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Thursday, 30 June 1994
Page: 2446

Senator GIBSON —My question is directed to the Minister for the Environment, Sport and Territories. I share Senator Murphy's outrage over the minister's statement concerning woodchips and World Heritage areas in Tasmania. How does the federal government propose to compensate the Tasmanian people for the actual and potential $335 million per year loss in export income that would result from his absurd proposal to phase out woodchipping by the year 2000? Furthermore, does the minister concede that plans to increase the size of the existing World Heritage area to include the so-called Tarkine would have an adverse impact on Tasmania's export oriented mining industry? Has the minister calculated the economic impact of both these ridiculous proposals, not only on Tasmania but also on the Australian economy?

Senator FAULKNER —In relation to the first part of Senator Gibson's question, I remind him that in the industry statement of 12 March 1991 the Prime Minister announced that it was an objective of the Commonwealth for Australia to phase out exports of woodchips by the year 2000 and replace them with value added products. That particular objective was reaffirmed in the communique issued during the Special Premiers Conference held in July 1991, which noted that state and federal governments share the objective of phasing out woodchip exports from native forests in favour of downstream processing of the resource—pulp and paper mills—by the year 2000, such projects being subject to environmental and economic assessments. It also noted that woodchip export approvals would be considered on a case by case basis with full regard to the objective that Australia achieves the fullest return from its forest resources.

  While not specifically referring to this policy, the national forest policy statement signed by the Commonwealth and all state and territory governments—with the exception of Tasmania—states that at present the Commonwealth government approves the export of unprocessed wood and woodchips from integrated harvesting operations and sawmill residues subject to controls aimed at ensuring that environmental values are protected, that the price obtained is consistent with prevailing world market prices, and that unprocessed wood is not exported if it is commercially feasible to process and add value to it in Australia.

  The most recent articulation of the government's position occurred in the second reading speech for the Forest Conservation and Development Bill 1992. I refer Senator Gibson to that if he is interested in following through on the matter.

  The government's position on the issue of woodchip exports is clear and accords with the stated position of state and territory governments. The government's policy seeks primarily to alter the destination of woodchips from being exported to being processed domestically and, in doing so, real social, economic and environmental benefits should be achieved.

  In relation to the second part of Senator Gibson's question, which went to the same matter raised in the earlier question I was asked in question time by Senator Murphy, I do not think I have anything further to add to the very extensive answer that I gave to Senator Murphy.

Senator GIBSON —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Again, Tasmania is sold short by the Australian Labor Party. Has not an investigation of possible World Heritage areas in Tasmania already been carried out by the federal government? Did that investigation recommend areas for World Heritage status, and was that action not taken? Are not the rest of Tasmanian forests, outside parks, being managed under sustainable yield for multiple use? Does the minister's environment statement, particularly as it applies to forests, have cabinet support and approval? Is it not true that the minister's statement in relation to forests has nothing to do with the environment, but is just a blatant attempt to curry favour with the armchair conservationists in Sydney and Melbourne?

Senator FAULKNER —I was interested, as I walked out the door of my office coming to question time, to be handed an extract from AAP, which included my name. Unfortunately, it was very disappointing to note that it was marked `Priority: Low'. In fact, it was a press conference by Mr Downer—my name was mentioned—and I am sure that that is why it was `Priority: Low'. In relation to the comments that I made on Tuesday, the AAP report stated:

Mr Downer said the opposition had not decided whether to support the proposals and wanted to study them and talk to state governments before announcing its position.

Senator Vanstone —What's the matter with that? It seems eminently sensible to me.

Senator FAULKNER —It is very typical—no policies and nothing to say. You snivelling hypocrite.

The PRESIDENT —Withdraw that comment, Senator Faulkner.

Senator Faulkner —Which comment?

The PRESIDENT —The comment, `snivelling hypocrite'.

Senator Faulkner —I withdraw the comment, `snivelling hypocrite'.