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Wednesday, 25 March 1987
Page: 1270


Senator WATSON(10.27) —Last night, prior to the adjournment of the Senate, we were debating the Lemonthyme and Southern Forests (Commission of Inquiry) Bill. I drew attention then to this forced inquiry imposed by the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) and a ban aimed at domestic logging operations in Tasmania. I told the Senate that it showed the Prime Minister's ruthless disregard for Tasmania, because it was the Prime Minister who ordered the Tasmanian Premier to halt logging in this area. He ignored the advice of the Department of Primary Industry and did not even consult his Minister for Primary Industry, Mr Kerin. In so doing, he threw out the window the memorandum of understanding which was signed by the Commonwealth and Tasmanian governments only five months previously. In fact, this Bill will fracture certain sections of the Tasmanian economy and will condemn many to unemployment. It will also condemn many in ancillary industries to unemployment.

The Hawke Government has not attempted to justify this Bill, nor have any of the Government senators who have spoken in the debate so far. The Government only wants the votes, and dismisses the long term effects of the consequences of this Bill on the Tasmanian economy. The Federal Department of Primary Industry has been severely embarrassed. In fact, it looked at the alternatives which were proposed by the Forest Action Network. This Forest Action Network was set up and financed by the Commonwealth Government, yet not even the Minister or the Federal Department of Primary Industry could endorse its report. They said that it was economically and scientifically unsound. So the Government's own Department and advisers said that this report was commercially unsound. In fact, the Forest Action Network is a thinly disguised arm of the conservationists' slick propaganda machine that manipulates the media and does great damage to Tasmania.

I would like to draw attention to the fact that it was a Federal government department which rejected this report. What has changed since that report was presented? The only thing that has changed, I submit, is the Federal Government's desire to pander to the manifestly ill-informed armchair environmentalists who live in the marginally sensitive electorates around the suburbs of Melbourne and Sydney. One of Senator Button's own advisory industry councils stated that Australia's forest based industries are capable of increasing their market share against imports provided the timber resources can be made available. But the Federal Government is trying to make sure that these resources are not available. Senator Button's advisers went on to say that economic development is essential to Tasmania and can be achieved in Tasmania's forest industries while at the same time ensuring that the natural environment is fully respected to ensure sustainable economic growth. It is vital that the Senate understand that the Minister's own advisers have said this. The advisers said:

A sensible balance between development and protection of the forest environment is in place, and it will ensure both forests and jobs survive for the future.

Here is a commitment by the Government's own advisers, but what is needed is a commitment to multiple land use. The options presented by the Government and the environmental lobby are all too often seen as a choice of extremes. We live in a democracy and I believe that the public should be presented with reasonable options, not with extreme options as presented by this Government. Multiple land use, correctly implemented and managed, can properly preserve and protect the environment while simultaneously earning income for Australia and creating employment opportunities.

I turn to the real reasons behind this Bill. In his Australian Broadcasting Corporation Boyer lectures in 1979 the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) suggested that we should do away with the States, but in this Bill he is doing the next best thing to doing away with them. He is taking away the constitutional rights of the States to regulate industry, land use and land management. He is ignoring his express promise in the memorandum of understanding that the Tasmanian Government could regulate domestic logging operations. He is ignoring the views of the Tasmanian Government, of the Tasmanian Labor Opposition, and of industry not only in logging but in wider resources and in manufacturing sectors. Even the trade unions are against the proposal as also are a range of community groups. In short, the Prime Minister is ignoring the rights of the States within the Federation of Australia.

What will happen if this Bill is passed? The Australian Constitution, I submit, will be subverted. Thousands of Tasmanians in logging and ancillary industries will lose their jobs. Sections of the Tasmanian economy will fracture. This Bill will set a precedent for Federal intervention in domestic issues--


Senator Sanders —It's about time, too.


Senator WATSON —Not only in land use management, Senator Sanders, but in resource use in mining, agriculture, town planning, the siting of heavy and light industry and a host of other matters which were deliberately and correctly left to the States when the Constitution of Australia was drawn up.

Prior to the renewal of Tasmania's three export woodchip licences, the Tasmanian forest industry was grilled by a long and searching investigation that was part of the environmental impact statement required by the Federal Government. That statement considered all aspects of forest management and, at the Hawke Government's insistence, considerable attention was paid to the aesthetic and resource balance of that part of the State's forests to be entered in the National Estate Register. The environmental impact inquiry took public submissions, heard expert evidence and made rigorous examination of data for two years and in December 1985, the Hawke Government decided that logging should be allowed in National Estate areas provided the particular values of these areas were taken into account in management plans. In fact, the Minister for Primary Industry then signed a memorandum of understanding, for and on behalf of the Commonwealth, which agreed on the consultative process to be applied in planning the National Estate forests. I quote from clause 25 of that agreement, which said:

The Minister for Primary Industry acknowledges that it will be for the State to decide the extent to which it will implement Commonwealth views on the protection of National Estate values-

That is, in relation to domestic operations. But this Bill seeks to take over additional areas of State Crown land. There is no new evidence for a commission of inquiry to address. The only evidence that concerns the Prime Minister is Labor's polling in certain Melbourne and Sydney electorates.

This Bill also proposes to extend the right of injunction to a dangerous extent and thereby it creates new precedents in the use of injunctions. In fact, clause 17 (3) of the Bill says that an injunction or interim injunction may be granted:

whether or not the person has . . . done an act of that kind.

An `act of that kind' is described in clause 16 as:

. . . any other act . . . capable of adversely affecting the protected area.

Thus, regardless of whether one intends to do something which, in the opinion of the Minister, could adversely affect the area, one could have an injunction thrown against one through the High Court of Australia. My colleague the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman) has drawn our attention to his concerns about the dangerous precedent that is implicit in this Bill. We are also both concerned that under clause 14(c) the Commission of Inquiry can authorise any person to gain forced entry to private property, if that person considers that the private property contains forest resources. This is an intrusion on private rights.

With all the Government's promises about consultation, lowering unemployment, restoring our international and domestic trade and lifting industry profiles generally, this Bill is a threat to jobs, to sensible land use management, to the Tasmanian and Australian economies and to the Federation of Australia. I fervently urge all senators who genuinely care about workers and about the prudent development of our resources to vote against the Bill. Unlike this Government, the Opposition wants a balance of development, of sensible land use management and of non-intervention in areas that are rightly the province of the State. I believe that we are united against this Bill, and we condemn it.