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Wednesday, 19 August 2009
Page: 5436

Senator ABETZ (4:28 PM) —If I may make a very brief contribution in relation to this. Senator Brown continually raises the issue and misrepresents the situation in relation to the potential of a pulp mill in Tasmania. It is quite clear from all the plans et cetera that within a matter of years the full resource that will be used by the mill will come from plantations. If Senator Brown understood the renewable energy legislation he would know that section 17(e) does refer to black liquor as a renewable energy resource.

In relation to wood waste from native forests, given the test that Minister Wong has just read out, I would have thought it makes good sense that this waste be put to a use. It is a good thing. No matter how you use a tree, just as long as you replant it after harvesting, it is a renewable resource. It is a cycle that we can sensibly use and harvest for human resources. I have said on odd occasions before that if I were a beaver the Greens would allow me to chop down trees and dam rivers to enhance my personal habitat, because that is what beavers do. But as I am a human being, I am not allowed to dam rivers or chop down trees to enhance my habitat and my lifestyle. I have news for Senator Brown and the Greens: humans are in fact part of nature and from day 1 we have been using water resources and timber resources. The test is: do we use them sensibly and sustainably?

Because so much of Tasmania is now locked up in reserves, in World Heritage areas and in national parks, there is the requirement that our timber production come from plantations. I recall a former Leader of the Tasmanian Greens in the Tasmanian parliament championing the cause of tree plantations on fertile agricultural soils and seeking tax incentives for those plantations. That former Leader of the Tasmanian Greens is now the Deputy Leader of the Australian Greens in this place, conveniently forgetting all her arguments of about a decade ago. I remind the Australian Greens that timber is a genuine renewable resource.

I am going to leave the debate for a short period of time, unfortunately, because of another commitment. I indicate for the benefit of senators that all the opposition amendments on the running sheet will be withdrawn, other than the one standing in the name of Senator Ron Boswell, which will be moved by him. I will be giving an explanation for this at a later stage of the debate, but am telling the Senate now so that honourable senators can get a handle on how the debate might go.

The reason for the withdrawal of our amendments is that the negotiations that I hinted at in my contribution on the second reading have been largely successful. I welcome the government’s attitude to the opposition’s suggestions. It is always very difficult to put a numerical figure on it, but in general terms the opposition got about 80 per cent of what it asked for, especially in relation to decoupling—that was vitally important. We have indicated that we will be moving a separate private members bill to give expression to our views in relation to emerging renewable technologies. Although Senator Xenophon’s amendment, and I will talk in greater detail about that, had some attraction, we will not be supporting it. We will be discussing that further, I am sure. So, the opposition will be withdrawing all its amendments other than the one in relation to food processing, because we have been able to come to a good arrangement with the government. I understand that the minister will be reading certain words and commitments into Hansard. It is on that basis that I give that indication.