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Tuesday, 30 August 1994
Page: 556

Senator CHAMARETTE —My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Resources. I draw the minister's attention to the answer to question 44 that I placed on notice, during the supplementary estimates hearings on 23 June 1994, where the minister admitted that the Department of Primary Industries and Energy depends on expert advice from state forestry agencies which routinely monitor forestry operations. I ask: is it true that state forestry agencies are not responsible for either the licensing or monitoring of woodchips being exported from their states; if so, who does monitor compliance with conditions placed on the licences by the Minister for Resources?

Senator COLLINS —I thank Senator Chamarette for the prior notice she gave me of her question that in fact requires a very detailed answer. I advise Senator Chamarette that I do have an answer for her but that it is an extremely long answer. Most of it is very detailed and all of it—I have just a had a look at it—is pertinent to the question. I wonder whether I could seek the leave of the Senate to have the answer incorporated in Hansard.

  Leave granted.

  The answer read as follows

Each woodchip export proposal is examined by the Commonwealth prior to approval so that environmental values are protected, the price is reasonable and that the chips are not required by domestic processors

specific conditions are attached to the licence covering such matters as volumes, prescriptions on harvesting activities to minimise environmental impacts and protect endangered species, pricing, access to information and operations etc.

There are two basic aspects relating to the management of export woodchip operations

the first concerns the issuing of licences and the management of export volumes

the second relates to harvesting operations from which woodchips are sourced.

In regard to the first aspect, the Commonwealth considers and issues licences for woodchip exports and monitors exports

no exporter can export woodchips without a valid licence—the Australian Customs Service monitors each shipment of woodchips being exported.

The Department of Primary Industries and Energy monitors export prices of shipments.

The export licensing system allows the Commonwealth to monitor the volume of woodchips that are exported under each licence.

In regard to the second aspect, state government agencies are responsible for forest management and also have a wide range of licensing requirements and prescriptions which apply to timber harvesting

they routinely monitor forestry operations.

Woodchips are by-products of sawlog harvesting, milling and silvicultural operations in the states, and state government agencies have the responsibility for planning, managing and monitoring harvesting and silvicultural operations.

Forest operations are subject to a wide range of state controls and licensing conditions, codes of practice and environmental prescriptions to protect the environment and to ensure logs are being allocated to their best use: in the case of pulplogs this may be to mills to produce woodchips for domestic use or export.

Because of the states' responsibilities and technical expertise, the Commonwealth depends on the states in the first instance to monitor exporter's compliance with the harvesting conditions which are attached to export licences.

The Commonwealth also investigates any allegations which may be made from time to time concerning possible breaches of licence conditions.

The Minister for Resources has also advised me that he has instructed the department to examine all conditions that are attached to annual licences to see if, in fact, there are any areas where further action may be required.

He will also be raising the issue at the ministerial council for forestry, fisheries and aquaculture, so that all parties are aware of their obligations.