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Forest inquiry a shabby process - ACF



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02-02-99 15:51:41 02/02 '99 TUB 15:49 FAX 61 3 9416 0767

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MEDIA RELEASE

Australian Conservation Foundation

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE FEBRUARY 2,1999.

3 4 0 Gore Street, FrUroy

Victoria 3063

ATTENTION: Chiefs of Staff and Environment Reporters.

Telephone: 03 9418 1166

Facsimile: 03 9416 0767 W eb: acfonline.org.au

FOREST INQUIRE

The .'Australian Conservation Foundation? today described the Regional Forest Agreement Bill Inquiry as a shabby process that made a mockery of proper community consultation.

ACF Campaigns Director Michael Krockenberger said submissions to tire inquiry were called for just before Christmas and closed only a month later during tire holiday period.

“Despite this ACF was able to get its consultants to hastily prepare a comprehensive and vitally important submission.

“Yet ACF, with a long history o f involvement in forest issues (indeed it was written into the terms o f reference o f tire Resource Assessment Commission inquiry in the early 1990s) was not even given an opportunity to appear at the hearings.

“The only hearings are for two days in Melbourne and yet a Melbourne based group such as ACF could not even get a spot,” Mr Krockenberger said.

"The RFA Bill requires the Commonwealth to pay large compensation payments to the affected parties if logging activity is curtailed for environmental reasons. For there to be any logic to tins, adequate knowledge o f basics such as sustainable yield and the ecological state Of forests must be determined.

“The ACF’s evidence shows that this information is grossly inadequate in many parts o f Australia and that the Australian community is being hoodwinked about the process. In particular there is now enough credible evidence to raise serious doubts over the

sustainability o f most o f Victoria's productive forests. .

“These issues and many others are surfacing throughout the RFA debate. The ACF believes that tile controversial nature o f the RFA Bill merits a proper and thorough Senate inquiry and that the entire Bill should be deferred for at least a year until enough data can be gathered to evaluate what the legislation will do to Australia's forests.

“The intensity o f conflict and emotion over forest disputes for the last two decades should be enough incentive for the Senate to make sure that the RFA Bill and RFA process, are acceptable to Australians. The manner with which the RFA Bill is being fast-tracked through the Senate, is not conducive towards an acceptable outcome.

“For the ACF to have been denied the opportunity to present this evidence is to be condemned. A failure to achieve broad stakeholder and public confidence in die RFA process, renders the objectives o f the RFAs in tatters and the money spent, wasted".

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The Regional Forest Agreement Bill 1998 removes virtually all significant Commonwealth powers to protect the environment and gives virtually complete control to the State forest agencies and their allies in the forest industry associations. ~

The RFA Bill will remove powers in the following manner: (direct quote from the Bill)

5 Certain Commonwealth Acts are not to apply in relation to RFA wood or RFA forestry operations

(1) RFA wood is not prescribed goods for the purposes o f the Export Control Act 1982. Note: The Export Control Act 1982 regulates die export o f "prescribed goods".

(2) An export control law does not apply to RFA wood unless it expressly refers to RFA wood. For this purpose, export control law means a provision o f a law o f die Commonwealth (other than die Export Control Act 1982) that prohibits or restricts exports, or has die effect o f prohibiting or restricting exports.

(3) The effect o f RFA forestry operations must be disregarded for the purposes o f the following: (a) section 30 o f the Australian Heritage Commission Act 1975; (b) approved procedures under section 6 of the Environment Protection Compact o f Proposals) Act 1974;

(c) section 11 o f the Environment Protection (Impact o f Proposals) Act 1974; (d) section 6 o f the World Heritage Properties Conservation Act 1983.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT ACF MEDIA OFFICER WAYNE SANDERSON ON: (07) 38461621 OR 0417 723 661.