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Tuesday, 15 August 1972
Page: 21


Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSON (New South Wales) (Minister for Health) - Mr President, I crave the indulgence of the Senate to make a statement about procedure this evening. In accordance with our tradition, at 8 p.m. I will be moving a motion and tabling papers. Then, on behalf of the Treasurer (Mr Snedden),I shall read the Budget Speech. I shall start about 2 or 3 minutes after the Treasurer has started. When I conclude, as is the tradition. Senator Murphy, as Leader of the Opposition, will move the adjournment of the debate. It has been agreed between us, as leaders - Senator Gair in concurrence - that after Senator Murphy moves the adjournment of the debate I shall move that the Senate adjourn until 3 p.m. tomorrow. softwood forestry agreement BILL 1972

Second Reading

Debate resumed from 31 May (vide page 2343), on motion by Senator Cotton:

That the Bill be now read a second time.

Senator mulvihill(New South Wales) (4.49) - The Opposition accepts the reason for the introduction of the Bill which is to provide assistance to the States for 5 years to extend their softwood plantings. However, the Opposition feels that some matters should be elaborated upon. I hope that they will be elaborated upon by the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton) when he concludes the debate. It is on that basis that on behalf of the Opposition i move an amendment in the following form:

At end of motion add - but the Senate deplores the Government's failure to prepare and publish, in consultation wilh the States, a national plan for -

(a)   the full use and development of Australia's forestry resources; and

(b)   the conservation of existing hardwood forests and associated flora and fauna in relation to softwood plantings.

In 1968 Sir John McEwen stated that the Government should embark upon a feasibility study to decide the prospects for the Australian timber industry. We want to be much more precise. It is interesting to note that at a stage when we are talking about stabilising our forest resources Papua New Guinea is on the threshold of independence. Undoubtedly we hope that an economic understanding will be developed between the new country and the older country, and I have no doubt that timber will be one of the exports to Australia that will be vital to the Papua New Guinea economy. On the other hand, we know that at times our timber industry can be subject to pressures from New Zealand. As Senator Cotton would well know from his long association with the industry, over the last 50 years or so there have been at times quite sizeable imports of timber from countries such as Finland.

While we support the principles of the Bill, we pose one very interesting question. Is it wise to go ahead with bulldozer madness, as we are in some areas, and destroy gum forests and replace them with pine? I think that at a time when the Government is pouring millions of dollars into the rehabilitation of the wool industry it is time we had a good, hard look at some of our marginal country and considered whether it would not be better to have large pine plantations there rather than to plant them in areas where there are now gum forests. There is a developing world shortage of timber. We can see that by the year 2000 the demand for timber will be enormous, but I cannot see, and the Opposition cannot see, that it is necessary to demolish non-pine trees when it is more logical to plant pine trees in other areas where there can be regeneration. I think Senator Cotton would be well aware that Michigan in the United States of America faced a situation such as the one with which we are faced. There was tremendous regeneration there. I cannot see why there should not be a lot more regeneration in some of our own areas. I know that there has been some regeneration in the electorate of Macarthur, which I know fairly well. There have been some private forestry projects, in a very small way.

We feel that there is not enough liaison between conservaton authorities and foresters and that more pine forests could be planted without encroaching on our normal gum bushland concept. With all due respect to foresters, the attitude of many of them is simply that timber is a cash crop J That is all there is to it. With the big question mark so far as the wool industry is concerned, in many cases one could argue for pine cultivation at the expense of our grazing lands rather than to have the constant conflict that goes on between conservationists and foresters. I think the Minister would be well aware of the intense agitation that has been generated by the Save the Colong Caves Committee, which argues that the Boyd Plateau area of New South Wales should not be sacrificed simply to achieve the particular pines targets for which we strive. There has been much agitation in regard to this matter.

The position is highlighted when we fly over many areas of the States and see the tragedy of the implementation of a short term policy rather than of a long term policy. In support of my attitude and that of the Opposition, I point out to the Minister that clause (b) of the amendment refers to flora and fauna. I wish to refer to a pamphlet titled 'The Boyd Plateau- Park or Pines?'. I think that the Minister will be aware that it covers the history of Boyd Park land back to the 1800s. The early settlers of New South Wales who were insistent that this land be kept in its natural state were looking a long way ahead. The KanangraBoyd National Park was dedicated in 1969, but much preliminary work had been done before that time. There is no reason why the Boyd Plateau should not remain in its present state without the inevitable scarring which would occur. This is the problem which concerns us.

This plateau 4,000 feet above sea level is the chief watershed of the National Park to which I refer. There is no doubt that the first run off will increase erosion sharply after clearing and the introduction of pine plantations. We are vitally concerned about this situation. Since the Commonwealth is providing the funds to the Slates for this purpose it should insist that any forestry expansion of the pine variety should not take place to the detriment of all non-pine bushland. If Senator Prowse were here he would be extremely vocal about some of the stupid propaganda that has been expounded by some of the forestry interests which claim blandly that Australian wildlife can live in pine forests. That is absolutely stupid. I remember visiting many of the pine plantations in the Australian Capital Territory, again with Senator Prowse, as a member of the Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution. I respect the financial potential of these areas and 1 am not cavilling at what was done, but when the foresters said to us blandly: 'You know, there are kangaroos there'. Senator Prowse pointed out that the only places where there were kangaroos was where they were grazing on some of the fire breaks. The position applies also to bird life which is non-existent in these pine forests.

A portfolio was created to cover conservation and Mr Howson is now Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts. But I would like to feel that within the Department of National Development which normally covers the activities of the Forestry and Timber Bureau there was a greater recognition of the live and let live policy, f know that all honourable senators have been inundated by various publications. 1 have one here called the 'Forest Products Bulletin' which is issued by New Zealand Forest Products (Aust.) Pty Ltd. 1 know that within the Australian timber industry, even on the north coast of New South Wales to which my colleague, Senator Douglas McClelland will probably refer, there are local problems. The burden of my remarks is that with proper planning - I am not being aggressive towards the States - there is not the faintest reason why some of the natural bushland oases cannot be protected and not sacrified to the bulldozer. There is no question about what should be done when we look at some of these situations.

The Minister will be aware that for over 2 years we have been watting for the implementation of the interim report of the House of Representatives Select Committee on Wildlife Conservation which is chaired by the honourable member for Henty (Mr Fox). The Committee recommended the immediate retention of habitat for certain wildlife. When 1 look at sub-marginal land from the air, I feel that I would like to see some of it planted with pine forests but they should bc expanded only if there is not the desolation which sometimes occurs when minor gum forests are destroyed for this purpose. Taking the situation further, in New South Wales we have had an endless battle about the mining of limestone from the Colong Caves. I believe that foresters as a whole are less rigid in their attitudes than are mining interests, but that does not alter the fact, particularly in relation to the Boyd Plateau, that it is a relatively low price to pay to grant clemency to this area.

On 20th August last year, the Minister for Primary Industry, Mr Sinclair, stated that between 50,000 and 90,000 wool growers received less than $2,000 income on which to live after servicing debts. The Government is putting millions of dollars into the wool industry, and I do not object to the rehabilitation of any person, whether he be involved in primary industry or secondary industry, but I believe that we are reaching the cross road. If those people are being phased out of the industry, more attractive terms could be provided for additional pine plantations and, at the same time, areas such as the Boyd Plateau could be preserved. In many respects, some of the early post-war soil erosion services conducted by the Soil Conservation Service of New South Wales reached a certain stage of perfection up to the 1950s. Now. other difficulties have arisen. In many cases, the position gets back to over-stocking. I believe that overall we should receive a little more information about forestry controls than we have received in the past. On a previous occasion, I asked whether honourable senators could sit in at some of the conferences held by foresters, and Senator O'Byrne and I attended one such conference. Some extremely interesting discussion took place dealing with the technique of using aircraft and helicopters to control fires. I know that something has been done. It is true that because of the geography of Australia we cannot emulate entirely the methods adopted in Canada. 1 emphasise that we of the Opposition feel that overall there is too much compartmentisation of forestry matters. The Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz) has all the say in this regard. The position is the same in regard to mining where again the Minister for National Development and his experts have the say. But when matters of conservation arise, whether they concern the New South Wales Minister for Conservation, Mr Beale, or his Commonwealth counterpart. Mr Howson, it seems that we are never consulted to any degree. These are a few of the matters about which the Opposition is so concerned. I shall conclude my remarks on another point in relation to the conservation angle. The trouble is that a pine forest is a monoculture and supports very few other forms of vegetation. I sincerely hope that when the Minister develops his argument he will be able to put at rest some of the fears which we of the Opposition hold. I believe that much can be said for the inter-mingling of the wool and timber industries and for some of the wool producing areas being replaced by timber plantations, but I emphasise again that there has not been enough clarity in regard to these unnecessary clashes with the foresters.

The Minister will know the history of what has happened in California over 50 years. The argument was advanced by the hardened businessmen that the redwood forests should all go to the block, as it were, and be sold but a very sane attitude was adopted by the Californian legislature. California was able to retain most of its famous redwood forests. I suppose that in the capitalist economy in which we live there has to be some contribution. I believe that the sudden obsession to raise the level of forestry plantations to a stage where we can control the influx of New

Guinea and New Zealand timber and at the same time build up our maximum, should not be allowed to operate at the expense of other types of timber. This is our fear. We feel that there has to be a much more clear cut understanding of the position otherwise there will be continuous heart burnings at a time when I think that Australia as a whole has to recognise that considerable changes must be made in its agricultural policy. It is for that reason that the Opposition has submitted the amendment which has been circulated.







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