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Friday, 5 May 1989
Page: 1918

Senator CHANEY —My question to the Minister for Industry, Technology and Commerce follows that which was asked by Senator Puplick and the Minister's reply to that question. In reply to the supplementary question, the Minister expressed himself as not wishing to be locked into a situation by being tied down to matters relating to Wesley Vale so far as other mills are concerned. I remind the Minister that the statement of 2 May, from which Senator Puplick quoted, refers explicitly to `the manner in which the development of other . . . mills should be considered'. I quote partly from the first sentence of the press release. So the press release refers specifically to the development of other mills. The second last paragraph on page 2 of the statement says:

In considering the process to be adopted in dealing with proposals for future pulp mills, the Government will take account of overseas practice . . .

It goes on, in the next paragraph, to refer to the Commonwealth's role being confined to the impacts of effluents on the receiving environment. On the clear meaning of those words, it appears that the statement is setting out a position in which the Commonwealth's role will be confined to the impacts of effluents on the receiving environment. Is the Minister now saying that the Commonwealth will have a wider role, and that that will include the question of the resources to be utilised in any pulp mill proposal?

Senator BUTTON —The statement to which Senator Chaney refers is about a technical mission which is being sent to Scandinavia, and probably to Canada, to look at the effects of pulp mills on the environment. That is what it is about. The statement that the role of the Commonwealth will be confined to the effects of effluents on the receiving environment means that, in terms of issues such as visual impact-

Senator Richardson —Odour.

Senator BUTTON —Smell, and things like that, we are not concerned.

Senator Puplick —That is not effluent in the receiving environment.

Senator BUTTON —Just a minute. It is not effluent in the receiving environment, but those are more appropriately matters for local community consideration and State Government consideration. That is what the statement means. It is about the effects of the pulp production process, particularly in eucalyptus kraft mills, the technology that is used, and the effects that those mills have on the receiving environment. When I used the expression `locked in', I was thinking of the fact that at Wesley Vale the issue of resource, being a predetermined issue, was not one of concern to governments, either State or Federal. I did not wish to be locked into saying that resource issues would not have to be considered in respect of other mills. That is all.

Senator CHANEY —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I do not think that answer really ends the confusion which now surrounds this issue. As I understood it, the Government's objective was to get clear guidelines for industry with respect to the development of projects which, on the Minister's statement, involve potentially $3 billion worth of capital investment and $1 billion of value added to our exports. Can the Minister tell me what statement-if any-the Government proposes to make to define the full extent of the process which will have to be followed by people wishing to develop such mills in so far as there is Commonwealth involvement? It was my understanding that this statement was to lead to a definition of a process which people would know was available and which they would have to follow. Is the Minister now saying that quite separate requirements will have to be considered, including resource availability?

Senator BUTTON —If Senator Chaney reads the statement he will see that it says quite clearly that in respect of particular proposals and of the process, the Government will, in part, be guided by the mission which has been sent overseas to determine the processes which are in use in other countries. This is not a final statement of the Government's position in any sense. The mission overseas will be looking at technical issues and processes. I do not have the statement in front of me, but all that the paragraph at the end states is that, because of the nature of pulp mills, technical issues relating to the quality of effluents and their effects on the receiving environment have to be looked at. The issues which will concern the Commonwealth will be the processes, the technical standards and so on. The honourable senator asked me whether this was intended to exclude the examination of the availability of resources. Of course it is not intended to do that. How can it possibly do that? Many of the resources potentially available to pulp mills are owned by State governments, in some cases by the Commonwealth Government and in some cases by the private sector.

Senator Puplick —What resources owned by the Commonwealth?

Senator BUTTON —Down in the south of New South Wales, Senator.

Senator Puplick —Owned by the Commonwealth?

Senator BUTTON —The question of ownership is very uncertain.

Senator Puplick —When did you acquire the New South Wales forests?

Senator BUTTON —We have not acquired the New South Wales forests but, in law, the ownership of some of those forests is very uncertain.

Senator Puplick —Ha, ha!

Senator BUTTON —Senator Puplick should not get hysterical. The point I am seeking to make is that there are diverse ownerships and a whole variety of considerations about resources which have to be taken into account.