|Title||REGIONAL FOREST AGREEMENTS BILL 1998
|Speaker||Brown, Sen Bob
Senator BROWN (10:38 AM) âby leaveâI move Australian Greens amendments (2), (3) and (7) on sheet 1265:
(2) Clause 3, page 2 (line 23), after "agreement", insert "entered into in accordance with section 4B".
(3) Clause 3, page 2 (line 25), omit "was entered into having", substitute "has".
(7) Page 3 (after line 30), after clause 4, insert:
4B Parliamentary scrutiny of RFAs
(1) Subject to section 4A, the Minister must not enter into an RFA on behalf of the Commonwealth except in accordance with this section.
(2) Before signing an RFA on behalf of the Commonwealth, the Minister must cause a copy of the proposed RFA to be tabled in each House of the Parliament.
(3) Either House of the Parliament, within 15 sitting days of that House after the proposed RFA has been tabled, may, under motion upon notice, pass a resolution disapproving of the proposed RFA in whole or in part.
(a) a notice referred to in subsection (3) is given with respect to a proposed RFA; and
(b) at the expiration of the period during which a resolution disapproving of the proposed RFA would have been passed:
(i) the notice has not been withdrawn and the relevant motion has not been called on; or
(ii) the relevant motion has been called on, moved and seconded and has not been withdrawn or otherwise disposed of;
the proposed RFA is deemed to have been disapproved of.
(a) either House of the Parliament passes a resolution in accordance with subsection (3); or
(b) the proposed RFA is deemed to have been disapproved of under subsection (4);
the Minister must not enter into the proposed RFA on behalf of the Commonwealth.
(a) neither House of the Parliament passes a resolution in accordance with subsection (3); and
(b) the proposed RFA is not deemed to have been disapproved of under subsection (4);
the Minister may inter into the RFA on behalf of the Commonwealth on or after the day immediately following the last day on which a resolution disapproving of the proposed RFA could have been passed.
(7) In this section:
RFA includes an amended RFA.
Moving these amendments together, I think, will facilitate the accelerated passage of this legislation, which the parliamentary secretary, by her sheer silence, obviously wants. I recommend these amendments to the chamber because we are here to ensure that, where millions of dollars of taxpayers' money are involved and where the national heritage is involved, the parliament must always itself be involved. For us not to ensure that is to abrogate our responsibilities as senators.
Under the government's legislation, regional forest agreements, as you will know, Mr Temporary Chairman Hogg, are signed between a prime minister and a premier but are not brought before this parliament. I reiterate that hundreds of millions of dollars have gone into this process, and money will continue to flow. It is derelict for the parliament not to ensure that it has scrutiny of the regional forest agreements. You will also be aware that there are opposition amendments to have just some regional forest agreements brought before the parliament for scrutiny. I am proposing here that all of them be brought before the parliament for scrutiny. Let us not have any difference between Tasmania and East Gippsland, which under the Labor amendments will not have their RFAs scruti nised, and Western Australia, New South Wales and parts of Victoria, which will have regional forest agreements scrutinised.
I expect, of course, that the opposition will give an explanation as to why there is this double standard. But I can assure you that in Tasmania, where the majority of people do not want woodchipping of our wild forests to continueâand that includes woodchipping of world heritage value forests, the largest temperate rainforests in Australiaâthere will be a sense of the national parliament treating Tasmanians as second-class citizens if we are not to have the opportunity for parliamentary scrutiny of the Regional Forest Agreement, which impacts more on our state per head of population and per hectare than on any other state in the Commonwealth.
So the Labor Party is coming only halfway on this, and, let us be frank, that is because of the influence of Labor senators from Tasmania to have it cut out. The Tasmanian Labor Party has an abhorrent record of putting itself at the service of the big out-of-state woodchip corporations, leading to the regional forest agreements. We are seeing the most rapid rate of destruction of wild forests in Tasmanian history with the export of jobsâthe big woodchip piles, and indeed the piles of logs on Burnie wharf, attest to the export of jobs going on down thereâand the export of profits by companies like North and Boral, which have their shareholders not in Tasmania but elsewhere in the country and around the world.
The parliamentary secretary talks about regional consultation and that it is her business to make sure that regional communities are taken into account. How come the whole of Tasmania is being dumped by the government in this situation, where there is an agreement signed outside of parliament and the government saying, `We won't allow parliamentary scrutiny.' Is that looking after the interests of regional Australia? Of course it is not. It is dumping the interests of regional Australia and handing them across to the boardrooms in St Kilda Road and/or in Tokyoâthe breakfast room at the Imperial Hotel in downtown Tokyo, where the representatives of the woodchip corporations go each year to be told how much or how little they are going to get for woodchips out of Tasmania's native forests. They go, tugging their forelocks, and come home with their new price, without the Tasmanian government, the Labor Party in Tasmania, even being involved in that process. What the Greens are doing here is pushing to ensure that at least the democratic process is brought into play for an important public resource of enormous public concern in Tasmania.
I cannot understand why the government believes it can get away with the idea of caring for regional and rural Australia but dumping it in favour of the woodchip corporations in this way. I have explained the dynamics, but I cannot understandâand I will be interested to hear from Senator Forshaw or any of the other Labor senatorsâwhy Tasmania and why East Gippsland should be dumped out of this process. Their regional forest agreements are not for parliamentary scrutiny but there is parliamentary scrutiny for the rest. Why this double standard?