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Tuesday, 16 November 2004
Page: 121

Senator Brown asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 4 August 2004:

With reference to the report by Greenpeace, Papua New Guinea: Torture in the Forests, dated 3 February 2004, which alleges `illegal logging, corruption and human rights abuse' in Papua New Guinea:

(1) Has the Government investigated claims of such action on the part of a Malaysian multinational company.

(2) If these claims are substantiated, will the Government use its influence to encourage the Government of Papua New Guinea to clamp down on such behaviour.

(3) Will the Government act to restrict the importation into Australia of timber products from illegal logging operations.

Senator Hill (Minister for Defence) —The Minister for Foreign Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1) The Australian Government is aware of the Greenpeace report. As a sovereign country, PNG has the primary responsibility for responding to claims made in the report.

(2) The Australian Government considers illegal logging an important issue in sustainable forest management. Australia is working constructively with many members of the Asia-Pacific region to build institutional and technical capacity to address illegal logging. Australia provides development assistance through bilateral, regional and multilateral programs. The Government is also active in international forums addressing illegal logging, such as in the United Nations Forum on Forests where an international arrangement on forests is currently being negotiated.

In the case of PNG, the Australian Government is helping to improve the management of PNG forestry resources and ensure that the country's forestry legislation is enforced. The Government is also actively supporting the World Bank's efforts to improve forestry governance in PNG, and has made this position clear including through direct representations at the annual Australia-PNG Ministerial Forum.

(3) The Australian Government considers that working cooperatively with other countries remains the best way forward in addressing the illegal logging issue. The Government is not aware of any country where measures instituted to prevent the importation of illegally sourced timber are effectively enforced. Without the cooperation of other countries, acting unilaterally to restrict the importation of illegally logged timber would place the burden heavily on Australia to identify illegally logged timber and enforce the restrictions. At the same time, import restrictions might be burdensome on legitimate trade in timber.