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Wednesday, 27 September 1972
Page: 1251

Senator MULVIHILL (New South Wales) - Honourable senators will recall that after the Senate dealt with this Bill it went back to the other place. I will refer to the general points which were made then by the Minister for National Development (Sir Reginald Swartz) and the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson). The Minister said:

Machinery exists within the States for the examination of areas before dedication as State forest. The responsible attitude of Slate governments to land use is exemplified in Victoria where a Land Conservation Council has been established. . . .

Then he implied that other States had virtually paralleled these operations. When the Senate decided to amend the initial legislation I suppose various honourable senators acted from different motivations. Senator Cotton will be well aware that New South Wales senators remained unconvinced, not necessarily about the Commonwealth Government but about whether the New South Wales Government was completely following the principles which had been expounded by the Minister for National Development (Sir Reginald Swartz) in the other place. We accepted the revised schedule providing for an examination of some areas and I should say that the only area that remains in dispute is the one in New South Wales which has become a vexed question I refer to the Boyd Plateau.

Without recapitulating too much of what has been said, I recall that Senator Cotton questioned whether the area was really worth salvaging. He implied that because of the ravages of bushfire it was almost a shell. Since then some people and I have had conversations with Mr Milo Dunphy, Secretary of Save Colong Committee, and other people. They strongly disputed what Senator Cotton had stated and suggested that if a party of senators wished to visit the area the Save Colong Committee would be happy to take them through the area. I repeat that suggestion very seriously. Senator Cotton will appreciate that this Bill has come on for debate earlier than was expected, as a result of which 1 do not have all my documents with me. However, to get to the crux of the matter, I understand that the Minister for Conservation in New South Wales, Mr Beale, indicated that a feasibility study would be undertaken. So far there has been no visible sign of such a study. The conservationists have formed the impression that in matters of this kind the appeal is from Caesar to Caesar.

I hope that the New South Wales Forestry Commissions would approach their responsibilities in matters of conservation with a spirit of give and take. So I should like the Minister for Civil Aviation, when replying, to be fairly specific on whether the feasibility study which apparently has been offered by Mr Beale will take place. I think this matter comes back to the economics of softwood. I commend to the Minister a paper which he has probably read, entitled 'The Pine Programme in New South Wales'. The author argues the matter from both the economic and ecological aspects. I know that the Minister would take the stance that the more we reduce our imports of timber the better it will be for the economy. However, as with any other theory, that can be taken only so far, as it may well be that for strong reasons some timber imports will have to come from New Guinea and New Zealand. Even if current timber imports total S200m, this programme would not cancel out such a scheme because Douglas fir and other varieties will still have to be imported.

I do not wish to jeopardise the broad programme which I know has the support of State governments, but I am trying to emphasise that I fail to see why there can not be a reasonable understanding by the New South Wales and Commonwealth governments on the Boyd Plateau being given a reprieve. I do not want to delay State forestry operations, but I hope that even if we rubber stamp the Bill Senator Cotton must indicate that the parties in this place who have been interested in the subject should visit the area to see what is involved and attempt to convince Mr Beale that the Boyd Plateau is not the be all and end all of forestry in New South Wales.

We note that as late as today in the Melbourne 'Age' Mr I. G. Mosley, who is the acting chairman of the Save Our Bushlands Action Committee, which is very active in Victoria, has written a letter applying to the Victorian scene in which he says that logging scars our parks of the future. The Minister would know that Mr Mosley has had a very effective role with the Australian Conservation Foundation. Although points were made in the other place about the Forestry Commission having certain responsibilities, it seems to me that in New South Wales and in Victoria, unless monitoring is continued, things will not be what they should be. I understand that the present debate is on the basis of consideration by the Committee; so I speak now for the Save the Colong Committee and a host of other conservations groups which believe that, a road block having been set-up, Mr Beale and the New South Wales Government should indicate clearly why there is such a vital tussle over the Boyd Plateau. Also, in keeping with the spirit of this Bill, they should indicate whether it is proposed to make a feasibility study. I spoke at considerable length during the previous debate on the Bill and I have tried now to narrow my objections to one field.

I make the passing comment that my colleague in the Legislative Council in New South Wales, Mr Clive Healey, MLC, cited some figures that he had received from the Minister for Conservation about a delay in forestry work and the workforce involved. I think that some of the figures and some of the propaganda associated with this issue about the jobs involved have been somewhat exaggerated. But this does not mean that we can stand idly by and see pools of unemployment created. I think it is important to keep this issue in proper balance and be factual when discussing it - in effect providing ample forestry work but not destroying native bushland. We have no desire to jeopardise the afforestation programme.

I come back to our original contention, that where there is ideal native bush and forest we do not want the area to be bulldozed. Our main objection at the moment is to the rather evasive attitude which has been adopted by the New South Wales Government in regard to this matter. Senator Cotton will be aware that unfortunately in New South Wales the controversy over the Colong caves, which have been linked with this area, has caused some of the difficulty. We are aware that the complexities of government resulted in the matter being dealt with by 2 or 3 State Ministers. I know that Mr Beale, in his role as the Minister for Conservation in New South Wales, has other responsibilities. I hope sincerely that if we give the green light to the principles of the Bill. New South Wales will keep faith with the spirit of compromise which has been evident. Nevertheless, I remain completely unconvinced that it we agree to the legislation the Boyd Plateau will not be turned into a pine plantation and that its value as a plantation will be infinitesimal in the overall plans for pine plantations, lt is on that basis that, with many other conservation.ists we are trying to be fair and reasonable. I hope that Senator Cotton, either directly or indirectly as a result of what I have said, will be given a fair account of what is happening. I sincerely hope that the 35,000 acre Boyd Plateau region can be preserved as a monument to conservationists and foresters living successfully together.

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