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Monday, 30 May 2005
Page: 19

Dr EMERSON (1:44 PM) —I wish to alert the federal parliament to the threat to small New South Wales towns by a Carr government decision to withdraw large areas of the Pillaga state forest from wood production. The decision has the potential to devastate country towns like Gulargambone, Gwabegar and Baradine. I was born and grew up in Baradine, having to leave in 1970 when the area was being devastated by a drought and sawmill closures. Now, 35 years later, Baradine is again in a fight for survival. The one remaining hardwood mill is set to close. The other mills process cypress pine—definitely not an endangered species. The Gwabegar cypress pine mill is likely to close and the mill two kilometres outside Baradine is still negotiating for its survival. The forest areas these mills are being offered are low yielding. The townspeople fear the Carr government will offer the mill owners large sums to pack up and leave. That would devastate the town and could easily cause the closure of St John’s Convent School.

The government is offering jobs in national parks and forest thinning. But how long will they last? The protection of koalas has been used as a justification for this decision. When I was a boy, we heard of koalas in the Pillaga forest but never saw any. There are now big populations of koalas, including in the St John’s Convent playground. So it is hardly the case that they have been adversely affected by logging.

Bob Carr is worried about overcrowding in the Sydney basin. Where will the people of Baradine go if the town is devastated? Probably to Sydney. Destroying small country towns like Baradine would be short-sighted. I urge the Carr government to ensure that the mill along Kennebri Road is given access to quality resource—(Time expired)