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Wednesday, 25 March 1987
Page: 1277


Senator SHEIL(11.08) —I do not suppose that we can really ever satisfy the demands of the wild-eyed greenies, as Senator Sanders calls his crowd. The Lemonthyme and Southern Forests (Commission of Inquiry) Bill 1987 is a gross interference in the operations and management of Tasmania by its own State Government. I suppose that if we look at the history of the Commonwealth Government in Australia we will see that we have come through four stages. The first one was a period of colonial government when we were run from Great Britain. The second stage was a system of co-operative federalism. The third, once the taxing powers were handed to the Federal Government, was a system of coercive Federal government where the Federal government put financial constraints on States to encourage them to do things. Fourth, we are now moving to a system of Federal control.

The way things have developed, the States are largely irrelevant. This has been brought about by the Commonwealth's use of the treaty power; that is, the ability to sign a treaty with another nation or group of nations and then assume that it has obligations under that treaty to make laws which apply to the States. This power has been ratified in the High Court of Australia. Under our Constitution, if Federal and State laws are in conflict, the Federal law is to prevail. We must rectify that situation-I am not sure of the mechanisms available to us but I know that it is an area worthy of study-to see that we get back to the intention and meaning of our own Constitution. What is happening now is against the whole spirit, intention and meaning of our Constitution.


Senator Coleman —Rubbish!


Senator SHEIL —It is. The Federal Government is assuming momentous powers and making laws to control industry and government in the States. That is what is happening here, to interfere with the Tasmanian Government's administration of its own State. I think that it was Mr Whitlam who first articulated the proposition that the only thing standing in the way of the implementation of his socialist policies was the Australian Constitution. This is how it should be. It is why we have a constitution and why we had federation-to stop people being able to implement radical policies and then force them on the States.


Senator Walters —Look at Bob Hawke's Boyer lectures.


Senator SHEIL —That is a very precise and good example. The reason the Constitution exists and we have a federation is that the States would be protected. It is the reason we have this Senate. We would not have a Commonwealth unless the States had been so protected. But now successive Federal governments over many years have been taking measures to draw more and more power to themselves, largely through referenda. But recently this has been done using the treaty power, the foreign trade power or passing legislation and having it tested in the High Court. If the High Court ratifies it as legal, it becomes the law in the land. The High Court, incidentally, does not test how good or bad a law is. All it tests is whether the law was passed legally. The Federal Government is gradually overshadowing the States. We have, actually, a constitutional monarchy in an attempt to try to stop all this Federal growth.


Senator Button —If you look at State government expenditure, that is the greatest lot of hogwash you have ever said.


Senator SHEIL —No, it is not. The Queen is the head of all our great institutions-the judiciary, the Parliament, the government, the defence forces; the whole lot-but the importance of her being the head is that, while she is the head, nobody else can be. We cannot have this grab for power that is happening now by the Federal Government.


Senator Walters —Bob said in his Boyer lectures that he did not want the States to exist. He wanted to get rid of the States.


Senator SHEIL —That is right. Queensland, my own State, is even more aware of this Federal Government's actions. I just cite a few examples of how the Federal Government has really made great attempts to attack Queensland. Honourable senators will recall the Aurukun and Mornington Island affairs, the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act, the Torres Strait border issue, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, the Fraser Island decision, the threatened interference with Daintree and the threatened interference with Shelburne Bay. In other words, the Federal Government is acting like a foreign power. Not only that, it is acting like an unfriendly foreign power in our own country. We have a grave distrust of it at the moment.

The reason-and we have heard it explained in the debate earlier-why the Bill has been brought in is that Mr Hawke, the `Chlorophyll Kid' as he is now being called, has found that his support amongst younger people and the environmentalists has been failing. So he has to make what I would call an unprincipled political trade-off. This Bill is an unprincipled political trade-off to improve his image with the greenie element and younger people. He is blocking the development of a perfectly reasonable and rational timber industry in Australia. It is a direct intervention in States' industries and land use. Land use is one of the things that States have never ceded to the Commonwealth Government.

We have had many inquiries over the years. They have been cited in the debate earlier. They have all recommended the balanced and rational development of the forests in Tasmania, including a committee in which I participated when I was Chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Trade and Commerce. We visited Tasmania and looked at these areas. It could never be said that logging is a rape of Tasmania's forests. It is a balanced development. I know the arguments that were put up before, that natural forests have trees of different types and ages-there are old knotted trees with holes in them for nesting birds, possums and other animals-and that when one looks at man-made forests one is lucky to see an animal or a bird. However, when one gets to a man-made forest the trees are all the one type, they are usually all the same age and the noise is unbelievable. Animals are everywhere, birds are everywhere and it is obvious that the animals prefer a garden of paradise to a garden of Eden. I lend my support to Senator Collard's amendment in regard to this Bill which, I think, is a gross invasion of the State's rights. I will do all within my power now and in the future to see that the Federal Government keeps its nose out of States' business according to the meaning and intent of our Constitution.