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Tuesday, 7 June 1994
Page: 1382

Senator IAN MACDONALD (3.08 p.m.) —I move:

  That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Minister for the Environment, Sport and Territories (Senator Faulkner), to a question without notice asked by Senator Ian Macdonald this day, relating to conservation funding for the Daintree rainforest.

Senator Faulkner's answer, and the way the Labor Party has dealt with the environment and the environment movement, is typical of the duplicity of the Labor Party when it comes to conservation and environment matters. In the budget, the Labor Party government allocated $11.1 million for a Daintree rescue package. That was delivered with much fanfare. It was a sign that the Labor Party was again realising the importance of the green vote and the importance of getting that environmental vote on its side, and there was a huge amount of fanfare for it.

  In the budget, that funding of $11.1 million was not absolute. It was conditional upon matching funding by the Queensland government. Did the federal government, and did this minister, make any attempt to speak to the Queensland government about matching funding? I can only quote the Queensland Treasurer, Mr De Lacy, who said:

. . . the Federal Government's pledge to fund a Daintree rescue package came a bit too late for inclusion in the Budget.

So there we have it. The Queensland government was not approached in sufficient time to enable it to commit these funds so that the condition precedent by the federal government to allow $11.1 million for the Daintree rescue package could be dealt with in the Queensland budget. It shows the absolute incompetence of this government and, I regret to say, the new minister, that these sort of details were not developed.

  If this government continues with its budget announcement that the giving of $11.1 million for the Daintree rescue package is conditional upon funding by the Queensland government, it would appear that the $11.1 million from the federal government will not have to be paid and the Daintree rescue package may well fall by the wayside. Again, this shows the contempt with which the Labor Party treats the environment movement. It is tremendous for getting votes at election time but when it comes to serious commitments to the environment and conservation we find the Labor Party sadly lacking.

  It is similar to the other element that I raised in my question. Back in the days when the Labor Party took away the jobs of workers on the Atherton Tablelands in the Far North Queensland region—actually took away their jobs in the timber industry; an industry which had been going for over 100 years—it made a series of promises to these workers. It promised, `We will make sure that no person suffers as a result of the World Heritage listing of the wet tropics; no worker—no person—will be disadvantaged by it.' Time and again in this parliament we have been through how that promise converted into throwing $7 million of taxpayers' money to a company which, to say the least, was badly run, and that money simply went away.

  There were some subsidiary schemes put into place and the scheme I mentioned in my question, the wet tropics tree planting scheme, was one of those. These workers were promised jobs in schemes such as this and other schemes which the federal government would fund. But we only have to go to the Ravenshoe and the Atherton Tablelands area to see the results of this government's management of that wet tropics heritage listing. No-one denies that the wet tropics should have been listed, but the way it was gone about, the management of it, the way the boundaries were drawn, is something that will forever haunt this government and something that it should forever be mindful of. The promises were made—the government was committed for a couple of years—but today we find that this scheme has gone.

  The minister has given some lame excuse about him talking to Senator Collins about funding it, but why did they not do it before the scheme finished? Why was it not announced in this budget rather than the minister lamely saying that he is going to talk to the minister about it and he hopes to make a positive announcement in the next few weeks? If he makes a positive announcement, where is he going to get the money from, because it has not been budgeted for? It is simply more Labor Party talk, more hyperbole, more promises to workers and environmentalists in the region which the Labor Party will never honour. It will be only when votes are needed that the government will again find its interest in the environment.