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Tuesday, 7 February 2012
Page: 38

Forestry


Senator BOB BROWN (TasmaniaLeader of the Australian Greens) (14:18): Mr President, my question goes to the Minister representing the Minister for Sustai­nability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities. In the Australian govern­ment's report to the World Heritage Commit­tee for submission by 1 February about the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, is it not the case that the government has misled that global authority by stating that, under the terms of the intergovernmental agreement in Tasmania, significant iconic areas adjacent to the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area will be given interim protection from logging activities and names them while an independent verification pro­cess takes place? Is it not true that while that process is taking place those very areas are subject to logging?


Senator CONROY (VictoriaMinister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Digital Productivity) (14:19): I thank Senator Brown for his question and I reject utterly the assertion, Senator Brown. The intergov­ernmental agreement between the Australian and Tasmanian governments is not only historic but unique. It is historic because it provides the opportunity to end decades of conflict. It is also the first time that a solution in Tasmania has been driven by the community. The market has changed and there has been a downturn in the forest industry and in international demand for some forest products. The community has responded to this change. Industry and community groups have come together and sought a way forward. The agreement is unique because of its long-term focus. It will help the forest industry adapt to market changes while protecting the communities and families that rely on the sector to survive. It will assist regions adapt and develop for years to come while also delivering increased protection of high-conservation-value forests and ensuring ongoing sustainable timber supply for the forest industry.

The legally binding conservation agree­ment signed on 13 January 2012 by Forestry Tasmania, the Tasmanian government and the Australian government delivers a major conservation outcome under the Tasmanian Forests Intergovernmental Agreement. It ensures hundreds of thousands of hectares of Tasmanian public native forests are excluded from rotation forestry while the independent verification process undertakes a compre­hensive analysis of conservation values and industry timber supply requirements. There is $25 million available for immediate employment, training and relocation support for workers displaced by the industry downturn and it was made available as soon as the agreement was signed. Almost $11 million— (Time expired)


Senator BOB BROWN (TasmaniaLeader of the Australian Greens) (14:21): Mr President, I ask a supplementary quest­ion. As you will have heard, the minister did not answer the question, so I will ask him: can he tell the Senate that no logging has taken place since 7 August last—as asserted in this letter to the World Heritage Committee—in the iconic forests adjacent to the World Heritage Area including: 'The Upper Florentine and areas within the Styx, Huon, Picton and council valleys,' while the independent verification process takes place?


Senator CONROY (VictoriaMinister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Digital Productivity) (14:22): The independent veri­fication group being led by Professor Jonathan West is making good progress and expects to present its final report by the end of February. While this is a little longer than originally envisaged, it is a complex process and it is vital that the group takes the time to get it right. The group's final advice will inform the development of a second conser­vation agreement to protect additional areas of native forest that are found to be of high conservation value and compatible with the industry wood supply guarantees. The second conservation agreement will protect these areas until formal legislative protection is provided by the Tasmanian parliament. On the very specific question that I think was also included there, Senator Brown, I will seek further information from Minister Burke.


Senator BOB BROWN (TasmaniaLeader of the Australian Greens) (14:22): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. I presume that this submission from the Australian government to the world authority came via the minister for the environment. I would ask the minister to check that in fact the minister has not misled that world authority, because logging, he says, will not take place while an independ­ent verification process is undertaken. In fact, 960 hectares so far is subject to logging, which has either been completed or is underway. That is nearly 10 square kilome­tres of the forest subject to— (Time expired)


Senator CONROY (VictoriaMinister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Digital Productivity) (14:23): Senator Brown wrote to Minister Burke requesting that Minister Burke consider minor modifications to the boundary of the Tasmanian Wilderness heritage area, an area of approximately 150,000 hectares. The Department of Sust­ainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities is currently assessing potential World Heritage values of the areas identified by Senator Brown. Any assess­ment by the department will need to take into account work being done as part of the independent verification process being led by Professor Jonathan West. As part of the verification process, the conservation values contained within the ENGO-nominated 572,000 hectares are being assessed. The findings of the group will contribute to any assessment of World Heritage values and, once this process is complete, the department will provide the minister with advice on the values of the area.