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Wednesday, 29 June 1994
Page: 2302

Senator BELL —My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Resources. I refer to the minister's approval earlier this month to increase the export of Tasmanian woodchips from existing forest coupes by 200,000 tonnes. Can the minister confirm that he did not seek advice from the Australian Heritage Commission because of his belief that the increase in the quota will not adversely affect the National Estate now or at any time in the future? Did the minister receive advice from the Attorney-General's Department that he did not need to seek advice from the commission? Has the minister reinterpreted section 30 of the Australian Heritage Commission Act and deliberately attempted to bypass the commission? If the minister can find an extra 200,000 tonnes of woodchips from existing coupes, does this mean that sawlogs have been chipped in the past?

Senator COLLINS —The answer to the first part of Senator Bell's question is that advice from the Australian Heritage Commission was sought on this proposal. I actually tried to contact Senator Bell just before question time but was unable to. I understand that some incorrect advice on this issue was given to the parliamentary library—I had not confirmed this yesterday—and Senator Bell may well be acting from that advice. But the facts are that the Australian Heritage Commission's advice was sought on this proposal. Since no additional areas of harvesting were proposed by Gunns, as I advised the Senate in answer to a previous question from Senator Bell, the commission indicated that the advice it provided on National Estate values and measures to mitigate impacts of those values in respect of the 1994 Tasmanian woodchip licence was applicable and that a separate referral under section 30 of the act was therefore not required.

  As a result of the fact that advice from the Australian Heritage Commission was sought, part two of Senator Bell's question is now not applicable. The answer to the third part of the question, of whether we have reinterpreted section 30, is no. The answer to the final part of Senator Bell's question is also no. About 40 per cent of the licence amount, that is, 80,000 tonnes, will come from sawmill residues from the company's existing operations. To date, these have been sold to other companies for export. The remainder will come from the residues of low grade logs which will be sawn to extract maximum usable timber. At present, these logs are either chipped entirely or they are simply left on the forest floor to rot. Previously, these logs have been classified as pulp logs. So the answer to the last part of Senator Bell's question is no.