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Cabinet's decision to ensure resource security for the timber industry is seen as a disaster for the environment movement

PAUL MURPHY: Well, as we've heard, the environment movement is facing its biggest challenge after Federal Cabinet's decision to offer the timber industry resource security legislation, and it's put the Hawke Government on a collision course with conservationists and also angered the party's Left Wing. The Director of the Australian Conservation Foundation, Phillip Toyne, who's enjoyed a close working relationship with Bob Hawke, has accused him of going back on his word. Greenpeace has pulled out of the Government's consultative groups on the environment, while in Tasmania, as we've also heard over the past two nights and on A.M. this morning, the Green Independents continue their threat to topple the Field Labor Government. Anne McCaig prepared this report for P.M.

ANNE McCAIG: Since the election, the Federal Government has become less green, even though former Environment Minister and powerful Right Wing numbers man, Graham Richardson, said that the Greens had won Labor the poll. Despite the Government's gradual move away from the Greens, the conservation movement continued to have a reasonably close relationship with key Ministers, including Prime Minister Bob Hawke. This week that was shattered. Although there's been no official announcement of Federal Government's decision on the demand by the timber industry for secure access to the nation's forests backed by legislation, it now seems clear that the industry has won.

The National Association of Forest Industries has welcomed the Government's shift away from the conservationists, describing the Cabinet package as a reflection of changing attitudes. It's the signal long sought not only by the foresters, but other industries. But for the environment movement, it's a disaster, and they're rethinking their political strategy. The decision drew an angry response from the Director of the Australian Conservation Foundation, Phillip Toyne, who's worked closely with Prime Minister Bob Hawke. Mr Toyne indicated he felt betrayed, and said all bets were off as far as support from his group for Labor at the next election.

PHILLIP TOYNE: All I'm saying is that I would think that decisions such as the one we've seen taken by the Cabinet, make it less and less likely that the ACF or the Wilderness Society would be willing to be seen to be endorsing parties of this sort.

ANNE McCAIG: Mr Toyne predicts enormous repercussions within the Labor Party, and there are indications of this happening already. The Left Wing faction met this afternoon in Canberra, and condemned the Cabinet decision, calling it a breach of faith with the conservation movement. Left Wing MPs also privately see the decision as a potential catalyst for a leadership challenge by Paul Keating. Mr Keating had fought against the resource security legislation. For groups like the Wilderness Society and Greenpeace, it's time to go back to their constituents and re-examine political strategies. Paul Gilding from Greenpeace.

PAUL GILDING: And what we're saying is that we now have a clear direction from the Labor Government, and it's some way different to our direction. So, we'll now put our resources into opposing everything they stand for.

REPORTER: Are you saying you're going to take your bat and ball and go and play ...

PAUL GILDING: We're going back to play the game that got us where we are now. The game that we played was to motivate the public, to incite the public to be involved in politics and to get active and demand decent representation at the Federal level.

PAUL MURPHY: Paul Gilding from Greenpeace.