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Wednesday, 27 February 1985
Page: 341

Mr McGAURAN(7.32) —I draw the attention of the Parliament this evening to the very severe economic problems being encountered by that part of my electorate known as Gippsland East due to the blinkered, narrow ideology of the State Government which has given way totally to Collins Street, high rise environmentalists, better known, in the colloquialism of the area, as greenies. The area I am speaking of encompasses towns such as Orbost, Cann River and, what is perhaps a more central Gippsland location, Heyfield. These areas are largely dependent on the timber industry for their very existence, let alone their viability and, to a lesser extent, on tourism. We have reached a ridiculous stage in East Gippsland whereby the true conservationists, namely, members of the timber industry-

Government members-Oh!

Mr McGAURAN —They are the true conservationists, because they rely on harvesting of raw materials for their very livelihood. If they were to destroy or weaken their harvests they would, of course, suffer economic loss. This attitude of squeezing the life out of East Gippsland is reflected in the State Government's attitude towards mountain cattlemen, who are true conservationists because they seek to care for the mountain highlands, and who are being deprived of their heritage, of their grazing areas.

The solution to the problem of the timber industry in East Gippsland is a controlled, measured woodchipping industry. Only recently a timber owner rang me to advise that, of 350 logs cut, or felled, to use the language of the industry, 200 are rejected as being unsuitable for processing. To continue the example, those 200 logs lie on the floor of the forest and will be burnt once summer has passed by the Victorian Forestry Commission. This occurs throughout the whole of East Gippsland.

Mr Chynoweth —What a waste.

Mr McGAURAN —It is a waste. The honourable member for Dunkley says it is a waste. It is causing a tremendous amount of frustration and economic hardship in East Gippsland.

Mr Hand —Why do you hate trees?

Mr SPEAKER —Order! I suggest that the honourable members for Calwell, Dunkley and Melbourne remain quiet. I call the honourable member for Gippsland.

Mr McGAURAN —The honourable member for Melbourne interjected: 'Why do you hate trees?' It is not a matter of hating trees; it is a matter of providing job security for the several hundred timber workers in that region. It is a matter of the very existence of East Gippsland. It is not an exaggeration to advise the Parliament that the very life of East Gippsland will be squeezed out of it unless the Government of Victoria and to some extent the Federal Government take a more rational and balanced view of the timber industry and explore ways, such as woodchipping, to eliminate obvious waste. If they do not, I believe East Gippsland will continue to decline.

Mr Speaker, it is indeed a hard fact of life that East Gippsland is suffering tremendously as a result of the narrow, unenlightened views of a strident minority. Regrettably, this strident minority has the ear of the relevant Ministers-indeed, of the Premier of Victoria-and for that reason a great deal of suffering is occurring because the people in the timber industry, and the mountain cattlemen for that matter, cannot arrange their industries in a balanced and coherent fashion. As there is no further investment in those two industries they will continue to decline. The challenge, therefore, is to allow the true conservationists, the true lovers of East Gippsland, to determine their own destiny.

Mr SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member's time has expired.