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Thursday, 26 March 1987
Page: 1371


Senator GIETZELT (Minister for Veterans' Affairs)(11.42) —As I understand it, we are acting under the foreign affairs power for the basis of this legislation. Speaking to the amendment, the Government, of course, appreciates the keen interest shown by the Australian Democrats in the protection of the environmentally sensitive areas in Tasmania. It also appreciates the initiatives that the Democrats senators have taken in bringing forward amendments with the idea of improving this Bill. Having said that, there is nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, Tasmanians should be proud of the fact that so much of their State is so beautiful, so sensitive and has so much of a wilderness character that it has the best record in Australia in terms of area set aside for national park purposes. Such areas should be protected by this generation as well as future generations. It is not a question of making comparisons with such areas in other States. The fact is that the natural beauty in Tasmania needs to be protected.

Senator Walters and her Senate colleagues should be proud of the fact that people in this country desire to protect and maintain that beauty, as does the Commonwealth. Of course, it is not a matter of whether a State has a lesser or greater amount of wilderness area; it is a matter of recognising the uniqueness of Tasmania, so that future generations will be able to say how wise were governments, communities, political parties, members of parliament and citizens for taking decisions back in 1987, and in the years prior to that, to bring about these circumstances.

But that said, there are reasons why the Government is unable to support the amendment which has been moved by the Democrats. We accept that there is some logic, not only in the Democrats' position but also in the position that has been expressed by other honourable senators. I will deal now with the general principles involved in the Democrats' amendments 1 to 13 rather than prolonging the debate by repeating them when we deal with subsequent clauses. I point out that the protection that will be provided by the legislation is directed precisely to the Lemonthyme and Southern Forests areas which are adjacent to the World Heritage area and which are immediately threatened by the current forestry operations. The forestry resources of the Douglas River, Quamby Bluff and Jackeys Marsh will be reviewed by the inquiry when it examines prudent and feasible alternatives to forestry operations in any qualifying areas found in the precise Lemonthyme and Southern Forests areas. I say to Democrats senators, if logging operations appear likely to commence in the Douglas River, Quamby Bluff or Jackeys Marsh areas during the course of the inquiry, the Government will further examine the options available to protect those areas. The Government takes cognisance of the views that have been expressed. It cannot support the extensive proposals which would flow from the amendments. We therefore expect that when the Committee votes on these issues we will have the support of Opposition senators. The more concise and precise proposals embodied in the Bill will protect the view that exists even if that view is not accepted by the Opposition.