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Thursday, 26 March 1987
Page: 1378

Senator WALTERS(12.33) —When the Minister for Veterans' Affairs says `no comment' it is very obvious that he has been caught-caught thoroughly by the desperate efforts of himself and his departmental advisers. They are passing him little bits of paper every now and again trying to get him out of the situation that the Government has got itself into over this memorandum of understanding, because--

Senator Gietzelt —Mr Chairman, I raise a point of order. Senator Walters is not dealing with the matter before the Chair.

Senator WALTERS —I am, Mr Chairman.

The CHAIRMAN —Order! The matter before the Chair is the change to the title of the Bill. Senator Walters is entitled to discuss it but she must relate her remarks to that subject.

Senator WALTERS —I am relating my remarks to the memorandum of understanding, Mr Chairman, which is the basis of the title of the Bill, because the Lemonthyme and Southern Forests are in this memorandum of understanding. Let me again quote to the Minister the relevant sections. Under the heading `Areas listed on the Register of the National Estate' it is stated:

Present National Estate areas have been categorised and will be dealt with according to the Appendix to this Memorandum.

As Senator Archer pointed out, one area deals with domestic stuff and one area deals with the need for export licences. The memorandum says very clearly, as Senator Archer said:

In respect of domestic timber operations, i.e. extractive timber operations which are not Forest Operations, MPI-

that is, the Minister for Primary Industry-

acknowledges that it will be for the State to decide the extent to which it would implement Commonwealth views on the protection of National Estate values.

It says that it will be for the State to decide. Further on in the memorandum we come to the appendix covering the areas dealt with. It says that export licences include the condition that:

Forestry Operations in the Lemonthyme will be in accordance with the Management Plan for the Lemonthyme State Forest 1983.

The Minister has just been passed another little bit of paper to try perhaps to get him out of his next jam. We have the three areas. We have the acknowledgment that the National Estate areas are to be dealt with according to the appendix. We have a statement to show that the Minister has no worry about the Lemonthyme Valley and that we can use it if we issue export licences for woodchips or whatever, so long as it is in accordance with the management plan. But as far as logging is concerned, which we are doing now, the memorandum says very clearly that it is nothing to do with the Commonwealth. Senator Archer rightly pointed out a couple of minutes ago that the memorandum of understanding that that lot opposite signed referred only to the decisions of the State. It even says that the Minister for Primary Industry acknowledges that `it will be for the State to decide' on domestic logging. What little bit of paper is the Minister being passed to try to get out of that one, I would be very interested to hear.

Senator McIntosh —Mr Chairman, I raise a point of order. This business about passing pieces of paper is getting to be tedious repetition. It is common practice in this place, and everyone knows it. Former Ministers from the other side were in the same position. It is getting tedious listening to this garbage.

The CHAIRMAN —Order! Senator McIntosh should not take points of order in those terms. There is no point of order.

Senator Newman —Is the Minister going to answer Senator Walters's question or is he not? Will he stand condemned by his silence?

The CHAIRMAN —Order! I call honourable senators as they stand. If they do not choose to stand they do not get called.

Senator WALTERS —The Minister, as I said, has obviously got a bit of advice from his advisers, and yet he is not even going to make an attempt to give any answer to the questions we have put.