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Wednesday, 11 December 2002
Page: 7716

Senator BROWN (1:24 PM) —May I congratulate Senator Jacinta Collins on that extraordinary account of the suffering of our fellow human beings and our need as a parliament to do much more to account for it.

Senator Brandis —It was not an account; it was a recitation of denied, unsubstantiated allegations.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Lightfoot)—Senator Brandis, you may care to let Senator Brown at least get started.

Senator BROWN —I am not worried about Senator Brandis and his churlish interjections. I would have thought that he would have the maturity to get to his feet and make a submission rather than interjecting on Senator Collins's very heartfelt and notable speech. I want to talk today about the preselection process for the Liberals to select a senator for the ACT on the 21st of this month. I note that one of the candidates for that preselection process, putting herself to the Liberal Party voters, is the former Chief Minister of the ACT Kate Carnell. During her period in office as Chief Minister—and I think people considering her candidacy should know this—she made it clear that the assembly of the ACT had no business commenting to the New South Wales government about the destruction of the south-east forests of New South Wales. What is happening with the forests and the wildlife of the Great Dividing Range and the coastal areas of south-east New South Wales is, of course, a matter of high interest to everybody in the ACT, but as Chief Minister she made it absolutely clear that that was not her opinion.

When she left the assembly she became the Executive Director of the National Association of Forest Industries and suddenly became very interested indeed. She has in fact drawn her sustenance and salary from supporting the woodchip industry not just in the south-east of New South Wales but right around this country. When one looks at her role in fostering that woodchip industry one has to look at not just the impact of that industry on the environment of Australia but the fact that it is fostered contrary to the feeling of the majority of Australians and the majority of the people of the ACT. I can assure her that her record in this matter will come under intense scrutiny should she come to the Senate. I have been looking at the front-page story which she has posted on the web site of the National Association of Forest Industries, and it is all about Tasmania. Suddenly she is very interested in forests far beyond the ACT. And of course when she comes to the Senate she will be dealing with nationally important issues, including—

Senator Lightfoot —Are you saying that's a fait accompli?

Senator BROWN —No, I'm not saying it's a fait accompli. I thank you for that intervention because I think her record should be taken very much into account by those who will be determining whether she does come to this chamber when there are excellent alternatives. She says that the Valley of the Giants—the Styx Valley—in my home state, which she now has a lot to do with, is being handled in a process that maintains the forest ecosystems. She says that the forests are managed for water quality and she goes on to say about the tallest trees in the great Valley of the Giants, which are indeed the tallest trees known on the face of the planet outside North America, that they become senescent and that when they do, and as they fall down, the very small reserves which currently protect them may have their informal reserve system status withdrawn. I want to put the contrary view to that being promoted by this extraordinary advocate for the chainsaws.

I do not know whether Kate Carnell has ever been to the Styx Valley; I have certainly been there many, many times. These grand forests, hundreds of years old and full of wildlife, are being torn down at the greatest rate in history. Ms Carnell said in a letter to the Financial Review on 4 June this year:

And throughout Australia, every season, protected forests are maturing into the old-growth stage of their life cycle—constantly increasing our old-growth forest estate.

So she is actually maintaining that more old-growth forests are appearing in Australia despite the record destruction of those forests by the woodchip industry. In the same letter, she said:

Old growth forestry is declining to historically low levels and is becoming a resource used only for specialty timbers.

That is a lie. That is a direct deception of the public. Let us go back to Tasmania, which she has targeted in this misleading web site. The rate of old-growth logging there is historically high. Since Prime Minister Howard signed the death warrant on those forests with the regional forest agreement in 1997, the rate of woodchipping has increased by some millions of tonnes per annum. The number of jobs has fallen but the destruction in the Styx Valley, in the Tarkine—which she also mentions—in the north-east highlands and elsewhere in Tasmania has rapidly increased. This year alone, 150,000 log truck loads of these old-growth forests will go to the woodchip mills and through the paper mills to the rubbish dumps of Japan, Korea and elsewhere while we—

Senator O'Brien —That is rubbish.

Senator BROWN —If that is rubbish, Senator, then you get to your feet and explain what the facts are.

Senator O'Brien —No, you've taken the interjection. That's enough for now.

Senator BROWN —Here we have a Labor senator now, well known for his chainsaw proclivities, apparently coming to the defence of potential senator Kate Carnell. Interesting, isn't it! When we go back to look at what Kate Carnell has to say, it is a farrago of deception. I will be back in the Styx forest within the next few weeks. She says that visitors have some difficulty getting there because there is a gravel road, but then she says that they will see a mosaic of a working forest. What actually happens under her approval, with her guidance and with the very rich backup of the National Association of Forest Industries, is that the old-growth forests are put to the chainsaws. I understand that in the last two weeks in another large area of the Styx Valley—these ancient forests—lower down the hill from Jacques Road is the tallest known flowering tree in the world. It is 96 metres high and it is in one of those reserves that Kate Carnell says may well be temporary.

New logging roads are going into the forests adjacent to that reserve and what will happen to them, as is happening to the rest of the Styx and the Tarkine and the north-east, is that the forest will be cut down in the coming years. Over 90 per cent of those forests will go to the woodchip mills, not to local sawmills or veneer mills. Then the forest will be burnt by helicopters dropping incendiaries with napalm-like material. Kate Carnell explains, in her front page article on the National Association of Forest Industries web site, that this will be done to prevent the natural rainforest taking over where NAFI wants to see fast-growing eucalypts for its future profit line. I am adding the comment to her assertion that the valley is actually being threatened by nature's rainforests. Following the burning of these forests, 1080 poison is laid to kill the wallabies and other natural creatures coming in from the adjacent forests to feed on the fast-growing seedlings. So we have a chainsaw down, burn and then poison routine, all of which Kate Carnell avers is a process for maintaining the forest ecosystem.

Again, that is a lie. It is destroying the forest ecosystems. You cannot in any way maintain that that is maintenance of the forest ecosystem. For older residents of the ACT, those who are in my age range, I add that she—at best tongue-in-cheek but I think with a wicked sense of determined irritation of environmentalists—then says that you can get on the road to enjoy Lake Pedder, which of course is the fake Pedder that destroyed the original magnificent Lake Pedder National Park. That was an act of destruction which inherently, in her statement, Kate Carnell approves of.

It is very important when candidates come up for election in a process which does not involve the ballot box but involves party election that the party be aware of whether or not the wider electorate would approve. I maintain that the voters of the ACT, who are renowned for their concern about the environment, will not approve of the position that Kate Carnell has taken after her period in the ACT Legislative Assembly. In fact, they would be disgusted by her promotion of this environmentally destructive industry in all the states of Australia. She once made sure that the ACT assembly was not backing a motion from Greens representative Kerry Tucker to come to the defence of the south-east forests of New South Wales and she has since she has left the assembly been the chief advocate in the private sector in Australia for the destruction of our great wild forests in all states, and the wildlife within them, to foster the woodchip industry.

I draw attention to a motion that I put forward which the Senate will be dealing with later today. It reads:

That the Senate calls on the Australian Government to urgently pursue alternatives with the Chinese Government to the death sentence handed down on Tibetan activists Trulku Tenzin Delek and Lobsang Dhondup in Karze, Sichuan province.

I simply want to say why that motion is there. In recent days these two great and wonderful Tibetan advocates and Buddhist spokespeople—who are in their homeland, which is now occupied by the Chinese government and the Chinese army—have been arrested following a bomb blast in Chengdu city with which there is no evidence whatsoever to associate them. Notwithstanding that, they have been summarily brought before the Chinese court—their rights have been ignored, even as expounded under the Chinese constitution—found guilty and sentenced to death. If we do not get a change of mind from the Chinese government, they will be executed within the coming weeks.

This is a matter of compelling international importance. The Tibetan people have suffered for so long. Trulku Tenzin Delek is a famous and renowned advocate for Buddhism and a peaceful approach to the question of the Chinese invasion and occupation—cruel occupation—of the Tibetan people, yet he is suddenly facing a death sentence. One report said that as he was led from the court he proclaimed, `Long live His Holiness the Dalai Lama.'

Where in an occupied country like this people are treated without any human rights by a government with which we have enormous communications and conduct enormous trade, we have an absolute obligation to intercede. This motion asks the Australian government to do that on behalf of these innocents facing death. (Time expired)