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Wednesday, 11 December 2002
Page: 7721

Senator ABETZ (Special Minister of State) (1:54 PM) —Can I say that, during this debate on matters of public interest, the contributions of Senator Santoro and Senator Tierney stood out in stark contrast to the contributions of Senator Cook, who made unfounded allegations against a person outside of this place; Senator Collins, who made unfounded allegations against our Navy personnel, who do a fantastic job protecting our borders; and Senator Brown, whose contribution was to attack a person seeking Liberal Party preselection for the Australian Capital Territory. In so doing, Senator Brown completely misrepresented the sustainable timber industry that Australia enjoys. His gross misrepresentations are things that we have got used to, but just because he repeats them it does not make them true.

If you were to refer to the timber industry as the woodchip industry, it would be like referring to the beef industry as the blood and bone industry. There is going to be a waste product left over from the beef industry and that is turned into blood and bone. Similarly, from the sawmill and veneer industries there is waste left over and that gets converted to woodchips. The alternatives would be to let it rot or to let it burn. I would prefer that it be made into paper and useful products for human consumption. If they are not made from Australian forests then, of course, they would be made from the forests of the South-East Asian nations that do not have our sustainable forestry practices. I think we have got used to fatuous, immature sloganeering from Senator Brown, which lacks the intellectual honesty and integrity that I think people have a right to expect.

In the few moments left, I will make a few comments about the film Rabbit Proof Fence. Rabbit Proof Fence in recent times has won awards, and I congratulate the makers of that film for their technical expertise and for winning prizes for that film. But the point I make is that, just because a film wins prizes for technical expertise and things such as soundtracks, like 2001: A Space Odyssey, it does not mean that the story the film seeks to portray is true. In recent times I have made comments about this film. What I object to about the film is its assertion that it is based on a true story. The simple fact is that, when the subject of the film was shown a preview of it and was asked about it, she is reported in the Herald Sun on 17 February 2002 as saying, `That's not my story.'

Trying to get other elements of the media to print that fact is virtually impossible. I congratulate commentators such as Piers Akerman and Andrew Bolt, and people like Des Moore, Peter Howson and others, who are willing to put on the public record that this film, whilst it is technically good, is not based on the historical facts. Indeed, I found it somewhat strange that people would seek to make comments about the fact that a very modest little brochure which was published in my office was somehow a use of taxpayers' money, yet the $5.2 million of taxpayers' money that went into this film somehow is not a use of taxpayers' money.

I think it is important that we in this nation have a correct view of our history—that we do not adopt a black-armband cringe mentality about our history and that we do pay the appropriate regard to the many good men and women in this country who in fact took vows of poverty to ensure the welfare of our Aboriginal brothers and sisters. I do not resile from that which I have said. It is just a pity that the correct context could not be put on the public record because of certain biases. I congratulate those involved in the film on their technical expertise. It is just a pity that they did not have the historical expertise to in fact present the story in a truthful manner.