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Tuesday, 21 May 1985
Page: 2209

Senator CHIPP —I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Arts, Heritage and Environment: Is it true that three export woodchip licences operating out of Tasmania are due to expire at the end of 1988 and that the Government is awaiting a final environmental impact statement into the overall impact of the industry? What steps, independent of the EIS, will the Federal Government take to assess prudent and feasible alternatives to woodchipping operations on the National Estate? If, as seems highly likely, the final environmental impact statement fails to provide a proper basis for a decision on whether or not to provide woodchip export licences after 1988 and under what conditions, will the Government consider holding a public inquiry under the Environment Protection Act into this matter of national importance?

Senator RYAN —I can give Senator Chipp some information in answer to the questions he asks. It is true that the Government is waiting for a final environmental impact statement on woodchipping in Tasmania and that export licences are due to expire at the end of 1988. A draft environmental impact statement on this subject is now in the hands of the Department of Arts, Heritage and Environment. A period of public comment, as required by the Act, concluded on 15 May, after having been extended for three weeks by the Minister at the request of conservationists. Hundreds of submissions were received and all will obviously take some time to assess. The EIS will be redrafted by the proponents, again, as required by the Act, taking into account the public's comments.

A final EIS will then be considered by the Department and the Minister and a decision made as to whether it forms an adequate basis for Commonwealth decision. This process is likely to take some time given the large number of substantial submissions. Any speculation about what the Government may or may not do if the EIS does not meet the requirements under the Act would be premature and would pre-empt the outcome of an established statutory process. However, I say in conclusion that I was just advised by the Leader of the Government in the Senate that he and the Minister for Primary Industry, Mr John Kerin, also have this matter under review.