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Wednesday, 24 August 1983
Page: 145

Mr MILTON(10.45) —Before I comment on this rather ludicrous debate I shall refer to one or two of the points raised by the honourable member for Braddon (Mr Groom). First of all, he referred to the Zeehan to Strahan road. The Commonwealth is funding part of its construction, and that is being done at the express request of the Tasmanian Government. He also talked about the $30m allocated in the Budget for employment creation. That $30m is for employment creation only-other claims by Tasmania must first be detailed by the State. He mentioned the Wynyard Airport. Let me point out that the Wynyard Airport has only been deferred, because other projects are more pressing. It has not been abandoned, as the honourable member for Braddon claimed.

He made mention of the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) not having been to Hobart or to Queenstown or Strahan. The Prime Minister is going there. Honourable members should realise that his first commitment has been to the Budget and because of that he has been unable to get down there. He has the South Pacific Forum next week and as soon as that is over he will be going to Hobart, Queenstown and Strahan. That will be next week.

This debate is absolutely ludicrous. It is ridiculous to claim that the Government has failed to provide just compensation for Tasmania because the Gordon below Franklin Dam is not to go ahead. The Tasmanian Premier has claimed $3,500m in compensation. Let us look at that. He claims $3,000m to cover the difference between generation electricity by thermal means and hydroelectric generation over the anticipated 60 year life of the cancelled project; $385m to provide a similar generating capacity to that of the cancelled project; and $60m for reimbursement of costs already incurred on the Gordon below Franklin scheme- that is despite the fact that we told him to wait until there had been more discussion between the Federal and Tasmanian governments. He went ahead with it spending money as though it was water.

I have visited the area on three occasions, so I do know something of what I am talking about. It is true that I was not able to spend as much time there as I would have liked; nevertheless, I did see the desecration that was occurring from Warner's Landing down the Crotty Road. They were just tearing through the undergrowth, getting rid of the beauty of the area, including the beautiful trees. They did not care about those things. The honourable member for Braddon tries to interject. He mentioned the fact that he represents the workers in that area. When I was there I discovered that many of those people are itinerant workers; they come from other parts of Tasmania and not necessarily from his electorate. All they want are jobs. That is what they are interested in; they are not interested in the dam for the dam's sake.

The Premier called for $500m from the previous Government for compensation for the halting of the scheme. Why this sudden escalation? It is a seven-fold increase in seven months. The Premier has pulled the figures out of the air. His attitude towards the Gordon below Franklin Dam has always been one of political expediency, in the same way that it is for the members of this House who represent Tasmania. The Premier has never made any attempt to look at the proposal in a realistic manner. Instead he has concentrated on playing on the emotions of the Tasmanian people. Figures with no real meaning are bandied around. There are no constructive ideas about the future direction of the manufacturing and tourist industries, which have the potential to provide huge increases in employment opportunities for Tasmania. All the Premier and his Government are concerned about is holding government at all costs.

When I was in Tasmania, only a few months ago, I had the opportunity, along with other members of the Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation, I was an observer, to attend a meeting with the commissioners in the Hydro- Electric Commission offices. One of the things we asked them was to give us some indication of why they thought they needed this increased electricity capacity. Amongst other things, they told us that they had sent out a survey to all the big users of electricity asking them what their electricity requirements would be for the year 2000. Naturally the figures which came back indicated that huge increases were necessary. I put it to honourable members that the reason the hydro-electric commissioners made that request to those big users of electricity was that they knew the answer they would provide, and they provided that answer. I for one was not at all convinced that that electric power was needed--

Mr Newman —What was the growth rate?

Mr MILTON —I do not have time to go into the figures now; I have been given only 10 minutes to speak on this item. What happened to the offer by the Victorian Government to provide cheap electricity by marine cable to Tasmania. What did the Premier do? The Premier of Tasmania just dismissed it out of hand. He is not prepared to co-operate with other States. He is interested only in trying to make political capital out of this situation. The Federal Government has said that it is prepared to talk to the Tasmanian Government about the compensation schemes. We are still talking. It is totally false to claim in this House that the Government has failed to provide just compensation when the discussions are continuing.

The tourist industry in particular has a great potential for growth. The Federal Government expected that the Tasmanian Government would have provided by now a management plan for the western Tasmanian wilderness national parks. There should be at least 50 rangers by Christmas. But where is a State government plan for such employment? On the contrary, there are continuous newspaper reports that vandals are threatening to burn out the world heritage area next summer. I will quote from a newspaper report about the sort of thing that is happening in Tasmania and which is being encouraged by the Premier and the members representing Tasmania on the other side of the House. The report states:

Despite a High Court ruling confirming the protection of South-West Tasmania's World Heritage area, an enormous 3,000-year-old Huon pine tree beside the Gordon River has been doused with oil, burnt and cut up.

All that remains of one of the world's most ancient trees, is less than a metre of charred stump and some smashed trunk nearby.

The tree, which was given wide publicity during the Franklin blockade, stood at Warner's Landing outside the perimeter of the Hydro-Electric Commission works area opposite the Sir John Falls, at the turning point of river cruises up the river.

These ruffians are being encouraged by the Premier. Dr Bob Brown-I am sure honourable members know Dr Bob Brown, the Director of the Tasmanian Wilderness Society-has revealed that some of these people are threatening to dynamite Kutakina Cave. That cave is one of the six best archaeological limestone cave sites in the western Pacific. The value of these caves has been acclaimed by eminent experts from all over the world. It is worth reading about these things because these sorts of claims are being completely ignored by the members on the other side of the House. It beats me that the member for Braddon says that he represents such an area, yet he has never made mention of these things in this House. The cave is 10 metres above the present level of the Franklin River. Its mouth is about 12 metres wide and opens in to a spacious, well-lit entrance chamber. A small pilot excavation in this chamber shows that it is one of the richest prehistoric sites ever found in Australia. This is the cave that these ruffians are threatening to destroy.

There has been a deafening silence from the Tasmanian Government about the richness and tourist potential of this area. Yet this area was nominated by the Tasmanian Government as a world heritage area. It seems to me that honourable members on the other side of the House should be reminded of what the Tasmanian Government had to say about the area. It referred to the area as comprising:

. . . most of the last great temperate wilderness remaining in Australia and one of the last remaining in the world.

The nomination claimed that the region satisfied all four criteria required for the nomination to the World Heritage List. It claimed that it had many geological sites of local, State, national and international significance and unique, rare and superb natural features and area of exceptional natural beauty. I wish I could go on. The Opposition seems to be blissfully unaware of these matters. The Opposition came into this House with a ridiculous assertion about the Government which is plainly not true. In my view, this matter of public importance is one of the most nonsensical in which I have ever had the misfortune to have to take part.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! The discussion is concluded.