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Monday, 19 November 2012
Page: 9062

Senator MILNE (TasmaniaLeader of the Australian Greens) (20:01): I am very disappointed about that because the fact of the matter is that the people who are most likely to be tracking this are the NGOs, and they are the ones who have been campaigning for years to bring in legislation against the import of illegally logged forests around the region. It is going to be the NGOs who are the ones raising the issues, as Senator Xenophon raised earlier this evening, of the kind of corruption that is leading to murder and so on. Frequently letters are written to ministers all over the place and nothing is ever done about it. One of the ways to bring it into the criminal justice system is through civil action and then ending up in more serious criminal jurisdictions.

The issue for me is that the people most likely to be doing the work on this are going to be in the realm of civil society, through the NGOs. They are the people who are going to be tracking what is going on in Indonesia, PNG, Malaysia, the Solomons, Fiji or wherever. They are the ones who are going to be taking on their governments in relation to the corruption in allocating licences and bending the rules and so on. So I am extremely disappointed, Minister.

I take your point that you will look at it over the next short while, but I note that already the government has rejected the inclusion of sustainability in the objects clause, rejected a tightening of the definition of illegal logging consistent with what the EU does, rejected due diligence when it comes to actually going to the coupe level—identifying where the timber is coming from at the coupe level—rejected traceability through the supply chain and now has also rejected broad standing in the courts in relation to civil society. It does not give me much hope about any real rigour being applied when it comes to a supposed commitment to ban the import of illegally logged timber.

However, that is the government's view. We will hear from Senator Colbeck in a minute. It was the coalition who introduced the very flawed EPBC Act, but even the coalition had as part of the EPBC the capacity for public-interest litigation and this important mechanism for broadening standing under the law. So I would hope that the coalition would at the very least recognise that this is consistent with EPBC and will support at least this amendment.