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Wednesday, 25 March 1987
Page: 1340

Senator ARCHER(6.36) —The Lemonthyme and Southern Forests (Commission of Inquiry) Bill 1987 is surely one of the most cynical Bills that has even been before this Parliament. It demonstrates how this Government is prepared to behave, and particularly how the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) will behave. It defies the Constitution, convention and common sense. Its sole purpose is to appease the crazy, off-the-cuff commitments of one man. It contravenes the memorandum of understanding and defies any normal silvicultural practice. The Bill does nothing about saving jobs or saving forests.

Only this year in respect of the proposed inquiry into television equalisation, government members repeatedly raised the question of cost-that a committee should not be set up because of the cost involved. In view of the rush to get this forest inquiry into action, are we to assume that it will be free, or that it will be paid for in foreign currency or by some other method?

The Bill debases the Government as a group of senseless grovellers, pandering to extremist minorities, hopeful of gathering a miserable handful of tainted votes and prepared to sacrifice principle and the investment and employment of others just to be seen to be doing something to support a silly promise. I find it extraordinary that government members have so studiously avoided speaking to the Bill. For instance, Senator Aulich's speech was such that I thought he had picked up the wrong notes, especially as he had only put his name on the list of speakers as an afterthought. Having spoken on only one Bill in the Budget session, he may be a little out of practice.

The charade goes on and follows nine inquiries, all public, all open and all reported. This inquiry will be the tenth. Do not brush off the Bennett Lemonthyme and Southern Forests Commission of Inquiry, the massive and thorough environmental impact statement or any other inquiries. The list of inquiries has been referred to by other senators and I seek leave to have it incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The list read as follows-


Each of these nine major public inquiries into forestry and the forest-based industries have taken detailed evidence on technical, economic and environmental considerations.

Each of these nine major inquiries was established that there is no overriding environmental reason why balanced forest development should not proceed.

1. 1972 Tasmanian Legislative Council Select Committee ``Inquiry into Forest Regeneration'' 1972.

2. 1975 Federal Working Group ``Economic and Environmental Aspects of Export Hardwood Woodchip Industry'' Parliamentary Papers No. 116 and 117.

3. 1975 Senate Standing Committee on Science and Environment ``Woodchips and the Environment''.

4. 1977 State Government Board of Inquiry into Private Forestry Development in Tasmania by Mr Justice M. G. Everett.

5. 1978 Senate Standing Committee on Science and the Environment ``Woodchips and the Environment'' Supplementary Report.

6. 1981 Senate Standing Committee on Trade and Commerce ``Australian Forestry and Forest Products Industries''.

7. 1985 Tasmanian Legislative Council Select Committee ``State Forestry Report''.

8. 1985 Tasmanian Legislative Council Select Committee ``Woodchip Export Licences''.

9. 1985 ``Environmental Impact Study on Tasmanian Woodchip Exports Beyond 1988'' and ``Supplement to the Draft Environmental Impact Statement on Tasmanian Woodchip.

Senator ARCHER —The legislation ignores the pride that Tasmanians have in Tasmania; whoever else has an interest, Tasmanians have one first and foremost. We really appreciate our national parks and, incidentally, regret the damage now being done to them by visitors. We also need to consider a balanced economy, something for which those who interfere have no thought. We think of jobs for our kids, investment in our State, things for people to do, and the effort to gain true balance for all, as Senator Puplick said in his magnificent speech earlier today. There is no party politics in this matter. Every decent and worthwhile Tasmanian member of Parliament is of a like mind.

Senator Coates made much of his differences with Premier Gray. He played down the fact that his differences are also with his State Parliamentary Leader, Mr Batt, and every member of the Tasmanian Parliamentary Australian Labor Party as well. This fact should be recognised and noted. He also raised, but avoided dealing with, the real core of this Bill and I wish to do that.

What are the prudent and feasible alternatives that the conservation movement says exists? I was fascinated to hear Senator Coates last night say that he did not intend to go through them. Why not? The Government has not bothered at any stage in the public debate on this issue, either in the other place or here in the Senate, to tell us what alternatives it would like the inquiry to look at. What are they?

I challenge the Government to table a document-any document-that it thinks is so cogent and reasonable that it should take up the time of the Parliament and the High Court of Australia in inquiry. Let the Government show us that there is more to this whole business than mere political opportunism. I should say in advance that it would need to be a more realistic document than the so-called `Forest Industry Strategy for Tasmania' that was published by the conservation movement in March 1985. That rubbish did not get to first base when the Hawke Government considered woodchip export licence renewals later that year. Let us hear from one of the Government speakers on this Bill what alternatives there are that Senator Coates declined to discuss. Let them put up the supposed basis of this Bill, the alternatives that are worth considering, or withdraw it now and let the Tasmanian Government and the industry get on with the job on the basis previously agreed by the Hawke Government.

Senator Sanders made the thoroughly naive claim that our forest industries are not replacing the forests and that this is why they need to move into new areas for timber harvest. This argument highlights the technical incompetence of the extreme conservation argument. The State forests set aside for wood production are managed on a sustained yield. For a forest rotation or crop cycle of 80 years one must cut one-eightieth of the forest every year. This is precisely what is happening in Tasmania. As the timber is logged equivalent areas of forest are replaced. This policy ensures that there are forests for the future. In fact, in Tasmania there are more than 100,000 hectares of this new forest growing to maturity over the next 80 years. Unfortunately, Senator Sanders never bothers to consult the people who are managing the forests. He simply flies overhead, makes outlandish comments and sees how he can go about getting media headlines to prop up his fading electoral hopes.

The present Tasmanian Liberal Government, the previous Labor Government, the present Labor Opposition, the unions, the Australian Council of Trade Unions, the various chambers of commerce and manufacturers bodies, et cetera, and community groups of all types all agree on the actions and the planning for industry and for the reservations. Tasmania has the best forest practices in Australia. Tasmania, however, is not all good. We also have the worst bunch imaginable of drop-outs, drop-ins and drop-offs from the mainland and even overseas. We have disruptionists, selfish individuals and obstructionists. Many pay nothing, take everything, do as little as possible and are a big financial drain on Tasmania.

I turn now to the legal aspects. No Government member in fact has made any effort to justify the pretty rough state of the Bill and the various issues raised by the Opposition. No Government member has spoken in depth on the memorandum of understanding, on the report of the Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills, or on Senator Walsh's response to a question of 13 February 1986; so I had better take up those matters. The Scrutiny of Bills Committee, in its report No. 3 of 1987 dated 18 March 1987, said on page 9:

The Committee has been critical of such provisions which remove the right to refuse to answer questions or produce documents on grounds of self incrimination but which confer protection in subsequent proceedings only in respect of the use of the actual answer given or document produced.

It went further, saying in respect of clause 14 (c), `Entry and inspection':

Clause 14 provides that, for the purposes of performing his or her functions under the Act a member of the Commission of Inquiry or a person authorised in writing for the purpose by a member may, with such assistance, and by such force, as is necessary and reasonable, enter and inspect-

The Law and Government Group of the Parliamentary Library also produced a paper which says:

The National Crime Authority Act . . . recognises the privilege against self incrimination . . .

But it said that section 6A of the Royal Commissions Act, which is mentioned in the Bill we are talking about, `abolishes the privilege against self-incrimination'. The paper also goes on to say that the National Crime Authority Act makes it necessary `to apply to a Judge for a warrant authorising a police officer to enter and search'. It says further that `there is no requirement for a warrant' under this Bill. What is the level of crime that we are talking about? The Government is not prepared to give these powers to the National Crime Authority; yet it is prepared to provide them to a committee of inquiry for a matter such as this. Government members clearly have not been told all this and I wonder how people such as Senator Cooney consider these civil liberties aspects of the legislation. Having listened attentively to the entire debate, I trust that Senator Ryan in her summing up will answer some of those questions.

The Government refusal to adhere to the memorandum of understanding is a cause of great concern. Item L of the agreement expresses confidence in Tasmania by saying:

. . . in entering into this Memorandum, the Commonwealth recognises the professionalism and competence of the Tasmanian Forestry Commission and accepts that the Tasmanian Government, acting through the Tasmanian Forestry Commission, will duly and efficiently perform the many activities necessary on its part to give effect to this Memorandum.

That is all very well. But that was followed up by clause 25, which says, in part:

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

That is very clear. Then clause 30, which deals with what happens when something goes wrong, says:

In the event that any dispute arises over matters concerning Forest Operations and other export-related matters, which cannot be reconciled at officer level, the two relevant Ministers will meet and will discuss the problem with the intent of reaching a mutually acceptable solution. The MPI and the MFF-

that is, the Minister for Primary Industry and the Minister for Fisheries and Forests-

agree that every endeavour will be made to implement and administer the matters the subject of this understanding through mutual co-operation rather than by resort to the coercive use of Commonwealth or State powers and prerogatives.

That is what the agreement said. But what happened? Before arrangements for a ministerial discussion were approved, the Federal Government had stated that unless the Tasmanian Government submitted to its will there would be an inquiry under Federal legislation. That is what happened and, quite rightly, Minister Groom said: `You withdraw the threat and we'll talk, as provided for under the memorandum of understanding'. This Government refused to withdraw the threat and so here we are. The very heavy-handedness of the Bill and of the negotiation is absolutely crazy. We all thought that Senator Walsh had made the matter totally clear on 18 February 1986 when, in answer to a question, he said, in part:

I am advised that operations planned and being undertaken in the normal management process by the State Forestry Commission do not compromise the proposed arrangements.

Further on he said:

The Government does not propose to limit logging in the area beyond those limits already proposed in the Tasmanian Forestry Commission's 1983 management plan.

That looks pretty clear to everybody who can read-but not to this Government; not when this Prime Minister has got his foot in it and is asking for people to try to get him out of it. The Prime Minister, from his actions, had apparently never read the memorandum of understanding. If he had, he decided not to respect it. So much for consensus and accord and all that sort of rubbish. The Prime Minister having made a fool of himself, the only move was to try to save face. To him the only two issues were, firstly, to set up some form of an inquiry and, secondly, to have logging stopped. Then honour and ego would be satisfied and, of course, such action supports his clearly enunciated anti-States philosophy as outlined in his Boyer lecture of 1979, to which we regularly refer. He is no respecter of State rights and no respecter of the agreement-or anything but ego.

An inspection of previous legislation passed through this Parliament can find no other Bill to equal this one for arrogant, single minded, unnecessary, ill-advised boofheadedness. Land use is not the prerogative of the Federal Government. The area under discussion is not World Heritage by listing; nor is it World Heritage in fact. The craziness that put the Prime Minister into this mess is unbelievable, but may it never cease to haunt him. If such arrogance and overbearing were allowed to go unchallenged, where would it stop? Farmers, miners and tourist operators throughout Australia, for instance, are petrified at the implications. The Biggles spy flights had nothing on this. By the way, we have not heard from Senator Gareth Evans on this issue. I would like to know where he stands having regard to his once fond pursuit of civil liberties.

The many errors of both fact and opinion during the debate have shown a lack of knowledge and deliberate misinformation provided to Government members, and a lack of care and attention by Government members who have spoken to keep up with the facts. I had intended to deal with them, but there are too many of them to deal with and I will restrict my remarks to some of the more critical aspects. The loss of jobs and investment seems to be of no concern to the Government. The Tasmanian Government mentioned that there would be a loss of 900 jobs this year. Senator Coates said: `Nonsense'. But he failed, however, to provide any figures or any evidence to prove otherwise when he had the opportunity to do so last night. Australia is currently facing an appalling balance of trade. We export $400m worth of timber a year; we import $1500m worth of timber a year. It is one of the areas which have a growth potential. With good management, we can make timber one of the big export industries.

Conservationists in Australia do not mind that every stick of timber that we buy from overseas comes from someone else's forest. We adopt this very holy attitude as far as our own forests are concerned. We do not mind if other countries wreck their own forests for our pleasure. I even heard a speaker this morning refer to the way that the Japanese do something. But that did not mean that he was prepared to suggest that we ought to have some protection as well. The whole manoeuvre is absolutely empty. Great credit should go to the Tasmanian Minister, Ray Groom, for the way he has handled this matter. I also give great credit to the professionals of the Tasmanian Forestry Commission. I think that the commercial interests have shown remarkable restraint and have done a great job. They have been a very valuable force in Tasmania's development and commerce over a long time. I also give credit to the Minister for Primary Industry, Mr Kerin, for the trouble he has taken and for his understanding and the presentation of his case. I must ensure that I make that comment at this point.

Tasmania has hundreds of thousands of hectares that still need forest restoration and regeneration. In fact, this still needs to be done in about 750,000 hectares. Australian productivity must be improved. Unless we improve it, we will not be given the opportunity. The International Monetary Fund or somebody like that will tell us what to do. Those with no interest or involvement in the economy must come to understand forests and the balance that is necessary. The Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) must understand that point. This whole stunt lies at his feet, and his feet alone. Last night Senator Coates confirmed that this Bill is the foot in the door for a reservation of a further 284,000 hectares. In spite of the Commonwealth's statement of 1981 to the World Heritage Committee, nothing has changed. The 1981 statement reads:

It (the area nominated) is large enough to survive as a wilderness and to maintain genetic diversity despite influences from surrounding areas and to permit the experience of solitude.

The nominated region is an outstanding example of one of the few remaining temperate areas which is of sufficient size for natural processes to continue. The geology and climate of the three parks have resulted in a unique environment which contains 83% of Tasmania's wilderness area.

Clearly, the Commonwealth was quite convinced at the time that the boundaries were appropriate and provided proper protection of the values. Why was the change necessary? No new information has come forward-only the persistent bleating of a small, noisy minority who are not interested in balanced development, but in large scale resource lock-ups in the community. Nothing at all has changed.

One in seven Tasmanians depends on forest industries for his livelihood. They will not do things that will prejudice the overall interests of Tasmania. But this is not the issue. The real issue is that this Government will do this initially in Tasmania. It knows, of course, that it will only lose one senator. But when it sees its chance, if it is game, it will try it again in Queensland, Western Australia or elsewhere. I suspect that it is not likely to do that at the moment now that it has seen what a big loser it will be. It is like feeding the piranha. Once it has been done, it wants more and more. The only thing the Government cannot grasp is that, like the piranha, the lunatic fringe of the conservation movement will never be friendly and will not vote for it even with a bribe such as this.

I am pleased to say that last night Senator Richardson totally clarified the question of compensation when he said:

There is no cutting off of any possibility of compensation for anyone in Tasmania who considers himself or herself to be affected by this Bill.

That is what we, the people in the industry and the people in Tasmania, have been waiting for. The legislation does not specifically cover it. The second reading speech did not cover it as clearly as that. We are, naturally, grateful that Senator Richardson should have put the matter beyond all doubt. I certainly thank him for that. It is terrible legislation. It has been put to us under the worst circumstances with the worst motives. I totally oppose the Bill and the motives.