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Thursday, 13 September 2007
Page: 79

Senator PARRY (2:35 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Fisheries, Forestry and Conservation, Senator Abetz. Could the minister inform the Senate how Australia’s, and in particular Tasmania’s, forestry practices compare with other countries’, in particular those in the Asia-Pacific region?

Senator ABETZ (Minister for Fisheries, Forestry and Conservation) —I thank the popular government whip in the Senate, Senator Parry, for his question. As we approach another federal election it is most unfortunate that some in this place, particularly the Greens, are desperately denigrating our world-leading and sustainable forest industry. The reality is that, if you really cared about the environment, like we on this side do, you would be supporting the forest industry, not attacking it.

We all need timber and we all need paper—especially the Australian Greens, with their endless demand for reams of paper for their non-stop press releases. This will come as a surprise to the Greens, but paper does grow on trees. So it is not a matter of whether or not you harvest trees; it is a matter of how well you do it. The fact is that here in Australia, and in my and Senator Parry’s home state of Tasmania, nobody does it better. Almost 22 million hectares of forest are reserved in this country. In Tasmania, 47 per cent of the native forests are locked up, including one million hectares of old-growth forest. And let us not forget: Australia’s forest industry is the only carbon positive sector of our economy—the only one.

Senator Parry asked how our forestry practices compare with other countries. Earlier this week Senator Brown finally responded to my challenge to demonstrate some knowledge on forestry and name a country that has better forest practices than Australia and he foolishly cited New Zealand. So how do Tasmania’s forestry practices, which Senator Brown so vilifies, compare with New Zealand’s, which he cites as having better practices? Let us start with native forest cover as an area of land mass. Tasmania has 50 per cent while New Zealand has 29 per cent. So let us start up the bulldozers, get the chainsaws out, adopt Senator Brown’s policy and knock over another 21 per cent of our forests! What about plantation areas, which Senator Brown so despises? As a percentage of land mass in Tasmania they are 3.9 per cent while in New Zealand they are 8.2 per cent. So I ask: how are we going to increase our plantations—by converting old-growth forests or converting farmland? What about downstream processing like pulp mills? Tasmania only has one, and I misled the Senate the other day—New Zealand does not have six, it actually has seven. So why does he oppose pulp mills? We can then look at the total forest estate. In Tasmania the total forest estate is increasing and in New Zealand it is decreasing. Finally, how about the use of 1080 poison? In Tasmania we use 1.2 units of 1080 per annum. In New Zealand they use two to three units. But do you know what the difference in the units is? In Tasmania it is 1.2 kilograms and in New Zealand it is two to three tonnes. Two thousand times as much 1080 is used in New Zealand than in Australia, and yet Senator Brown asserts that somehow he is against the use of 1080. Indeed, in New Zealand they use 80 per cent of the world’s production of 1080 and in my home state of Tasmania it is 0.03 per cent. And Senator Brown says that we should adopt New Zealand’s forestry practices. (Time expired)

Senator PARRY —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. In light of his answer, could the minister further explain forest practices in New Zealand?

Senator ABETZ (Minister for Fisheries, Forestry and Conservation) —In New Zealand they rely very heavily on the sterile monoculture of radiata pine plantations, unlike Australia. Australia relies on native forest, which provides habitat to our endemic species so that the wildlife can coexist with it—unlike the sterility of those pine forests. But what is the real difference between Australia and New Zealand? For the past decade Australia has had the benefit of a Howard coalition government that looks after jobs, looks after industry and looks after the environment. In New Zealand you have a Labour government, in cahoots with the Greens, destroying the environment, destroying jobs and destroying the forest industry. So I warn the Australian people that that which has happened in New Zealand is what Senator Brown wants to occur over here and it will occur because he will be wagging the tail of the Rudd government if it were ever to be elected. (Time expired)