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Wednesday, 11 October 1972
Page: 1429

Senator O'BYRNE (Tasmania) - I enter this debate to make a few points relating to the best use of each type of forest product. This Softwood Forestry Agreements Bill relates to an agreement between the Commonwealth and the States in connection with softwood forests and it also brings within its rather wide sweep the clearing of present forest land which often carries sub-standard timber. If one travels along the higher rainfall areas of our eastern coastal belt and also of Western Australia one finds that the clearing of land to plant pinus radiata or pinus insignis necessitates the felling of considerable amounts of eucalypts which are then bulldozed into rows and burnt. This is part of the traditional process. For 100 years this policy has been carried out in my State of Tasmania, and the same applies to the other States.

In legislation such as this I would like to see the Commonwealth's interest directed towards the enormous wastage which occurs of this tremendously important natural resource of timber and forest products. Further use should be made of the second tirade timber which is bulldozed or felled for the purposes of softwood planting. Perhaps we can speak with a certain amount of authority because Tasmania has developed an industry which is increasingly exploiting the forests products which are not specifically used for sawmilling or for the building and furniture trades. I refer to the pulpwood industry, the paper making industry and associated industries such as hard board manufacture. I wonder whether honourable senators realise that of the, total amount of timber available for lumber in Australia approximately 50 per cent, and in some cases 60 per cent, of the log is unused? Around every sawmill we find quite considerable piles of waste timber. Of course in the olden days some of it went into firing the steam engines which drove the saws and other equipment. But now with the introduction of the combustion engine this timber is either burnt in the furnace or is carted away and dumped.

Senator Websterreferred to cellulose. This is the end fibre of either the eucalypt or the pine tree. It is there that our great natural resource is condensed into something of world value. If we look at the statistics we see the amount of pulp, that it is still necessary to import into Australia from the Scandinavian countries and, I understand, even from Brazil. Because of the nature of the fibre of the pine tree, it is an important ingredient in the manufacture of writing paper and other products of the paper industry. Of course, an overall plan for the planting of softwoods is essential for the balance of our economy, particularly our paper industry.

Australia is the worst off of all continents in regard to timber resources. It is endowed with smaller timber resources per square mile than is any other continent. Therefore, we have to be very much aware of and alert to the needs of this industry, and do everything we can to develop and expand it because of its ever growing importance for man's use. Also, economically it is essential that we get the fullest use from this industry. It is in relation to this point that I want to try to impart to the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton) and the Government - I am sure that the Minister is aware of this problem - the need for some encouragement to be given to the sawmill'! scattered throughout the country to install a chipping machine. The cost of this machine could be written off in a short period, the products could be sold tax free or some other incentive could be provided to bring into use the 30 per cent to 40 per cent of waste that eventually becomes cellulose which at present not only is not being used but also is often an eyesore around timber mills.

That is the main point that I wish to make on this matter. Now I refer to the amendment that has been returned from the House of Representatives. Like Senator Webster, I believe that this is a non political matter. It is a matter of great national importance that we should be directing our attention to this Commonwealth-State agreement on forestry. The States, because of their lack of finance, are very much behind in the work that they could have done both in regeneration and proper husbandry in their natural forests, and in softwood plantings. The amendment that was sent to the House of Representatives for its consideration was initiated by honourable senators on this side of the Senate. We wanted to draw the matter to the attention of the Government by moving an amendment that the following words be added to the end of the motion: but the Senate deplores the Government's failure to prepare and publish, in consultation with the States, a national plan for -

(a)   the full use and development of Australia's forestry resources; and

(b)   the conservation of existing hardwood forests and associated flora and fauna in relation to softwood plantings'.

Of course, the Australian Democratic Labor Party, as usual trying to score its political points, moved another amendment with exactly the same content and intent, instead of coming straight to the point and asking the Government, in conjunction with the States on a non-political level, to implement a plan for the full use and development of Australia's forestry resources and the conservation of the existing hardwood forests. This is the amendment that was moved as a political ploy:

The State shall ensure that planting during each year is carried out efficiently and in conformity with sound forestry, environmental and financial practices.

That is what they are doing now to the extent of their financial resources. The point is that the States need to know, firstly, that the Commonwealth is associated with them financially, and secondly, the Government's policy on forest products and forestry in general so that they have a long range plan and a short term objective towards which to work.

Senator Byrne - Why do you say that was a political ploy? That was to be written into the schedule of the agreement. So it was ours.

Senator O'BYRNE - The amendment that we moved in the first place was the same in intent as the DLP amendment. The point I am making is that we were given no credit whatever for having drawn attention to the importance of the Commonwealth having a long range plan and working in conjunction with the States by giving them a blueprint, if necessary, of thinking at Commonwealth level on what it wanted the States to do in their common interests. The next part of the DLP's amendment reads as follows:

The State shall ensure that natural forests shall not be cleared for planting softwoods unless the particular proposed clearing has beforehand been the subject of an environmental impact study made by an independent expert-

I think this is where the rub came - on behalf of the Australian Forestry Council and the Council after considering the report of the said study has approved the particular clearing.

If honourable senators go among foresters on the job, they will find that that is offensive to them because they are naturally conservationists. It is their job to conserve, to get the best they can from the soil and to give the tree every opportunity to develop to its fullest extent and its fullest economic value. Besides that, it is in their interests to see that the environment is encouraged to the utmost by giving the younger trees a chance to perpetuate forests. The whole idea of conservation is inherent and embodied in the training of a forester. Therefore, for him to be told in this amendment that some independent person has to come along to teach him how to do his job is possibly one of the main reasons, along with others, why this amendment met with so much opposition. However, the message has been received loud and clear by the Government and it has made the necessary compromise. I believe that we now have a renewal of the policy that has been operating over one 5- year period and is proving to be a great success. It is encouraging other people also because of the lead that has been given in the forestry departments to accept that forests can become a farming proposition although there is an old traditional saying that it takes too long. I have heard of a forester who said to a farmer: "Why don't YOU plant some pine trees there?' The farmer said: Tt takes too long to get anything from it, but 1 wish my old man had planted some'. This is the attitude that people take. They wish that someone else had done it for them. Forestry and tree planting are an economic proposition for every farmer who has suitable rainfall and land. He should have such an area tucked away for his grandson.

Senator Webster - ls it somebody in Tasmania who said that?

Senator O'BYRNE - That is right. 1 think that it is a very good policy. Finally, I feel we must have a very long, hard look at where we stand with regard to the investment that is so important to make in this continuing asset. We need now and will need all the products that our forests can produce. We need the most modern techniques and the best that science can direct towards this wonderful asset. As I see the position, the provisions of this legislation are only scratching the surface of the job that eventually needs to be done. We can look on this as being the pilot for expansion and development of a forestry policy which not only will make us self-sufficient with regard to cellulose but also will enable us to supply overseas markets which need, and will continue to need, the products of the forest, including cellulose. It seems that the more civilised we become the more paper we have flowing about the world. For that reason I think the compromise that has now been reached over the amendment which has been returned from the other place to the Senate will be supported by the Opposition.

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