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Wednesday, 11 October 1972
Page: 1433

Senator COTTON (New South WalesMinister for Civil Aviation) - I do not want to involve myself in this contest for public acclaim but I think all honourable senators are entitled to share in the observation that T made earlier that we as senators have a proper responsibility in the long view on broad areas of national interest of which this subject without doubt is one. Senator Mulvihill said that in New South Wales only 2 per cent of the land was designated as forests and that we should preserve these forests. He referred to the Boyd Plateau which, as honourable senators would know, is an area well known to me as a former bush walker. About 35,000 acres of that forest was being considered for clearing by the State Forestry Commission. Senator Mulvihill felt that, forest land being so scarce, as an indication of good faith the Commission should agree to waive its right to clear the land. I did refer in the earlier remarks I made from information given to me by the Department that in regard to that area an arrangement was made whereby the State Minister for Conservation would have a full environmental impact study undertaken before proceeding in any way with any present plans. I might say in passing that I think this is an excellent idea. I regard it as quite sensible and wise. We will be referring to the Minister for National Development (Sir Reginald Swartz), who is the responsible Commonwealth Minister, the Senate debate on this matter in order that he may in his own time raise these issues as the Senate sees them in Forestry Council meetings with his State ministerial colleagues.

SenatorMulvihill referred to only 2 per cent of land in New South Wales being forest area. The statistics available to the Department show that the total forest area in New South Wales is 32 million acres. I would want to qualify that by saying, that there are large areas of open type forest - such as cypress pine - what we call forested cover or forest. The total area of New South Wales is 195 million acres so forest as a percentage of total land is 16 per cent. The Forestry Commission's plantations of 213,000 acres equal 1 per cent of the total forest area. Those are interesting figures for the honourable senator to consider. Senator Keeffe, as I should have mentioned earlier, had some forestry experience during his life about which he and I have often talked. I am not familiar wilh the Queensland scene in great detail but 1 know a little about it. The general operation in Queensland was to plant wallum lands on the coast. In any event, in my earlier years there was a lot of discussion on the prospects for the wallum lands. I pass over that to say that I, like the honourable senator, am most anxious that we should preserve the araucaria, the hoop and Bunya pines of Queensland. I think I am correct in saying that plantation and nursery work is being undertaken but what its state of success is I do not know. In general I agree that we should be endeavouring to preserve the native Australian softwoods.

Although Senator Keeffe did not mention this I am sure that he is interested in the great rain forests of Queensland which are almost unique for their concentration of so many diverse species. These areas should be looked after as far as is possible. Senator Keeffe also referred to the wood chip industry and stated that the Commonwealth did not appear to be taking much interest in it. The Commonwealth's constitutional power in that matter relates to price control. As I understand it, we do exercise price control over exports of wood chips in order to ensure that the industry is viable and that the forests which back it up get a proper return. I am informed that there are afforestation contracts in many cases associated with this. 1 cannot be more precise than that because I have no other information. 1 understand Senator Keeffe's general view that we should look to this as a resource to be used in the interests of the Australian people. He also spoke about the Northern Territory forests. There are approximately 7 million acres, all in the 25-inch isohyet or better, and without any doubt in the eyes of anybody looking at it, it could have a potential that could be quite useful, but the productivity in native forests is quite low due to termite damage.

We did some work in an estimates committee last night on the question of breeding a tree suitable for planting that would be free from termite damage. There is apparently some termite which gets inside the living tree. It is not a white ant but it is something of that order. There is at present a search for a suitable species. Pinus caribaea is a tree which is being looked at quite seriously. Planting programmes of native cypress at the moment provide about 1,000 acres a year but the ultimate planting with a suitable species free from destruction by the local termite I referred to could be 5,000 acres. There are large areas of national parks in the process of reservation. Senator Webster referred to the non-political character of this matter and expressed his concern that the States' position should be understood and safeguarded. I referred to that at various stages. The Slates have been in the forestry job longer than anyone else. They have the principal responsibility. The Commonwealth acts as what might be called a coordinatorleader in making sure that the total Australian position is given a hand to be rectified in the national interest.

Senator O'Byrnetalked about eucalypt areas being bulldozed and burned. We have ali seen this occur. It is common practice to carry out extensive salvage and logging operations before clearing in most of these areas in a way with which I am familiar. Mill waste is being used in Tasmania for chipping. I made a few notes myself as I was listening to what was being said and am referring now mostly to those notes although there are one or two departmental comments among them. There is without doubt, and it has to be accepted as a fact, some forest waste in clearing operations but the extent to which it is convertible usable material is hard to say. There is an element of waste in it. There is certainly what I would call a high level of waste in conversion of a standing tree to a piece of timber usable by the Australian public. The order of waste conversion is a great deal higher than even the honourable senator might say because there are problems with the eucalypts. Not all trees are good trees. Then there is the problem that the crown of the tree is completely unusable, as well as the problem of high butts and sawdust coming out. So the conversion loss is substantial. One has to bear in mind that a tree, like a person, has a life cycle and to some extent we are involved in ensuring that they are used up in their time adequately and replaced with something better.

As the honourable senator very properly said - and this is one of the most significant things of all - there is a tremendous increase in the use around the world of products of the tree, wood pulp, ground wood and cellulose extraction. The great acceleration is in the wood pulp ground wood area. It is literally quite huge. As we have said earlier and as was mentioned in the report, we are a wood deficient country. With the immense amount of land that we have and the tremendous ability of this country to grow timber sensibly and wisely, it is a resource that the Australian people are en- titled to expect us to provide for them, having regard to all the safeguards which should be preserved. I did not speak about the huon pine. It is a Tasmanian species. It is an interesting softwood. One wonders in passing what is being done about looking after the huon pine regenerations in Tasmania. 1 want to remark to Senator O'Byrne very briefly that any Tasmanian would view with interest the tremendous development in Scotland of planting huge areas of land with forest trees which it is believed will make a tremendous transformation in Scotland before long. It was begun after the last war and it has been quite extensive and quite substantial. It has always appeared to me that Tasmania had a huge forest potential, but that is a matter for Tasmanians and not necessarily for me. Forest farming is undoubtedly something that will have to come and families should be playing their part in providing the forests of this country. I believe that is something that anyone could do today not for himself but for his children and grandchildren. Senator Keeffe spoke of the sirex wasp, which indeed posed a vexed problem for forest authorities both in Victoria and in Tasmania. I can give the honourable senator details of this. I do not have them with me, but I dealt with them last night. They include the joint CommonwealthStates attempts to deal with the wasp and the raising of a fund with which to combat it provided on, I think, a dollar for dollar basis. A point which may be of interest to Senator Keeffe is the development of a new method of attack on the sirex wasp which is based on nematodes imported from overseas and bred in this country. It is believed that this new method of attack will counter the sirex wasp, and it is possible that we shall soon see the elimination of this problem as a result of current scientific research.

Senator Mulvihillreferred to conservation in Victoria. I dealt with this in the statement that was supplied by the Department and I do not wish to add to that, except to say that I was very familiar with the mountain ash forests of Victoria both before they were fired and after they had been destroyed. There was nothing more tragic than to walk through a mountain ash forest 6 months after it had been practically burnt right out by that major fire. While Senator Mulvihill and I do not necessarily agree on the best methods of attacking a forest fire, we agree totally that such a fire must be dealt with in a substantial way. The greatest depredation in the timber world is to suffer a fire such as the one which Victoria suffered at that time. The scars remain in the forest and one can still see standing there trees which were killed in the fire. The question of fire control operations is very important. I believe, as a result of my years of observation, that there has been a great advance in forest fire control. I have seen the art developed by scientific and practical foresters - and I pay great tribute to them.

Senator Byrne,1 think, was speaking of the overall impact the Senate could have on this legislation. I think he was correct when he said that the Senate has a proper role to play in respect of this legislation, and indeed I tried to reinforce that view by my own comments. The honourable senator's comments will no doubt be of value. I think that his observations on the need for the Commonwealth and the States to work in harmony in order to achieve a common national purpose are correct. Although we have been dealing with this Bill for a long time and have had a difference of opinion about it, 1 do not think anybody would depart from the view that this is what it is all about: The Commonwealth and the States working together to achieve a common national purpose; that is, to remedy the Australian forest estate deficiency and to protect the Australian forest estate for future generations both in terms of its commercial value and the effect it has on lives right across the board.

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