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Timber industry co-opts Heritage Commission



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Senator John Coulter Australian Democrats Leader

10 December 1992 ... ...... 92/6 l V

NEWS R E L E A S E

Timber industry co-opts Heritage Commission

The body designed to identify forests worthy of protection had been co-opted to the cause of the timber industry, Australian Democrats' leader Senator John Coulter said today.

He said staff at the Australian Heritage Commission were being discouraged from seeking to safeguard national estate forests.

"As a result of changed internal priorities the Australian Heritage Commission is being co-opted to the forestry cause," Senator Coulter said.

He said close collaboration between the Commission and state forestry agencies in Western Australia and Tasmania had lent a stamp of credibility to unsustainable logging of native forests.

Senator Coulter said the historic agreement between the Australian Heritage Commission and the Western Australian Government hatched in March this year, designed to bring peace to forests, was now worthless and set a dangerous precedent. (The Commonwealth has been encouraging all states to adopt the model.)

He called on Minister Kelly to terminate the, collaboration and establish open, independent methods of assessing suitable uses for forest regions.

"The operation of the Commission must be reviewed, its independence restored, and a culture of openness must replace the shroud of secrecy," Senator Coulter said.

He said a culture of secrecy had pervaded the regional assessments of forests with community groups being excluded. The Commission had stopped acting on community nominations of potential national estate areas. >

He called on the Minister to ensure that the Commission co-operated with public interest groups and fulfilled its obligation to protect this country's heritage.

Senator Coulter put a series of questions to the Minister in Parliament today about the Commission and is expecting an answer next week.

Contact: Senator Coulter or Jenni Mack 06 277 3646

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