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Tasmania: Democrats Senator wants Federal Court to stop logging in parts of Wielangta Forest.

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Monday 30 May 2005

Tasmania: Democrats Senator wants Federal Court to stop logging in parts of Wielangta Forest


MARK COLVIN: Tasmania's forestry battle is headed for the c ourts, in a case which conservationists say will be a landmark test of Australia's environmental laws. 


Heading the push is the Greens leader Bob Brown, who's personally funding the case in Hobart's Federal Court. 


Mr Brown this afternoon lodged an injunction calling on the court to stop logging in one of Tasmania's east coast forests. He says the case invokes comparisons with the 1980s battle to save the Franklin River.  


But as Tim Jeanes reports, the move has drawn a vitriolic attack from unionists, who say that Mr Brown is threatening a newfound accord over the forests issue. 


PAUL LENNON: I hope that this is the end of the conflict. 


TIM JEANES: That was Tasmanian Premier Paul Lennon two weeks ago, together with John Howard, announcing hopes the local forestry conflict would end under a new Federal/State agreement. 


Well it hasn't taken long for the Greens to spoil the party, with national leader Bob Brown this afternoon taking the battle to the courts. 


Senator Brown is asking the Federal court to stop Forestry Tasmania from logging parts of the Wielangta Forest. 


BOB BROWN: This is a watershed of the nation's overarching environmental legislation. Is it going to protect rare and endangered species in Tasmania and elsewhere around the country, or is it fatally flawed? 


TIM JEANES: Mr Brown says species threatened in the forest include the extremely rare Wielangta stag beetle, the swift parrot, Tasmania's wedge-tail eagle and the tiger quoll. 


He says today's action has some similarities to the 1980s legal fight to save Tasmania's Franklin River from being dammed. 


BOB BROWN: Well the Franklin River was a test in the High Court, really a constitutional test. But it echoes the Franklin case in that we're testing a seminal piece of legislation.  


We have to ask ourselves if the nation's environmental law is going to allow processes which enhance the potential extinction of great creatures, where are we as a nation? And deforestation is one of, if not the most potent extincter of animals. It's no different in Tasmania to elsewhere. 


TIM JEANES: A Forestry Tasmania representative has been unavailable for comment this afternoon however, it's issued a statement says more than 1,300 hectares has been added to the area of forest in question under the new Federal/State agreement. 


The Tasmanian Government is dismissing the court action as a publicity stunt. 


Today's move has drawn an angry response from unionists, such as Michael O'Connor from the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union. 


MICHAEL O'CONNOR: Anything that is an attack on industry certainly doesn't help employment, doesn't help the stress levels of workers and communities that rely on the timber industry.  


Now Bob Brown doesn't seem to be interested in long-term solutions, trying to do things in a spirit of co-operation and a spirit of compromise which certainly the timber communities and timber workers and union have been involved in.  


He's not interested in that. He's interested in conflict. He's into the old ways. He's an old time politician. He's an old man who seems to want conflict and fighting rather than dialogue, debate and bring things forward. 


MARK COLVIN: Unionist Michael O'Connor in that report from Tim Jeanes.