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Western Australia: National Party releases its own forest policy calling for an end to clear-felling in old-growth forests.

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MARK COLVIN: The Liberal Party in Western Australia is coming under intense pressure, both from its own backbenchers and its coalition partners to change its policy on logging old-growth forests. Liberal MPs are attending a two-day talk-fest where backbenchers are planning to demand an end to old-growth logging. Now the National Party has released its own forest policy, calling for an end to clear-felling in old-growth forests. And to add to the Liberal Party’s problems, fashion designer and Liberal donor Liz Davenport appeared in a south-west court to defend a charge of preventing logging after a protest earlier in the week. Lisa Stingel reports.


LISA STINGEL: While the parliamentary Liberal Party is meeting south of Perth with logging concerns high on the agenda, the Liberals’ coalition partner, the National Party, has added fuel to the debate, releasing its own forest policy. Party director, Jamie Kronborg (?).


JAMIE KRONBORG: There’s got to be a rapid phase-out of clear-felling in old-growth forests. There’s got to be a rapid transition away from old-growth forests as a source of chip logs and, of course, the forest estate that’s available in regrowth forests and plantations is the one that we’ve got to target. So we’ve got to make sure that those regrowth forests - and of course, the plantation forests - are being managed in a sustainable way to ensure that that transition can take place. But we just cannot continue to rely any longer on old-growth forest as the principal source of timber.


LISA STINGEL: The Nationals believe that unless the timber industry shifts its reliance on old growth forests the industry won’t exist in 10 years. Jamie Kronborg says research shows that current levels of logging are not sustainable.


JAMIE KRONBORG: It is highly probable that  most of those old-growth forests that are available for logging will have been mostly cut over within the next 10 years or so. That’s not going to sustain the timber industry in perpetuity, so we’ve got to approach it, I think, in a much smarter way.


LISA STINGEL: In calling for an end to clear-felling in old-growth forests, do you risk alienating your elector base?


JAMIE KRONBORG: No, I don’t believe so because there’s a great deal of concern in our constituency about some of the logging practices that are taking place in the forest. I think everyone recognises that this is not simply an argument, a black and white argument about whether we should log or whether we shouldn’t. So our constituency is sending those signals to us quite clearly, that they agree that we’ve just got to ease back and say: let’s have a look at it again, a fresh look, and look at those steps that can be taken that will ensure that we have sustainable forest management in Western Australia.


LISA STINGEL: The National Party is also at odds with the Liberal Party over the operation of the Department of Conservation and Land Management which overseas both forest protection and logging. Jamie Kronborg says the department should be split immediately.


JAMIE KRONBORG: There’s an inherent conflict of interest. It’s charged on the one hand with being responsible for conservation in forest areas, and it’s charged on the other with being responsible for forest harvesting. That conflict of interest, in our views, extends right to the ministerial level where the current minister for environment - and it’s not her fault; it’s the structure of the system at the moment - the current minister for the environment who is responsible for CALM, so she’s responsible for harvesting, she’s responsible for conservation, is also responsible for the watchdog, and that’s the Environmental Protection Authority, and we believe that that’s an untenable position.


LISA STINGEL: And it’s not just the National Party demanding change. At Dunsborough south of Perth, Liberal Party backbenchers are attending a two-day policy meeting where they’re seeking an end to logging in old-growth forests - MP Barbara Scott.


BARBARA SCOTT: The backbench reflects the community. I believe it’s widespread in the community and I believe a similar number of backbenchers would hold that view that would reflect a similar proportion of the community. I think it is one that many people are very concerned about right now and I believe it will be reflected in the way people vote.


LISA STINGEL: Also in the south west, fashion designer Liz Davenport was confronted by forest workers as she attended court, charged with preventing logging during a protest.


UNIDENTIFIED LOGGER: What would you know? You draw clothes. You don’t know logging, lady. So they cut some trees down; they replant it. Come down here, spruik on about something you don’t even know about, lady.


LIZ DAVENPORT: All people want is that old-growth forest is no logged. So if there is anything that I can do to assist with your message, then I am very, very happy to do that.


MARK COLVIN: Fashion designer and Liberal Party donor, Liz Davenport, ending Lisa Stingel’s report.