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Wednesday, 25 March 1987
Page: 1289


Senator PUPLICK(12.24) —In speaking to the Lemonthyme and Southern Forests (Commission of Inquiry) Bill 1987, I think it is important first of all to focus on the amendment moved by the Opposition to the second reading motion. The amendment reads:

Leave out all words after `That', insert `the Senate declines to give this Bill a second reading, condemns the Government for seeking to delay the making of a decision on the forest industries of Tasmania, and calls on the Government to make a decision on that matter forthwith'.

We believe that the evidence which is currently before the Commonwealth Government is more than sufficient for it to come to a point of decision after many years of procrastination on this matter and to indicate quite clearly to the people of Tasmania and to the people of Australia what it intends to do to adversely affect the future of the timber industries in the State of Tasmania. This piece of legislation is an attempt to defer until after the next Federal election, whenever that will take place, the making of a decision on this issue. It is an attempt to keep happy the various interest groups that have already been identified by my colleagues in their contributions to this debate. This morning's edition of the Sydney Morning Herald carries an article entitled `ALP cultivates the joys of nature in order to capture the green vote'. The article goes on to indicate the extent to which this Government has decided, for reasons which are pure electoral expediency, to attempt to recapture that part of the conservation vote which it believes it has lost to the Australian Democrats, to other independent candidates and to potential green parties being formed in this country.

I want, secondly, to indicate three particular concerns that I have about aspects of the legislation. In the first instance I believe it to be unsound from a constitutional point of view, particularly to the extent to which it seeks to use the foreign affairs power of the Commonwealth, not simply to interfere with the rights of the State of Tasmania, but in particular to extend that operation to affect adversely the rights of private property which are involved in this legislation. Second, I wish to draw attention to the quite extraordinary powers given to persons who might be designated to exercise certain functions under the proposed Act as provided for in clause 14 of the Bill before us, the Lemonthyme and Southern Forests (Commission of Inquiry) Bill 1987, giving powers of entry again into private property, which are quite extraordinary and quite unjustified. Third, I draw attention to the provisions in clause 17 of the legislation, which deals specifically with the question of the issue of injunctions. It clearly puts into the hands of the Minister, in relation to the Lemonthyme and Southern Forests areas, powers of a legal nature which relate to the issuing and enforcement of injunctions which are not available to other Ministers or to others in any other comparable situation.

I turn to discuss something of the area and something of the management plans which have been developed by the Forestry Commission of Tasmania. It seems to me that just as the debate about the management plan for the Kakadu National Park to a very large extent failed to focus, as far as the Government was concerned, upon the intrinsic value of the management plan itself, which we on this side of the chamber believe to be flawed from an environmental point of view, so there has been an implication in the speeches made by members of the Australian Labor Party that the management plans developed as far as Lemonthyme and the Southern Forests are concerned, and the overall strategy of the Tasmanian Forestry Commission, are somehow at fault. There has not been an attempt by them actually to look at what is planned by the Forestry Commission or has been put into operation already.

I have studied in some detail the comments of the Australian Heritage Commission's report entitled `Lemonthyme State Forest', in which it has made two points which I think are of particular relevance. The first is that the Heritage Commission considers:

That the vistas from the World Heritage area will be degraded by the proposed forestry operations.

Secondly, the Australian Heritage Commission considers:

that the recreational value of the Overland Track and adjacent peaks will be reduced as a result of the diminution of aesthetic values due to Forestry Operations in the Forth Valley.

I want to address both of those comments. I do so first by turning to the annual management plan for the Lemonthyme State Forest, dated December 1983, by the Forestry Commission of Tasmania. In terms of the general principles and objectives, it states:

The Lemonthyme State Forest lies within the area controlled by the Working Plan for the Crown Forests of North and North East Tasmania-1983. The management objectives for the Lemonthyme State Forest are, therefore, in accordance with the working plan.

I interpolate to say that I have had a chance to look at the working plan and also to visit not only the Lemonthyme State Forest area, not only to have been on Cradle Mountain-I do not defer to Senator Sanders or to anybody else in their claims of greater expertise or greater aesthetic sensitivity in this matter-but also to talk to the members of the Tasmanian Forestry Commission and the relevant State Government authorities. I believe that the overall working plan is a very sound document. The Lemonthyme report goes on:

The management objectives shall be:

1. To ensure that the area continues to provide water, natural, recreational and other cultural values.

2. To organise forest operations to provide continuity of supply to the milling and pulpwood industries and stable decentralized forest employment.

3. To organise integrated use of the forest managed for wood production.

It continues:

Because the Lemonthyme State Forest adjoins the Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park, careful consideration will be given to the impact of forestry development on the users of the National Park and values other than wood production will have a high priority.

The report then goes on to demonstrate a management plan which I believe is entirely consistent with those objectives. Indeed, those objectives themselves are of a sufficient nature that I do not believe any genuine conservationist-I draw a distinction between genuine conservationists and Australian Democrats-would object either to the principles or to the specifics laid down in that particular management plan. I think it is amazing that Tasmanian Australian Labor Party senators who have participated in this debate have made no significant reference to the actual management plan, relevant to the area which is under discussion in this Bill, adopted in 1983.

Honourable senators will recall that I indicated that one of the concerns mentioned in the Australian Heritage Commission's evaluation of the Lemonthyme situation was the potential damage done to what it described as the vistas from the world heritage area. In fact, they are adequately covered in another of the Forestry Commission's documents-a bulletin of November 1983 entitled: `Visual Management System'. The Forestry Commission in Tasmania has in fact given careful consideration to the question of the aesthetic value of forests in that State and, indeed, to general landscape policy-and not just land use policy. The report states:

The forests of Tasmania are of growing importance for their watershed, wildlife habitat and scenic values.

Senator Sanders shows great concern about sweet little nocturnal furry beasts, which is undoubtedly very commendable and I suspect is a general description of most Australian Democrat voters. Nevertheless, the animal habitats are similarly recognised and accorded protection within the visual management system plans that the Forestry Commission already has in place. The report goes on:

The quality of the visual environment concerns many people and there is an increasing public expectation that landscapes should be carefully and wisely managed.

With this in mind it is necessary to consider the `visual landscape' as a basic resource to be systematically assessed and managed along with other forest resource values. This is to be achieved by the use of the Visual Management System which provides a framework within which to inventory the visual resource and establish measurable visual standards or objectives for its management.

This plan further develops that. Once again, none of the Tasmanian Labor senators who have spoken have bothered to give the slightest degree of attention or credit to the Forestry Commission of Tasmania or to the respective State government authorities in Tasmania for being years ahead of the debate which they are already getting into in terms of not only the management plan of the Lemonthyme itself, but indeed the wider question of the visual management systems, of the very vistas about which the Heritage Commission says it is particularly concerned. From the point of view of a person who perhaps either relishes or suffers from the reputation on this side of the chamber of being a conservationist, a trendy, a greenie, or whatever the terms happens to be, when we actually look at the environmental considerations which are central to the Lemonthyme management plan and to the visual management system plan drawn up, we find that the environmental considerations have been adequately and comprehensively dealt with.

I want to turn, therefore, to the final point that I want to make about the approach to the issue of conservation as has been developed by the Democrats and others in this debate. I come to the point which I quoted previously from the Heritage Commission report about the aesthetic and recreational values of the Overland Track. I want to make this point: It is high time that people in the environmental and conservation movements, and those who claim to have a particular concern for the natural environment, ceased to pursue what is in essence an anti-humanist view of what constitutes aesthetics and human satisfaction. There appears to be, from listening to Senator Sanders, above all, a clear view that what he despises are the signs of human habitation-the clear indications of the presence of human life-a sort of romantic, mystical quality attached to the natural environment as if it is only an untouched virgin or unspoilt area of wilderness which can possibly provide any degree of human emotional satisfaction or aesthetic value.

The buzz word, of course, is pristine-things must somehow be preserved in their pristine state-and all of the marks of mankind are to be equated with the marks of Cain. This sort of romantic, primitive value system, which may have been appropriate in the days of Rousseau, or indeed of Thoreau and others, simply seeks to deny that there can be human satisfaction in the joys of human creation. It seems to me that people such as Senator Sanders, who undoubtedly are unable to get any degree of aesthetic satisfaction as I certainly do from the skyline of Manhattan or from seeing Sydney Harbour replete with both its Harbour Bridge and Opera House, with the actual marks of human habitation--


Senator Harradine —The seventy-fifth anniversary of the Navy?


Senator PUPLICK —I am sure that there were many people in Sydney who got extraordinary value, some of its undoubtedly aesthetic and some of it more directly emotional in a quite different sense, from the seventy-fifth anniversary celebrations of the Royal Australian Navy. Nonetheless, it is important to reject the line which is so intellectually bankrupt, which says that only by the preservation of everything in its totally natural state can one advance the human spirit and dimension.

I am particularly concerned about the way this debate is proceeding in a fashion which devalues humanity by devaluing the notion of progress and civilisation, and which fails to realise that it was only when mankind started to build on and modify nature that we also started to modify the laws of nature, red in tooth and claw, and started to adopt the principles not of the noble savage but of human beings living together in a state of civilised interrelationship.


Senator Coates —There are plenty of buildings in the National Estate.


Senator PUPLICK —As I am talking about civilised human interrelationship I would include neither Senator Coates nor other members of the Australian Labor Party. Frankly, I am not the slightest bit interested in that facile interjection. I have had the opportunity to roam in many of the world's great national parks, whether they be the Yellowstone National Park or the national park south of Sydney which was the second national park in the world to be proclaimed. I had the opportunity some years ago as a guest of the American Government to spend some time in that country studying the management of its national parks system. I have had the opportunity to travel in areas of Canada, out on the ice-floes, and areas of Prince Edward Island, where there are no overt signs of human habitation.

There is no doubt that aesthetically it is enormously pleasing to be able to travel in such places. But for the majority of Australian people that is not a viable option. It is a viable option in certain parts of the Kakadu National Park and the South West Tasmania National Park, but it is not possible for all people under all circumstances to expect that every part of the nation should be dedicated exclusively to the preservation of those types of aesthetic and cultural values. When the Heritage Commission says that the recreational value of the Overland Track or the view from Cradle Mountain will be reduced as a result of the diminution of the aesthetic values due to the forestry operations in the Forth Valley, it is simply kidding itself about what it is that constitutes the fulfilment of human satisfaction in terms of contact with areas of wilderness.

There are very few people who are actually capable of taking advantage of the genuine wilderness-who are physically, emotionally or in any other fashion capable of living a wilderness existence. For the majority of people who are both conservationists and seeking some support for the human values about which I have been talking, it is simply not possible to pick them up and drop them in the middle of some total wilderness area. It is therefore necessary to have national park systems which integrate the capacity of human beings to get there and enjoy those areas and, at the same time, an economic and social system which is capable of producing the wealth and resources which allow those areas to be taken out of productive use and made available for the sort of purposes for which national parks ought to be available.

It is simply no good to believe that the absence of human beings is what is to be desired in terms of wilderness areas. If that were the case, one could designate certain areas around the planet, as has been done; where for genetic diversity and the preservation of the gene pool what are known as Vavilov centres are protected-and are worthy of protection. But for the majority of Australians the focus has to be on this question: How do we provide an adequate system of national parks to be used by human beings? What has not been addressed by the Heritage Commission or Labor Party or Australian Democrat senators is the proper management of the human dimension of the national parks system.

I believe that this Bill is flawed on all those grounds. It is flawed because it is constitutionally unsound and it is a political attempt to get this matter off the political agenda for the next 12 months to get past the next election. It is technically flawed because of the problems I have alluded to in clauses 14 and 17, and there is an Opposition amendment which relates to clause 19 of the legislation. It is intellectually flawed in its failure to address what has already been done by the Tasmanian Forestry Commission in terms of both the Management Plan for the Lemonthyme State Forest and in the forest landscape Visual Management System which that Commission has already adopted.

Above all, the Bill is shot through-and the debate particularly from the Democrats has been shot through-with this extraordinary anti- human approach to the way we should be seeking to provide those benefits for the people of Australia to which they are fully entitled, and the balance which of necessity must exist between the provision of a national parks system and the financial, economic and managerial capacity to provide that and to provide it in such a way that all Australians have access to it, can enjoy it and can benefit spiritually from it.

Debate interrupted.

Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2 p.m.