawke Labor Government was involved in a massive land grab covering some 284,000 hectares.

Senator Boswell —Good grief!

Senator TOWNLEY —Senator Boswell is now present in the chamber. He and I are taking part in an inquiry that is looking into what is happening in Kakadu, an area a third the size of Tasmania. A third of Tasmania will be set aside for use if this legislation goes through.

Senator Boswell —For a few lousy greenie votes.

Senator TOWNLEY —For a few lousy greenie votes. The same thing applies in the Northern Territory. But I shall not get on to that; I shall deal with that at another time. The report went on:

. . . he was astonished by the sweeping powers of the legislation introduced by the Federal Government. It even contained a provision which allowed Federal officials to forcibly enter any farm or private property which contained areas of forest.

Mr Groom said the State Government maintained its stance that the legislation was unconstitutional and was an attempted abuse of power by Canberra.

I shall not read the rest, except the last passage:

The inquiry is a waste of taxpayers' money and will achieve nothing, Mr Groom said.

I agree with him on that matter. I do not believe it will achieve one thing. It is just a means of putting off a decision on what has to be done in this area until after the election, whenever it is eventually held.

Senator Coates —That is a profound statement. Do you mean now?

Senator TOWNLEY —Well, it has got a year. Senator Coates sits over there and smirks away. He is the kind of guy who has never had to earn a dollar in his life. He has worked for someone all his life, but it has always been an easy job. He does not know what it is like to get out in the forest and do some real work, and he never will because he is a little snivelling whatever he wants to call himself.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Colston) —Order! The honourable senator will withdraw those words.

Senator TOWNLEY —I withdraw, Mr Acting Deputy President, as you have asked me to. The Chair is respected and I will withdraw immediately, of course, even though Senator Coates obviously thinks that the words I have used are pretty accurate.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT — Order! You will withdraw unreservedly.

Senator TOWNLEY —I have already unconditionally withdrawn. When we get to the constitutional issues of this matter we see that during the term of the Hawke Government there has been a continuing trend to centralise power in Canberra and to override the responsibilities of the States. As I said earlier, Mr Hawke in his Australian Broadcasting Corporation Boyer lectures went so far as to suggest that we should do away with the States. That is precisely one of the things he is seeking to achieve with this Bill. The Bill establishes new principles which have far-reaching effects on the nature of the relationship between the Commonwealth and the States. As I have said, this legislation applies to mining as well. The Bill strikes at the heart of the principle that the States should be primarily responsible for land use and land management.

The legislation seeks to override the views of the elected Government of Tasmania. It is opposed by the Tasmanian Labor Party Opposition. Senator Coates does not interject; he knows that what I am saying is the truth. It is opposed by the Labor Party Opposition, by industry, by unions and by a range of community groups. It is clearly an attempt to change the whole basis of the Federation and to centralise more power here in Canberra. We know what the people of Tasmania want, through their Government, yet we have Mr Hawke in his jackboots walking over the decisions made down there. The Hawke Government has repeatedly stated that it would not take an interventionist position on land use issues in the States. We saw how the Federal Government approached the contentious Daintree issue in Queensland. Now, with a Federal election looming, although as I have said there are no votes to be gained in Tasmania, the Hawke Government is seeking to buy some illusory votes in Melbourne and Sydney.

It is quite clear that the Government does not have the practical experience or expertise to manage forests from Canberra. Recently personnel from Commonwealth Government departments have been rushing around in a frenzy in Tasmania. They have been drawing lines on maps and then rubbing them out; they have been amending maps and making confusing statements such that nobody really knows quite where the legislation starts and finishes. The legislation is half-baked-like one of my Senate colleagues from Tasmania who is sitting opposite-and is aimed at taking control from the States.

Senator Watson —It started off with an ordinary road map.

Senator TOWNLEY —That is right. We have had all these inquiries. The Forestry and Forest Product Industry Council, one of the 11 Federal government manufacturing industry councils that advises the Government, advised that Australia's forest-based industries are capable of increasing their market share against imports provided the timber resources are made available. To strengthen the Australian economy and reverse the adverse balance of trade we need growth in export industries, and independent studies confirm the potential for the expansion of employment opportunities in the forestry sector in Tasmania provided resources are not withdrawn in the way that we see today.

One in seven Tasmanians depends upon the forest for his livelihood. We who come from Tasmania should think about that. Tasmania must continue to have access to State forests for timber production. National Estate areas will be properly managed, with special management plans available for public scrutiny. Of course that is the way it has been for quite a long time. Tasmania is not seeking to dedicate new State forests; it is simply a matter of seeking to utilise the pulpwood from existing State forests in a situation where the State has already reserved some 26 per cent of its land area as parks. But it does need the mature logs available in the areas that will be proscribed if this legislation is enacted. Senator Newman mentioned earlier that although only 11 per cent of the area of Tasmania is involved, that 11 per cent contains some 20 per cent of the logs that could be used to employ people and be put to the benefit of all Australians.

Senator Archer —And for the benefit of the forest.

Senator TOWNLEY —Of course, as Senator Archer says, it will be for the benefit of the forest. These days nobody goes into an area and chops down trees without thinking of the next century. The foresters replant, and logging is carried out on a very sensible basis. I think it is time that the conservationists of this country realised that we should have multiple land use. We cannot afford any more to lock up certain areas of land forever so that they are not available for some type of exploitation-I use that word carefully; it is the correct word to be used-in time to come. This country has to apply multiple land use not only to areas in Tasmania but also to Kakadu National Park.

In June 1986 there was a detailed assessment of the implications of enlarging the Western Tasmania Wilderness National Park. That report was prepared by Peter Bennett and Associates, and it is complementary to other economic studies that were completed during the preparation of the environmental impact statement into the Tasmania woodchip industry. The report covered similar areas to those proposed for lock-up under this Bill, for which the conservation movement has been pushing the Government for many years. Some of the conservationists I know are never satisfied. If we give them a little bit today they want more tomorrow. I always used to think that the boundary of the national park was the boundary of the national park, but now we have to have a buffer around it. Soon we will have to have a buffer area around the buffer area, if the conservationists go on the way they have in Kakadu. This situation is getting quite ridiculous. A national park should be a national park. Some people have the idea that if there might be visual pollution when looking due east from a particular mountain top, we cannot have any logging or any human life. I think somebody said at a meeting I was at yesterday that if this theme were applied to the Cradle Mountain reserve and one looked north we would have to get rid of Devonport because we would see signs of humans. I do not think all signs of humans are bad. If one goes to decent, managed areas one often finds that they are better than they were before humans arrived. I am not one of those who have to go out into the bush and be totally devoid of human contact. I can put up with humans. Maybe some of the people who go to these areas cannot, but I certainly can.

The report I mentioned concludes that the proposal for the enlarged Western Tasmania Wilderness National Park has serious economic and social consequences for the Tasmanian economy which will lead to job losses, a decline in export earnings and major implications for the service sectors of the Tasmanian economy. In summary, the report stated that over a 20-year period over 11,000 jobs, both direct and indirect, would either be lost or not replaced in forestry, mining and hydro-electric developments if that extended park became a reality. No tourist-based alternative, which has always been widely mooted by the environmentalists and the conservation movement, could offset such losses. Such alternatives would never offset the anticipated loss in foreign earnings by way of exports. A decline of some 309 jobs in the forestry and mining areas was predicted by that study. That report joins the many other studies that have been published in recent years, all of which provide the facts and answers to the questions which this Bill and the proposed inquiry are supposed to address. I just wonder where this inquiry system ends.

A lot of things were said about this inquiry when this matter was being discussed in the other House. We were told that it was necessary to establish certain facts. The Government members who debated this Bill in the House of Representatives completely misrepresented the Tasmanian situation. I believe that if the Government had taken the time to analyse the facts that were already available, it would have seen that an inquiry was not necessary. The House of Representatives was told that the cutting of forests in Tasmania is 19 per cent in excess of the sustained yield. The fact of the matter is that Professor Jackson, who made these claims was totally incorrect because in his calculations he included, firstly, pine pulpwood; secondly, the understoring species; thirdly, the myrtle on private property; and fourthly, residues generated by sawmills. Another professor who works for the National Parks and Wildlife Service makes all sorts of errors too when it suits him. These errors are not always made unintentionally. But by these technical errors, Professor Jackson arrived at the incorrect conclusion that logging was 19 per cent above the sustained yield. This has been pointed out time and again to the Minister for Arts, Heritage and Environment (Mr Cohen), who has not disproved those findings.

I would like to say many other things about this matter. I would like to deal with many more aspects. However, I believe that it is not the Commonwealth's role to enter this matter. The Tasmanian State Government, the State Opposition and, as I said, all of the workers and the unions are against this legislation. I believe that the aim of the legislation is purely to give the Government breathing space while it has an election. After that, maybe the Government, which in some way I believe knows the real situation, will accede to the requests that have been made.

If this legislation is passed, nothing will be able to happen until after a year plus some 42 days. The inquiry will not be instituted quickly. As I said a moment ago, I believe that what we need in Australia, not only in Tasmania, is multiple land use. Sensible controlled use of the land that is available to the people of this country is what must prevail. We cannot afford to lock up huge areas of Tasmania or of any State. We must combine sensible development with use that is sensible. I doubt, unfortunately, whether that will ever be seen while this Government is in power.