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Tuesday, 19 November 2002
Page: 6809

Senator Brown asked the Minister for Forestry and Conservation, upon notice, on 18 October 2002:

To ask the Minister for Forestry and Conservation—are the new Australian Forestry Standards the same as international standards; if not: (a) what are the international standards; and (b) in what ways are the Australian standards more stringent, or more lax, than the international standards.

Senator Ian Macdonald (Minister for Fisheries, Forestry and Conservation) —The answer to the honourable senator's question is as follows:

Development of the Australian Forestry Standard (AFS) has been cognisant of the emerging international standards for mutual recognition amongst certification schemes and meets all of the key requirements for future mutual recognition.

The AFS has also been intentionally drafted to be compatible with common sustainable forest management concepts and approaches, as contained in the two international certification schemes, the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the Pan-European Forest Certification scheme (PEFC). A large degree of commonality exists between the performance requirements of the AFS and those of other initiatives. However, the AFS takes into account:

· the unique character of Australian ecosystems;

· Australia's international agreements and commitments and national and State/Territory legislative frameworks; and

· Australian community expectations for sustainable forest management.

While the AFS is not identical to other approaches to forest certification, the differences reflect our national circumstances and I consider that the AFS is substantively equivalent to the FSC and PEFC frameworks in achieving the same goal of supporting sustainable forest management.

Currently an internationally recognised independent consultant has been engaged to complete a benchmarking review of the AFS against the FSC and the PEFC. This benchmarking study will look at content and processes with a view to independently establishing compatibility with the two international schemes.