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Wednesday, 31 August 1994
Page: 677

Senator COULTER —My question is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. I refer to the Prime Minister's reference to World Heritage and sustainability in the Pacific Islands and also to a departmental brief dated 23 November 1993, which states that logging in the Huon and Picton Valleys of Tasmania is degrading the World Heritage area. Is the Prime Minister aware that damage to the Tasmanian World Heritage area was raised at a meeting of the World Heritage Bureau in Paris on 4 July and that the bureau was left with the impression that logging would be stopped—I stress stopped—this year? Will the Prime Minister honour our obligations under World Heritage convention and ensure that logging in these areas will be stopped this year and a new World Heritage nomination will be proceeded with this year? Finally, can the Prime Minister assure the Senate that if the Tasmanian government signs the national forest policy, no special deals will be done to allow the Tasmanian government to avoid further World Heritage nominations?

Senator GARETH EVANS —As to Senator Coulter's first question, I am advised that issues relating to forestry operations adjacent to the Tasmanian World Heritage area were raised at the World Heritage Bureau meeting in Paris from 4 to 9 July this year. The Australian delegate informed the meeting that discussions were taking place between the Commonwealth and state governments. The bureau asked to be kept informed and requested the World Heritage Centre to monitor the situation and report back to the next meeting of the bureau. The centre has subsequently written to the Department of the Environment, Sport and Territories requesting further information by 1 October this year. I should make it clear, as Senator Coulter should be well aware, that forestry operations are not occurring in the World Heritage area.

  As to Senator Coulter's second question, he can be assured that Australia will not abrogate its responsibilities under the World Heritage convention. As to his final question, the answer is yes, the possibility of Tasmania signing the national forest policy statement is currently being discussed at officials level. Signature of the NFPS by Tasmania would be on the same basis as that of the other states who signed in December 1992. The Commonwealth will not offer any special incentives or attach any extra conditions.