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Friday, 22 March 1985
Page: 760


Mr BURR(11.43) —It gives me a great deal of pleasure to rise for the first time in what is now my fifth parliament. I wish firstly to pass on publicly my thanks to the electorate that has re-elected me to this place. I will comment on my electorate of Lyons, as it is now called. Formerly, I held the seat of Wilmot which had been a seat in this Parliament since 1901. The electorate of Lyons is appropriately named after two very great Tasmanians who served long and distinguished careers in this place. I refer to Joseph Lyons, who was Prime Minister of Australia from 1933 to 1939, and to his wife, Dame Enid Lyons, who represented the Tasmanian seat of Darwin, now called Braddon, after her husband's death and after she had raised ten children. Dame Enid went on to become a well-respected Minister in the Menzies Government. As a husband and wife team Joseph and Dame Enid Lyons achieved unique significance, prominence and distinction in the Australian political community. I believe that the electorate of Lyons is justifiably named after those two very distinguished Australians.

I wish also to thank publicly and to congratulate my wife Roslyn for her performance during the election campaign. She was not only a wife and mother but also my campaign director. During the campaign her effort was outstanding. I am very grateful for the support she has given me throughout my political career.

Mr Deputy Speaker, I would be grateful if you would pass on my congratulations to the honourable member for Scullin (Dr Jenkins) on his re-election as Speaker and to the honourable member for Henty (Mrs Child) on her re-election as the Chairman of Committees. They have both been very good friends of mine during my parliamentary career. I am again delighted that we will have the pleasure of seeing them occupy the chair. I give them both my assurance that I will respect the rulings they give from the prominent position.

During the recent election campaign I was delighted to see two outstanding and very promising young members elected to represent seats in Tasmania. The honourable member for Bass (Mr Smith) and the honourable member for Braddon (Mr Miles) are very promising young men who I believe will go on to forge for themselves very distinguished careers in Australian politics. They have replaced Mr Ray Groom and Mr Kevin Newman, who also made valuable contributions to Australian politics and to the development of Australia as Ministers and as members of this place. I am confident that in the future we will see equally distinguished careers from Mr Smith and Mr Miles.

I believe that the Address-in-Reply gives us an opportunity to look at the future of Australia without the unfortunate divergences we often have in this place of party politics blurring our vision and our considerations. It is in that context of looking at the future of Australia without partisan political involvement that I address my remarks. It is well recognised that there is a rapid shift in world markets. The Pacific basin is now seen as the area with the greatest growth pattern for the rest of this century. It is in this context that Australia must seriously rethink its trading policies if it is to survive as a major power in the area and not sink to the level of the poor white trash that has been prophesied by some leading industrialists in this country.

The primary industries of Australia have always borne the brunt of our economic survival and prosperity, to the extent that 80 per cent of our export income has originated from either our rural industries or our mining industries. Unfortunately, many people rather naively and blithely believe that this pattern is permanent and that we can ride on the backs of the farmers forever. A study of the world's food production trends will dispel this dream. We now see that we are rapidly approaching the situation where our traditional markets are being eroded by competition from unexpected quarters and, in addition, by our own ineptitude.

The world's developing nations are becoming major producers of wheat, sugar, beef and other rural products. International aid has made a significant contribution to improved expertise and production techniques in those developing countries. They are certainly to be commended for that improvement. Their newly won independence has given them a driving force which seems to be lacking with in our own economy. India, Pakistan and Argentina have joined the 10 major wheat producers of the world. Many European countries have passed the point of self-sufficiency and are now competing strongly for world trade. As well, many Third World countries are less reliant than they were on imports for their staple food products. While Australia has increased her wheat exports by 34 per cent in the five-year period from 1978-79 to 1982-83 Argentina has increased her wheat exports by 142 per cent. The European Economic Community countries, which enjoy major government subsidies, have increased their wheat exports by 59 per cent in the same period.

The message is clear. We cannot rely on our traditional exports to maintain the Australian economy. There has to be a serious study of the viability of growing more sugar in Australia. It is a troubled market ruled by international quotas and trade restrictions. In the period from 1973-74 to 1982-83 there has been a large growth in sugar production in the world. India has increased production by 93 per cent to become one of the world's top 10 producers. China has increased her output by 90 per cent and Brazil is entering the market with a 34 per cent increase. There are plans in the pipeline of many Asian countries to establish large sugar mills in the next ten years. Japan has helped to establish many of these mills, so it seems logical to assume that Japan will buy from those countries rather than from countries in which she has no investment. At the moment Australia is a major supplier of sugar to Japan. The overall picture in the world is that there will be a 46.2 per cent increase in sugar production by nations that are not part of the Western marketing structure.

The red meat market is also a very troubled world market. In the period from 1976 to 1982 there has been a 9.5 per cent drop in slaughtering figures for beef and veal in the developed market countries. During the same period the developing countries have increased their production by 14.9 per cent, with the communist bloc recording an increase of 8.4 per cent. During the same period Australia lost 11.5 per cent of the export market, while Canada, Brazil and Uruguay made large inroads into our export markets. The subsidised meat producers of the EEC also captured a large share of the export market by increasing their export market margin by 81.7 per cent on the 1976 figures.

In these three markets alone we face stiff competition. I have used only three rural products as an example but a study of other rural and mining products shows just as much disruption in the market place as other countries continue to erode Australia's traditional markets. No longer will the farmers and miners of Australia guarantee us a high level of export income and therefore a high level of living. There is a need for an immediate reassessment of our position in the Pacific basin. There is also an urgent need to reassess the performance of many of our manufacturing and tertiary industries. Instead of freeloading on the backs of farmers and miners, it is high time that the manufacturing sector and all those who work in it started to pull their weight in this country, to improve their efficiency and their economic performance so that they can compete for world trade and contribute far more heavily to our export income.

The success story of the developing nations is not entirely without skeletons in the cupboard. They have only captured our markets at the expense of their own ecology. To increase their crop areas and grazing lands they have been forced to reduce their forest areas. In the period from 1976 to 1981 the world's forest areas have decreased by 2 per cent to enable the necessary increase in arable and pasture lands to take place. While I admit that 2 per cent does not sound very great on a macro cosmic basis, a country by country study shows that most developing countries have reduced their forest resources in order to increase their crop lands. They have also logged out major areas for quick income or a quick return on venture capital without proper planning and proper regeneration. The end result is that Africa and the Philippines have almost run out of exportable milling timber.

The countries now filling the gap for hardwood logs and sawn timber are Malaysia and Indonesia. At the moment Indonesia has only decreased her forest cover by about point three of one per cent during the 1976 to 1981 period, but that country is now targeting for three million cubic metres of plywood exports a year. It presently holds 60 per cent of the world's plywood market but is planning to increase that production quite dramatically. Much of the logged out area is not being regenerated but is part of the 3 per cent increase in land use for crops and development.

The overall picture is that of a world being exploited for its timber without proper regulated replacement of this valuable resource. Australia is not entirely blameless in this aspect. In the same period, the native forest cover of Australia has decreased by 17 per cent. This is quite apart from the fact that much of our cleared areas have been replanted with exotic species. I feel that the time has come for the reafforestation of Australia to be attacked on a national basis and that land now producing doubtful cash crops that are struggling because of market changes could and should be sown with native forest.

By the end of the century the world will be crying out for more quality timber. The era of the plastic product could be rapidly coming to an end as the world's oil deposits deplete and oil becomes more expensive. Timber is the natural replacement for many of the items on the market now made from synthetic by-products. In a study on Australian forestry resources Leng Sar and Judith Maxwell state that during the 10-year period from 1973 to 1983 hardwood sawlog removals fell by 32 per cent while hardwood pulpwood removals increased by 13 per cent. This, they say, reflects the decline in the availability of the larger logs. However, in my view, the decline is not due to the lack of availability of the larger log. Rather it is due to the sale of the larger log as a component in the woodchip industry. The review goes on to point to the need for greater production of hardwood timber by Australia to keep up with world requirements. Sar and Maxwell say:

Changing relative costs of production and environment concerns in Japan indicate that there is potential for Australian exports of hardwood pulp to replace exports of hardwood chips.

It is argued that due to hardwood log allocations being adjusted downwards by State forestry services there will be a smaller annual harvest. Unless intensive management is used to accelerate the growth of native species the Australian hardwood forests could be facing serious depletion. They could face very serious difficulties in the years ahead. We must remember at all times that the rotation production of hardwood timbers occupies 50 to 70 years before those trees reach full maturity.

I feel that much of the problem confronting the timber industry at the moment is the piecemeal approach and the failure of responsible bodies to grasp the nettle to come up with something that will ensure Australia's future in the timber markets of the world and give us a primary product that will fill the gap left by lost markets in wheat, sugar and meat. The Australia Forestry Council is not giving the dynamic guidance that is necessary for us to save our forests and eventually gain a place in the future world markets for native timbers. It seems content to leave the management of Australia's forest to the State government. Many of the resolutions carried at the Council's meeting in 1984 left the full responsibility to the States. The Council even failed to do anything of substance in support of the national forest strategy, except to note that the strategy did not set out to identify specific courses of action. While such bodies sit and wait for future developments, our forests dwindle in size, and our markets with them. My State of Tasmania is no exception in this matter. In a recent survey it was found that more than 60 per cent of all private forest logged in Tasmania in the last 14 years has been regenerated, but 40 per cent has not been.

This land has been lost to the timber industry in a one-off cash crop for woodchipping, and is part of the 17 per cent decrease in forest cover in Australia. In my opinion, it is not enough for the Forestry Council to say that land use is primarily the responsibility of State governments. State rights must be recognised, but the States must also accept that they have a national responsibility. For too long State governments and State bureaucrats have selfishly pushed their own parochial interests. It is true that the States have constitutional rights, but they also have moral responsibilities to the nation as a whole. Too often they claim their rights without fulfilling their responsibilities. By logical planning and the overall acceptance that the forests of Australia are a national resource and asset we can achieve success in an area where a future market waits for our expertise.