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Wednesday, 16 March 1977
Page: 299

Mr MILLAR (Wide Bay) Honourable members will no doubt recall that following the chain of events resulting in the termination of sand mining on Fraser Island I sought and received from the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) assurances that the traditional timber harvesting activities on Fraser Island were not under threat as a consequence of the report of the environmental commission or, for that matter, from the ambitions of those who might seek to damage or destroy an industry which has served Maryborough and Australia for over a century. Honourable members will understand that the Prime Minister's assurances, the sincerity of which I do not doubt for one moment, have not completely dispelled the apprehensions of a community savaged by the impact of a decision influenced by a remote society, a society brainwashed by a diabolically effective propaganda campaign waged by elements of the conservation movement.

A fresh apprehension has descended upon the Maryborough community with the appearance of an article which could be the thin end of the wedge to stop timber harvesting on Fraser Island. In an article in a recent issue of 'Environs', a publication of the Department of Environment, Housing and Community Development, Professor F. H. Talbot, the Director of the Environmental Studies Program at Macquarie University comments on the report of the Commission on Inquiry into Fraser Island. While the article, indeed the report, is basically concerned with sand mining, Professor Talbot makes references to other uses for Fraser Island, such as tourism, residential development and forestry. In regard to the latter, Professor Talbot quotes from a submission by J. P. Stanton to the Commission of Inquiry on Fraser Island with reference to his criticism of local forestry practices. Mr Stanton states that there is haphazard exploitation. He also criticises regeneration techniques.

Professor Talbot, in this article, does not refer directly to the Commissioners' report concerning the practices of the Maryborough saw milling companies, which are stringently controlled by the Queensland Department of Forestry. The controls include obtaining official permits from officers of the Forestry Department to fell any tree. These officers also indicate in which direction the tree is to be felled to minimise damage to other growth in the surrounding forest. In their report the Commissioners said, and I urge honourable members to listen to this:

It seems likely that most visitors to the Island . . . would be unaware that its timber resources have in fact been exploited over a hundred years.

The Commissioners report that they were 'impressed by the responsible attitude to Fraser Island which has been adopted over the years by the Queensland Department of Forestry and the sawmilling companies which process most of the timber shipped from the Island'. The Commission also stated that 'the selective logging which has been taking place on the Island since the mid-ninteenth century has not destroyed the character of the forested areas as wilderness'. 'Wilderness', in the words of the Commissioners, is ' a wild or uncultivated tract of land '.

Professor Talbot's article implies that future logging on the island may destroy its natural environment. The official report appears to deny that contention. The most alarming circumstance regarding that article is its publication in a Commonwealth Government departmental journal. That may lead to the assumption that it could become departmental policy or that it could, without reference to the original report, at least influence departmental and Commonwealth Government thinking. That creates a problem of great concern to the people of Maryborough as the timber industry in that city depends largely on the raw timber available on Fraser Island. The approval expressed by the Commissioners in their report must surely negate the attitude of Mr Stanton and Professor Talbot. As long as the firms involved and the State Forestry Department continue with their present responsible and thoughtful co-operation, there is no threat to the continuation of the forestry industry in the area.

I do not suggest that the Department should close its publication to honest and productive points of view, even though they may be provocative to some, but I do insist that articles such as the one to which I have just referred should be subjected to closer scrutiny. For Professor Talbert to use the environmental report as an authority in some areas and to ignore its specific findings in others brings into question either his motives or his competence. The Government should divorce itself from such a mischievous practice as that in which the author has engaged.

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