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Wednesday, 25 March 1987
Page: 1271


Senator SANDERS(10.38) —Tasmania is a little island with a big problem. The big problem is that its forests are disappearing, more and more every year. A total of 6.5 million cubic metres of wood is destroyed every year. That is a number which is very difficult to understand. It is a huge amount. The woodchip export industry takes about 60 per cent of the total forest cut every year. The pulp and paper operations take about one million cubic metres, as does sawmilling. It is unfortunate to note that 2.5 million cubic metres-more than a third of all the timber cut in Tasmania-is wasted. That is a result of the wasteful practices of the Forestry Commission and the forest companies themselves.

We have heard much said in this chamber and in Tasmania about the vast areas that the greenies want to lock up in the State so that it is unavailable. Unavailable! Let us look at what the forestry industry has locked up. It has two-thirds of the State in various concessions. In the north-west we have the Associated Pulp and Paper Mills Ltd Burnie concession and the APPM Wesley Vale concession. In the north-east we have the APPM Wesley Vale reserve. In the central area we have the Tasmanian Pulp and Forest Holdings reserve and the Australian Newsprint Mills Ltd concession. On the east coast we have the TPFH concession and in the Southern Forests the southern concession and the southern reserve. Thus, two-thirds of the State of Tasmania is already locked up by the woodchippers and the sawmillers. What do these numbers mean? I will try to put them in terms that we can understand. More than 22,000 hectares of Tasmania is clear felled every year. For those who follow the Victorian type of football, that is about 132 VFL Parks per week, or about 20 per day, clear felled. That is a vast amount of clear cutting; a vast amount of destruction in that State. Of course, the Gray Government is committed to the continuation of this cutting. It must be stopped because it is not only destroying Tasmania's future economy but also it is destroying a national treasure. The Premier's attitude is that if it moves, shoot it; if it flows, dam it; and if it grows, chop it down. It is a bit like having the manager of a public art gallery, entrusted with the preservation of a number of art treasures, slashing a Picasso every day. People will come in and say; `Look, you can't slash a Picasso every day. Stop doing that'. The manager will say: `Look, I am running this gallery. It is up to me. Nobody can tell me what I can do with this Picasso'.


Senator Mason —`It's my Picasso. I'll cut it down if I want to.'


Senator SANDERS —As Senator Mason says, the manager will say it is his Picasso and he can do with it what he wants. But it is not his any more than the trees of Tasmania are Premier Gray's. These trees belong to the people of the nation. They are a public treasure. Why does the Premier take on the conservation movement? It is to divert attention away from his own failures. He is an inept Premier, an inadequate Premier, and he knows it. Therefore he creates confrontations. He created a confrontation over the Franklin, which actually got him elected, and he now knows that the only way he can stay in power is to create another confrontation, this time over the forests. By doing so he is causing great stresses in the Tasmanian community and is threatening the very basis of democracy. He is forcing people- -


Senator Townley —Rent-a-crowd.


Senator SANDERS —Senator Townley calls them rent-a-crowds. They are not rent-a-crowds; they are sincere, frightened citizens who worry about what is happening to their State. They have to take personal action, putting themselves in physical danger from the forces which have been raised against them by demagogues such as the Premier and others. These forces of violence have been raised against the citizens who are trying to save their State. By doing this they risk arrest. But for what? Why do they do this? They do it because the politicians will not act in the best interests of the people of Tasmania. It causes great stresses, including the politicisation of the police force. The police are put in a position where they have to enforce political decisions. We saw this happen during the Franklin Dam blockade, where the police actually cut telephone wires. This is a Federal offence. They cut wires to the environmentalists' office and they cut wires to public phone booths in the town of Strachan. They also illegally jammed radio transmissions. The police have been brought into the situation more and more in Tasmania to do the will of the politicians. This is not in the tradition of the Australian democratic way of life or indeed of democracy anywhere. We have recently seen bans on the Press covering situations where the police were actively removing the protesters who were against what the Government was doing. I suppose Premier Gray will be tempted to burn down Parliament House next and blame it on the greenies. It goes that far.

These are diversionary tactics to cover up the failures of the Tasmanian Government. Who really runs Tasmania? Is it Robin Gray? No, it is not; it is a bunch of multinational companies or mainland companies. They run it for their own financial benefit, not for the benefit of the people of Tasmania who are traditionally kept under-employed while the resources are being continually destroyed. What about the unions? Unfortunately, the unions in Tasmania do the bidding of the bosses. They are not doing anything worthwhile for the workers. The concentration in Tasmania is on big energy intensive businesses, not on labour intensive businesses. These businesses concentrate on massive profits and they keep their people permanently underemployed.

The resources are there if anyone really wanted to manage Tasmania properly. Although vastly depleted now, the forests still have some potential. There are some mineral resources which could be tapped without environmental destruction. We have a well-trained and willing work force. But the Tasmanian Government is too inept to harness these forces. Tasmania would be the richest country on earth within two years if the Israelis, with their knowledge of how to use a resource without destroying it and with their managerial skill, were given it. Furthermore, if Israel were given to Robin Gray, Yasser Arafat would be in Tel Aviv in a week. I think that is a measure of the inept nature of the management of Tasmania.

What about the unions? What is the union involvement? We find that the unions, both federally and in the States, are being unduly influenced by big business. A man called Bob Richardson has been employed since late 1986 by the Australian Council of Trade Unions, on a grant from the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations, to work on industrial democracy. He gets something like $28,000 a year to do this. Industrial democracy is something that the Australian Democrats have been pushing for a very long time. We are very much in favour of it. However, this Bob Richardson, who is being employed by the ACTU on a government grant, has been touring around stirring up anti-greenie feelings. He has been conducting tours in Tasmania for the media to foster the interests of the forest industries. In general, he has been working as a biased supporter of big business over the interests of workers.

The unions, the companies and the politicians are all ignoring the facts of life. The facts of life are that more trees are being cut down than are being regenerated. Professor Jackson of the University of Tasmania points out that 30 per cent more trees are cut than are regenerated. If this were not the case, why then do the bleating companies continually want to get into virgin areas? Why do they wish to get into virgin areas all the time if the areas they now use are regenerating? The fact is that they are mining the trees.


Senator Mason —I take a point or order, Mr President. I cannot hear Senator Sanders's excellent speech for the chirping of the Tasmanian sparrows on my right. I wonder whether you would try to control them.


The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Morris) —Thank you, Senator Mason. There is no point of order, but I would indicate that Senator Sanders allowed Senator Watson to be heard in peace.


Senator SANDERS —Thank you, Mr Acting Deputy President, for your wisdom. It is obvious, because of the fact that the forestry industries want to get into new areas all the time, that they are simply not regenerating the trees as they say they are doing.

What do we find in terms of the people's opinion about all of the operations of the forestry industries? A poll on woodchipping was conducted in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne by Spectrum Research Pty Ltd.


Senator Newman —It has nothing to do with this.


Senator SANDERS —It certainly does have something to do with this because it is the woodchipping operations being conducted by these companies which are putting the ultimate strain on these forests. This is the reason the companies have to get into the National Estate areas. The poll asked:

Do you approve of Australia's native forests being felled and exported as woodchips to Japan?

Out of a total sample of 806, 82 per cent said no and 10 per cent said yes. It is interesting to note that of females, 87 per cent said no. Females traditionally have more concern for the future than do males. It is the females who bear the children. They feel that they want their children to have a future. So, whatever way one cuts it, the vast majority of people are against this use-or misuse-of the forests. This really shows that common sense prevails in the community even if it does not in this Senate chamber or in the State of Tasmania.

What about the Forestry Commission itself? We heard earlier that an environmental impact statement was prepared on woodchipping. We now know-we always did know-that this statement was prepared by the Forestry Commission and the woodchip companies themselves. This is like letting the fox draw up plans for a chicken coop. The Forestry Commission of Tasmania, by its own admission, operates solely for the enhancement of the forest industries. An article in the Australian Forest Industries Journal, headed `Forestry Protects Sawmillers in Tasmania', contains an interview of the then Commissioner of the Tasmanian Forestry Commission, Paul Unwin, by the Managing Director of the publication. Basically the article is a glowing tribute to the Forestry Commission in Tasmania. The interview shows how well it supports the forest industries. Mr Unwin was asked:

So, if you have a Minister or a Cabinet not deeply interested in forestry this could cause a lot of trouble for the industry?

Mr Unwin answered:

Exactly so, the Commission could be forced to accept the amendments. So, to overcome this problem we have introduced into the Bill a clause which says that the Minister cannot-quite categorically-cannot make an alteration to a Forest Management Plan unless he has received a certificate from the Forestry Commission stating that the proposed amendment will not in any way affect the rights of the forest industries . . .

This means if our proposal is accepted, the strength and decision is retained in the Commission's hands and not in the hands of the Minister.

He also said:

To achieve acceptance of an amendment the industry has to approve it in writing.

The industry, and not the Government, has to approve an amendment in writing. This is still going on. Very recently we found, much to the Forestry Commission's dismay, that a man was appointed to be the Commissioner for Private Forests without the position even having been advertised. This man was Evan Rowley, who was a very enthusiastic pro-Gray public relations man on the Forestry Commission. He got his reward and he is now the Commissioner for Private Forests. This caused a lot of disquiet and a lowering of morale in the Forestry Commission. It shows another disadvantage in the Gray Government in Tasmania in that public servants are no longer really able to act for the public. If they say anything at all against what the--


Senator Watson —On a point of order, Mr Acting Deputy President: The honourable senator is attacking an eminent public servant who has no opportunity to defend his own position. This is a scurrilous attack on the integrity and the professionalism of a public servant by a senator in this place.


The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT —There is no point of order.


Senator SANDERS —Thank you, Mr Acting Deputy President. This shows that there is no room for an honest difference of opinion in Tasmania any more. Anyone in the Public Service who disagrees with the Government is demoted or not promoted. Anyone who does agree with the Government gets very rapid promotion. This is another disadvantage of the present situation in Tasmania.

Something which has not been mentioned to the degree it should have is the impact on animals of forestry operations in Tasmania. Most of the animals are nocturnal and it is really unfortunate for them that they are. People do not realise that these forests have large populations of animals. In the short term the animals suffer the worst from forestry operations. Most of these animals live in the hollows of dead trees, where they rest during the daytime. The trees are cut down and the animals are maybe crushed as the trees fall to the forest floor. If they are not crushed by the trees then, they can be crushed by the heavy machinery. If they are not crushed by the heavy machinery they may be burned in the regeneration burns. If they somehow survive that and if regeneration takes place, they will be poisoned by 1080 poison or shot by hunters. It is difficult to estimate, but some 250,000 native animals are killed every year in Tasmania by forestry operations. This is laid at the door of the forestry industry.

We have heard about the spectre of mainland interference in the affairs of Tasmania. The biggest interferers on the Tasmanian scene are the forest companies themselves, because they are not owned in Tasmania. North Broken Hill Ltd owns APPM-Associated Pulp and Paper Mills-which in turn controls Tasmanian Pulp and Forest Holdings, a woodchip company. The Adelaide Steamship Company Ltd owns a part of Petersville-Sleigh, which owns in turn Northern Wood Chips which is now called Forest Resources. So when we talk about mainland interference, it comes from the industries which in fact control Tasmania's destiny. It does not come from any Federal intervention.

The Japanese benefit greatly from our woodchip industry and they think we are nuts, absolutely crazy. The Japanese revere their forests. Sixty-six per cent of Japan is covered by forests. In Australia at the time of Captain Cook some 15 per cent of the land mass was covered by trees, and now it is down to 5 per cent. The Japanese would simply not consider doing to their forests what we are doing to ours. Incidentally, it is interesting to note that 9,000 jobs have been created in Japan for the processing of Tasmanian woodchips. This once again shows that our governments in Tasmania, both Labor and Liberal, over and over again have not for-


Senator Watson —Mr Acting Deputy President, I raise a point or order. I point out that this Bill is not in relation to the woodchip export operation. The honourable senator's entire speech has been directed to this type of operation. I would ask that in accordance with Standing Orders you ask the honourable senator to direct his comments to the Bill before the Senate.


The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Morris) —Senator Sanders, I ask you to direct your remarks to the Bill.


Senator SANDERS —I am, Mr Acting Deputy President, but I think you understand that we cannot discuss the forestry industry in Tasmania without discussing woodchips. They take 60 per cent of the wood. If they were not taking 60 per cent of the wood there would be plenty of sawlogs and plenty of wood for the small sawmillers. But at the moment, because of the distortions of the woodchip industry, we do have this problem, and I think it is important to discuss it.

What about the analysis from outside Tasmania of what is happening in that State? A reputable consultant was called in from Canada in the 1970s to look at Tasmania's forest resources and at what was happening with them. This man was not an environmentalist or a wild-eyed greenie; he was a respected economist. He came down with what was called `An Appraisal of the Prospects for Tasmania's Economic Future'. His name was David A. Young, and he was absolutely appalled by what he found in Tasmania. He was so appalled that in fact he wrote a very scathing report.


Senator Townley —Who paid for him?


Senator SANDERS —Senator Townley asks who paid his fare. The State Labor Government paid his fare and a commission for him to prepare this statement, which was for the State government of the day. One of the things he proposed was:

. . . certain goals and objectives of a strategic economic plan, such as `Repair through reafforestation and afforestation of 750,000 hectares of derelict forest at an estimated cost of $100,000,000 be spread over 10 years.

At the time he looked at it he identified 750,000 hectares of derelict forest. Another of his goals was:

. . . the `achievement of full processing of all forest outputs in Tasmania by 1986;

Well, it did not happen, did it? He called for:

full processing to be defined as sawn and dressed timber, or finished particle board, or fibre board, or wood pulp or paper or like products, with export of unsawn timber, roundwood (other than preserved poles) pulpwood and pulpwood chips to be prohibited by law.

He is an economist and he claimed:

. . . that the achievement of this goal `would add some $350,000,000 to the gross product of Tasmania each year.

I quote him further:

To a foreign observer, the waste, seen as a biological loss, is deplorable-the adjective `obscene' suggests itself. From an economic point of view, the policy of leaving lands desert and derelict seems, to say the least, imprudent and improvident.

Here is an economist who identifies the problem. What happened? The Labor Government of the day submerged this report and we had to retrieve it and get it put in the libraries because the Government did not want to know about it. If it had only listened then we would not be having these discussions now.

What about jobs? In the last 10 years or so 4,000 jobs have been lost in the forest industry in Tasmania. The reason they have been lost has nothing to do with any actions of the environmentalists. The reason is that the thrust is now for capital and energy intensive operations. The small sawmillers have been frozen out. They cannot get their quotas of logs any more. They were labour intensive operations and operated out of the small country centres. Things are now centralised in the big cities and mechanised. Honourable senators will find that the bush workers and the small sawmillers are now coming to realise that it is the conservationists, not the timber companies, who actually have their bests interests at heart.

We were taken to the ANM concession near Ellendale by a small sawmiller who is now out of business because he could not get any logs. With tears in his eyes he showed us the wastage left behind by ANM logging not for woodchips but for its pulp operations. He showed us log after log, each some six feet in diameter, that could have been used in his sawmill, but he could not get them because ANM got them and would not release them. ANM then burned them to try to destroy the evidence, but it is still there if anyone wishes to go and look. Of course to do so one would have to go through locked gates. This is Crown land but ANM controls it. The bush workers know what is happening in Tasmania. They realise that their livelihood is on the line, not because of the conservationists but because of the wasteful practices of the forest companies themselves.

The Bill before the House, the Lemonthyme and Southern Forests (Commission of Inquiry) Bill 1987, to examine the Lemonthyme area and the Southern Forests, is a step in the right direction but is actually no solution to the problem. What we really need is a complete moratorium on all logging in all National Estate areas. I am foreshadowing an amendment to the Bill which will not ban all logging in all National Estate areas but which will include two other areas. These other areas are the Douglas-Apsley area and the Quamby Bluff-Jackeys Marsh area. My amendment comes in two basic sections. The first is the section to constitute these areas as protected areas; and the second is to restore an area which was excised by the House of Representatives. It turns out that ANM, Australian Newsprint Mills, lobbied very effectively and had this Bill modified in the House of Representatives to give it some very beautiful stands of timber. My amendment will serve to protect those stands and to save them from the ANM scorched earth operation which will surely follow its entry into these areas. These ANM amendments would allow clearfelling right down to the flats of the world famous Gordon River in its pristine upper reaches. This would be a hideous eyesore from the Vale of Rasselas, one of the most popular walking areas in the whole of Tasmania. We are also adding a 4,000-hectare section of forest near Wayatinah which was left out due to bureaucratic oversight.

The Jackeys Marsh area has received much attention in recent times. I think people realise that it is an area of scenic beauty and that it has great value in terms of the national heritage. It is under great threat at the moment. APPM destroyed a rare fern listed by the Australian Heritage Commission as having biogeographical significance. In spite of the fact that logging operator, Andy Padgett, knew that it was there, he destroyed it. Incidentally, this Andy Padgett operation in the Jackeys Marsh area has not cleaned up the timber as required, and there are 700 to 1,000 tonnes of pulpwood still left lying around. But he can get away with it because the Tasmanian Forestry Commission really does not care.


Senator Watson —The conservationists would not tell them where the plant was, and you know it. Be truthful.


Senator SANDERS —The conservationists did tell him where the plant was. He disregarded that.


Senator Watson —The conservationists are at fault, and you know it.


Senator SANDERS —We hear over and over again that the conservationists are at fault. Here we have one of the Tasmanian troglodyte senators saying that the conservationists are at fault. Recently the conservationists were accused by the Gray Government of causing the loss of 940 jobs in Tasmania because of a shortage of veneer logs. We now see the following article in the Hobart Mercury:

A shortage of veneer logs has caused tensions in the three-way relationship between the State Government and the two biggest forestry companies in Tasmania, Australian Newsprint Mills . . . and Associated Pulp and Paper Mills . . .

Both ANM and APPM have veneer mills but the supply of veneer-quality logs currently is falling short of expectations.

ANM says:

We are doing our best to supply the volume required but we don't feel APPM is playing the game . . .

Here are two timber companies falling out. It is not the greenies who have caused this problem; it is the timber companies' greed. The ANM person said:

It is constantly asking for better quality logs-

that is, APPM-

Sometimes the logs it rejects we find to be quite suitable. We've had meetings galore on the issue but they've had no effect.

The general manager of APPM forest products, Mr David Bills, yesterday said that ANM was meeting about 70 per cent of the 3,610 cubic metre requirement.

However, he said the State Government was meeting only 30 per cent of its own commitment to provide another 1,200 cubic metres of veneer logs for APPM this year.

That is a squabble between the Government and two greedy forest companies. It has absolutely nothing to do with the environmentalists who were blamed for it in the first place. But now the facts have come out. The bottom line is something I mentioned earlier. If the logging companies are regenerating the forests, why do they have to continue their move into virgin forests? The forestry companies have not been able to manage the forests in the past. They are in a mining operation in conjunction with and aided by the Forestry Commission. It is not a forestry operation; it is a mining operation and it should be controlled.

I grieve for my dying island. I moved to Tasmania because of its beauty, its more or less intact resource. In the 17 years I have lived there I have watched it go from a viable economic unit to an underemployed mendicant State. I wonder whether the politicians in this place and in Tasmania actually take what they are saying seriously. They must see what is going on in Tasmania. It is all around them. They must see the destruction and the economic displacement. It is time for them to stop their political manoeuvring and take some action for the future because at the moment this whole issue is being treated like a local council discussion of where to put the local tip. It is treated as a minor issue. This is a major issue. We are talking about the future of Tasmania, not only the environmental future but the economic future. It behoves us to abandon the abusive rhetoric that is adopted, especially on my right, and think in terms of what is actually best for Tasmania; and what is best for Tasmania is to grasp gratefully the opportunity to sit back and rethink the logging operations in Tasmania-this opportunity given by the Hawke Government and this Bill. I support the Bill.