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Push to save river red gum forests -

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PETER CAVE: After more than a decade at the top the former New South Wales premier Bob Carr often
boasted that creating national parks was his greatest achievement.

Well it seems the retired Labor leader retains his passion for the environment. Mr Carr is piling
the pressure on his successor and former staffer Nathan Rees to save the river red gum trees in the
south of the state.

But as Simon Santow reports the jury's out on Mr Rees' commitment to green issues as he juggles
high unemployment rates in the bush.

SIMON SANTOW: Six months ago it was the Brumby Government in Victoria which protected vast tracts
of river red gums from logging.

Now it's New South Wales' turn to consider turning state forests where the gums grow into national
parks.

At the forefront of the push to end logging is Bob Carr, long time and now retired New South Wales
premier and committed bushwalker.

BOB CARR: They are very stately trees. The forests are different from other eucalypt forests. These
are huge trees, huge structures and of course it has got something of the quality of Kakadu, at
least when these landscapes flood, it makes you think of other inland wetlands in Australia.

MAX RHEESE: We have people come swanning in from Sydney pushing a particular cause which doesn't
sit well with the science and the evidence.

SIMON SANTOW: Max Rheese heads up the pro-logging group, Rivers and Red Gum Environment Alliance.
He's sceptical about the politics involved in this latest move.

MAX RHEESE: These areas are safe National Party seats. There are no votes to be had for Labor
governments and I am sure that Bob Carr was aware of that when he was premier.

The fact is that these areas are populated by New South Wales citizens and it is very important to
their life and to have people coming from inner city electorates who have got this environmental
agenda that they wish to impose on local communities.

SIMON SANTOW: While Bob Carr no longer holds the reins of power, he's skilled at applying the
pressure to his successor Nathan Rees and the remnants of the Labor Cabinet he left behind.

BOB CARR: There they are in Hans Heysen's watercolours. They are the symbol of inland Australia.
They are seen as guardians of these river systems. We have lost so much. This is the current
environmental challenge, the nature conservation challenge.

SIMON SANTOW: And of course some people would say well you are not in power at the moment. You had
10 years. Why didn't you do it then?

BOB CARR: Well no-one could have declared more national parks in 10 years than I. I declared 300.

SIMON SANTOW: But in retrospect should these river red gums have been more of a priority?

BOB CARR: The agenda was so crowded. For example in my last month in office we were putting
together a very complex package to save the Brigalow Belt north of Coonabarabran, the Pilliga.

SIMON SANTOW: The National Parks Association is not surprisingly demanding an end to logging red
gums, arguing most of it ends up as low grade firewood and at the same time local fauna is being
threatened.

Spokeswoman Carmel Flint.

CARMEL FLINT: Close to 60 threatened species that occur in these forest and are dependent on them.
Ones that are particularly threatened by the logging that is taking place are the barking owl, the
squirrel glider and the fishing bat. Really important species. The barking owl in particular needs
large hollow bearing trees to nest in. They are the kind of trees that are still being destroyed by
logging and there is also nationally threatened species such as the superb parrot and the regent
parrot that warrant protection.

SIMON SANTOW: But Carmel Flint is worried that the sort of commitment to the environment espoused
by Bob Carr is not necessarily shared by the current Premier Nathan Rees.

CARMEL FLINT: Since Bob Carr left the New South Wales Labor Government we have not seen anything
like the iconic conservation decisions that he made replicated by the premiers since and this is
why this is an incredibly important test for Premier Rees.

As far as we are concerned he needs to show some environmental credentials. We haven't seen
anything of note to date and this is a really major nature conservation issue which is now being
followed by large numbers of people throughout New South Wales and they see river red gums rightly
as an Australian icon.

SIMON SANTOW: You know Nathan Rees well. He worked for you as a staff member. Does he have the same
commitment to the environment and the same passion that you have?

BOB CARR: Oh yes. One of the things he specialised in in my office was land use. He knows it. He
knows the arguments about water and about forest intimately. His instincts on this are all good but
it's important to encourage him and to have the decision made first on a generous scale and second
as early as possible.

He needs support as he confronts the sceptics in his Cabinet and others in the community. But I
believe his instincts are good on this issue and I believe he will make a very sound conservation
decision.

SIMON SANTOW: I mean you kept a lid on those sceptics. He doesn't quite have the same level of
authority that you had.

BOB CARR: Oh but I think he will discover it and he will discover it making this decision; making
it I hope before much longer.

PETER CAVE: The former New South Wales premier Bob Carr ending Simon Santow's report.