Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Woodchipping on south coast of New South Wales: Minister's comments on moratorium.

PETER THOMPSON: And now, the latest conservation battle in Canberra. The Federal Environment Minister, Senator Graham Richardson, has been at odds with his Cabinet colleagues over woodchipping at Eden on the south coast of New South Wales. The Primary Industry Minister, John Kerin, sees no need to give greater protection to the Eden forests. In a compromise, Senator Richardson has imposed a six-week moratorium on logging in the forest areas while the need for further protection is considered. Gordon Taylor is speaking now to Senator Richardson in Hobart.

GORDON TAYLOR: Minister, you've placed a six-week moratorium on the woodchipping of two areas of forest near Eden while an important document, which was overlooked, is considered. But Primary Industry Minister, Mr John Kerin, said on this program that all the information in the report has been available for a long time and that there was no need to reopen investigations. Who is correct, you or Mr Kerin?

GRAHAM RICHARDSON: The first thing to note is that I haven't put a six-week moratorium on logging in those areas. The fact that there is a six-weeks moratorium is the result of Senator Cook discussing with the New South Wales Government my advice and then, of course, leaving for overseas so that it can be considered during that six weeks in his absence. My advice actually said that there should be no logging in some of the key areas, that is those areas listed on the National Estate or proposed for it. There should be no logging in them until a proper survey is done of the areas that are not on that list so that we can find out what resource is in them.

GORDON TAYLOR: But Mr Kerin has said that as many surveys as need to be done have been done; there was no need for further surveys to be done.

GRAHAM RICHARDSON: I don't think that Mr Kerin has quite said that. What he said was that he didn't believe there was anything new enough in the information from the New South Wales Government to change my advice. Now, in fact, in spite of what's been written about my advice in naming the areas, being specific about them - that is the Coolangubra, Egan Peaks and Yowaka - I've simply specifically named those areas that were on the list or proposed for the list - so that wasn't the change - and in terms of the six-month period for a survey of the forests, all I am doing is saying that no one, no department, State or Federal, can actually tell us what resource is available. Now, I don't believe we should be making a decision to go into some sensitive areas without that information.

GORDON TAYLOR: You say six months is needed, and yet there's only a six-week moratorium. Isn't there a conflict there?

GRAHAM RICHARDSON: Well, I think that there's a six-week moratorium while the New South Wales Government consider that position. I asked that their departments of Forestry and Environment jointly conduct the resource survey that I've just spoken of, and I hope that what's happening is the New South Wales Government are considering that position.

It's got to be remembered that the New South Wales Government and the industry can enter and log any of those areas any time they like if they do it just for sawlogging, so it is not as if the Commonwealth has, in any event, got the power to prevent logging in those areas.

GORDON TAYLOR: Senator, the document not taken into account is on the adequacy of nature reserves in the area, and your Department's environmental assessment report to you, in early December, acknowledges the existence of the report but specifically says no written report was available. And yet my information is that one of your departmental officers had the report some months earlier. Does it concern you that one of your officers may have been withholding information from you?

GRAHAM RICHARDSON: I don't think it would be a case of withholding information. If what you say is true, it's more than likely the case that the information was overlooked. I think, in any event, it hadn't been drawn to my attention and I was the one who was supposed to be making a decision.

GORDON TAYLOR: Does it surprise you that such important information could have been overlooked?

GRAHAM RICHARDSON: It would be disappointing if what you say is true. I am not sure that you are right, though.

GORDON TAYLOR: Okay. Thank you very much, Senator Richardson.

GRAHAM RICHARDSON: Thanks very much.

PETER THOMPSON: The Federal Environment Minister, Senator Graham Richardson, with Gordon Taylor.