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Wednesday, 19 August 2009
Page: 5367


Senator IAN MACDONALD (12:07 PM) —I indicate that the coalition will be opposing Senator Milne’s amendments. Amongst other things, if the amendments were passed, I am advised they would destroy many, many jobs. Given the particular state of our economy, that is the last thing we want to do. Senator Milne demonstrates why the Greens will continue to be an irrelevancy in the political scene in Australia. Their inconsistency and hypocrisy are seen by most Australians, and indeed voting results in recent elections—the Queensland state election, for example—clearly show that the vote of the Greens political party has fallen quite substantially. They have lost seats at recent federal elections and have not—


Senator Milne —Mr Temporary Chairman, I rise on a point of order on relevance. We are debating an amendment to take the logging and burning of native forests out of the renewable energy target. Senator Macdonald is straying into an analysis of election results, which I do not see as having any relevance to a renewable energy target and a government decision to log native forest—apart from being totally wrong, of course.


The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Senator Bernardi)—Thank you, Senator Milne. I did indicate that there would be a wide range of interpretation given to relevance. I think that Senator Macdonald is being relevant.


Senator IAN MACDONALD —I have been speaking for 1½ minutes of my 15 minutes in relation to this amendment, and I was simply indicating the Greens were a political irrelevancy because of their inconsistency on many issues, including this one.

I want to address the particular comments made by Senator Milne on the amendment. There is in Australia a very good sawlog industry. It is an industry that does employ a lot of people, but it also provides a valuable resource of carbon storage for Australia. Our sawlog industry is one of the most sustainable in the world and it is an industry that assists in construction within Australia. If we did not have a sawlog industry like this within Australia, we would be importing all of our sawlogs from places overseas that have an awful record of dealing with their forests. They deal with them in unsustainable ways, whereas the Australian forests are very sustainable. In fact, they are amongst the most sustainable forests in the world.


Senator Milne —Seventeen species on the endangered species list is a brilliant record!


Senator IAN MACDONALD —Senator Milne, I did not quite hear the interjection, but it is typical of the Greens: destroy the forest industries at all costs. It has been the thing that spawned and converted the Greens from the old very ultra left-wing Communist Party of Australia into a Greens party. Here was a way they could perhaps do what the old communists used to do: destroy industries and jobs by using the veneer of an environmental approach.

As I was saying before I was interrupted, we have a sawlog industry that is sustainable. It is very, very useful. Of course, if you do not use logs in construction, what do you use, Senator Milne? Steel? Concrete? Those sorts of resources, rather than a renewable resource like timber? I talked about hypocrisy before. The Greens would have us build everything with cement and steel rather than renewable timber.

There is a very good, very sustainable job-creating sawlog industry in Australia. When you saw a log, you have waste: there are leaves, there are branches, there is bark. There is a lot of the tree that cannot exist in the sawlog that is being created. What do you do with that? Let it rot on the ground?


Senator Boswell —No, you bury it!


Senator IAN MACDONALD —Sorry?


Senator Boswell —The Greens would want you to bury it!


Senator IAN MACDONALD —Bury it? I accept that some of that is needed for the ecology. Some little lizards do like living in those sorts of things, I understand that. But it is a resource. It is there, it is the waste product from a sawlog industry. It should be able to be used as part of a renewable resource, a renewable electricity-generating activity. I can never quite understand the Greens’ opposition to this. We have, for a long period of time now, accepted that waste product from sawlogs can be used to create energy, and that should continue. That is one of the reasons the coalition will not be supporting this amendment.

In fact there are many calls for the facilitation of and an increase in the use of wood waste for the creation of electricity. It is a renewable resource; it will grow again and it has grown again. If you look at the forests around Australia, in many cases they have been logged for sawlogs for over 100 years and those forests are still magnificent. Compare that with the forests in Victoria that were decimated in those horrific bushfires earlier this year. One of the reasons that the bushfires were so intense was that pressure from people like the Greens political party had stopped the proper management of fuel in those forests. Because fuel could not be managed as it should have been, those fires were more intense and more destructive than would have otherwise been the case. The number of trees in the forests that were destroyed in the bushfires as a result of bad management of the forests—that is, not being able to manage fuel—is just mind-boggling.

If the Greens want to talk about the destruction of forests in Australia, perhaps they could give us a bit of a lecture on what happens when those intense fires go through the native forest and the intensity increases because people like the Greens political party will not allow proper management of the fuel and the understorey system. I might also say that, in the days when these forests were sustainably managed, you had on the spot a workforce of trained, experienced people who watched out for fires and who, at the first indication of a fire, had a team of people, trucks and equipment there to put the fires out. Unfortunately those days are long gone because logging is not allowed in most Australian native forests now.

In the old days, there were logging tracks through the forests. They were there to enable the selective logging of timber and for the timber to be hauled out. They provided egress and ingress for the industry’s vehicles. But they also had a very important role in firefighting. If fires were around, there were trained people able to use these tracks to get in and deal with the fires straight away. Yet the Greens have succeeded in persuading governments—I might say mainly Labor governments, although one or two coalition governments have been confused or conned by the Greens into thinking they would get preferences if they shut the forests down or created some reserves—to shut down many native forests. It has never worked, although I am pleased to say the Labor Party has now realised that you cannot keep shutting down these sustainable forests.

But when you do have sustainable forestry, as we do in Australia, there is wood waste which should be used for creation of renewable energy, amongst other things. For that reason, amongst other reasons, and because of the job-destroying nature of these amendments, the coalition will be opposing the Greens’ amendment.