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Tropical forestry initiative

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PIE89/120C 27 April 1989


The Minister for Resources, Senator Peter Cook, today announced that he would convene a meeting at which trade union, conservation, timber industry, and state government representatives could discuss constructive Australian

initiatives towards solving the problems caused by deforestation in tropical countries.

"I have today written to my colleagues, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Senator Evans, and the Minister for the Environment, Senator Richardson, informing them of my decision," Senator Cook said.

Senator Cook welcomed the proposal by the National Association of Forest Industries (NAFI) that the problem of increasing deforestation in tropical countries need to be addressed.

"This is a problem of global proportions.

"Within my portfolio I have been contemplating for some time possible directions which Australia might take to help address the overall question of tropical rainforest loss.

"It is a question I raised at the national conference of the Australian Conservation conference in October last year.

"In February this year I had preliminary discussions on the issue with the Indonesian Minister for Forests, Mr Harahup," Senator Cook said

"I broached the matter with my state colleagues at the recent meeting of the Australian Forestry Council in New Zealand"

Senator Cook said the time was now ripe to convene a meeting of representatives of the ACTU, the ACF, NAFI and state governments to discuss constructive initiatives.

"One avenue I have in mind is to raise the question of standards for sustainable management priorities and environmental protection for tropical forestry at the next meeting of the International Tropical Timber Organisation in May.

MI am convinced Australia can make considerable progress towards self-sufficiency in wood products through a plantation strategy and judicious use of existing forest resources," Senator Cook said.

"I note however that our timber imports are increasing and that the gap between supply and demand may well blow out further before such a strategy takes effect.

"Some may consider that proposals for the banning of logging in Australia constitutes the only answer without realising that this simply transfers the issue to countries overseas which may be far less well placed to bear the burden," Senator Cook said.

"This point will be an item on our meetings agenda," he said.

"The sourcing of Australian timber and paper demand is something that is ideally done from within Australia. We have to achieve it while protecting our environment in a balanced way - it is not an easy task."

CONTACT: Dominic Nagle (062) 77 7480