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Tuesday, 9 May 2000
Page: 16047

Mrs GASH (2:45 PM) —My question is addressed to the Minister for Forestry and Conservation. Would the minister advise the House of the impact of Premier Carr's recent unilateral decision to dramatically reduce the timber supply on the New South Wales South Coast, particularly in the electorates of Eden-Monaro and Gilmore? Will it be possible for the Commonwealth to sign a regional forest agreement for southern New South Wales under these circumstances?

Mr TUCKEY (Minister for Forestry and Conservation and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister) —I thank the member for Gilmore for her continuing representations on behalf of many people, including, for instance, those in the adjoining shire of Eden-Monaro which she also chose quite properly to mention. That member never gives up representing the interests of workers in that region. Within the region mentioned by the member is included the Eurobodalla shire, which currently has an unemployment rate of approximately 22 per cent. We have just seen the Premier of New South Wales, contrary to all the scientific advice available to him from his own departmental officials and the advice available to the Commonwealth government through the appropriate activities of the regional forest agreement process, once again acting unilaterally in an area where previously his government had cut wood supply by 35 per cent. We see him stepping in, ignoring good advice and ignoring, as I understand it, even the views of some of his ministers. We see him sounding the death knell of the southern region and its wood supply and turning his back on probably loyal Labor voters who work in that industry either directly or indirectly.

It leads us to another Labor Party myth. The first myth we had was the l-a-w tax cuts myth. The second one is the L-a-b-o-r myth. Labor is still being represented as a party which has something to do for, and some interest remaining in, the welfare of workers. When these actions are taken, quite clearly it is taken by the intelligentsia, which in the case of the Leader of the Opposition is more interested in the western suburbs of Perth than in the western suburbs of Sydney. We now see again the Premier of New South Wales acting in a determined fashion to kill the job opportunities of people living south of Sydney who are in a region well known as one where it is extremely difficult to get a job and, if you lose it, as one where it is even worse trying to get another.

I am asked: can the Commonwealth government sign the proposals put forward by Premier Carr? We cannot. They are not consistent with scientific advice. They are not consistent with the rules of the National Forest Policy Statement written by the Labor government in 1992. And, what is more, it is very doubtful whether the remaining areas of forest that the Premier has identified for harvesting could even meet the reduced wood quotas of 42,000 cubic metres per annum that he has identified. In other words, it is a proposal to rape a section of the forest arguably to protect another bit. That is not sensible, and it has not been recommended. Finally, I want to know where the much touted members of the New South Wales Country Labor faction are. They get out there and announce themselves—old Harry, for example, and a few others. We remember Harry here. He is like the member for Bass: notable for his inactivity. The reality is that these people have not said a word to protect the industries of their own regions, despite being elected by the local people. It takes the member for Gilmore and the member for Eden-Monaro to come out and do something. I am still waiting for one communication—other than the one I have received from Mr O'Keefe, the member for Burke—from the Labor Party saying, `When are you going to do something to help working people get a job in the forest industry?' Constantly, the Premier of New South Wales makes it impossible for the Commonwealth to help.