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Tuesday, 5 November 1985
Page: 1558

Senator SANDERS(8.01) —I should like to set the record straight. Senator Collard has been pushing the Joh Bjelke-Peanuts line up there in Queensland. He must think that we are absolutely stupid down here.

Senator Collard —On a point of order, Madam Acting Deputy President: That was a completely uncalled-for remark about the Premier of the sovereign State of Queensland. I ask that it be withdrawn.

Senator SANDERS —I will withdraw the remark if it offends my colleague. But I think he must admit there is a different view of the world from north of the Mason-Dixon Line up there. They seem to feel that they can generate numbers and statistics. To listen to Senator Collard, one would believe that there is actually no problem with the rainforests in Queensland. As Mark Twain once said, there's lies, damned lies and statistics. What we have got from Senator Collard is a whole bunch of statistics saying that 66 per cent of the rainforest either is never logged or never will be logged. What a bunch of rubbish! This whole report shows its concern for the rainforests in Queensland and in New South Wales. These rainforests, of course, are very precious around the world. There are not a lot of them left. That is what this report recognises. I am afraid, however, that this report is just another example of a government taking what appears to be action-namely, getting a report under way-and then burying the results in inaction. This report, on page 97, states:

The Working Group recommends that the Commonwealth Government formally adopt the following as a statement of Commonwealth Rainforest Conservation Policy:

The Commonwealth Government recognise . . . as a party to the World Heritage Convention, with respect to rainforests, `the duty of ensuring the identification, protection, conservation, presentation, preservation and transmission to future generations of cultural and natural heritage' as defined in the Convention.

In other words, this report calls for the Federal Government to take action in declaring this a world heritage area. Will the Federal Government do so? No, unfortunately it will not do so.

An editorial in the Age-a paper scathed by the honourable senator from Queensland-a fine newspaper in the south of the country, says of Mr Cohen:

. . . he has apparently given up all hope of persuading his Labor Party colleagues that the wet tropics region should be nominated for World Heritage Commission listing. That would involve the Federal Government in a head-on, Franklin River-type confrontation with the Queensland Government: a battle which the Federal Government fears it could well lose.

It goes on to say:

The Labor Party fought hard to ensure such protection for the Great Barrier Reef and for the wilderness area of south-west Tasmania. It is a sad commentary on the party's present spinelessness that it is not prepared to show the same vigor now in defending north Queensland's priceless rainforest.

Priceless rainforest it is. It is disappearing quite rapidly around the world. Downey Creek, an area of prime grade A rainforest which has somehow survived the rapacious nature of the Queensland exploiters, is still in prime quality timber. It is being cut down now. I have been there-as the honourable senator has not-and I have watched the canopy being destroyed by the logging. I have watched the destruction. It must be stopped. It could be stopped by this Federal Government, but the Federal Government is spineless.

Furthermore, the Federal Government is ignoring one basic fact: Minister Cohen has said that the conservationists are not relevant, that they do not have any importance in the political system and that they were not important in getting the Hawke Government elected in the first place and have no importance now. I tell him that he had better take another look at what support there is in the conservation movement for saving rainforests. There is a bumper sticker which reads `Rainforests-Cohen, going gone'. The rain forests are not the only endangered things around Australia; Mr Cohen had better look to his own endangered status.

Debate interrupted.