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Thursday, 11 May 1989
Page: 2245


Senator SANDERS(10.19) —by leave-I move:

(1) That a select committee, to be known as the Select Committee on Paper Pulp Mills in Australia, be established to inquire into and report upon:

(a) the environmental, economic and social impact of the establishment of additional paper pulp mills in Australia; and

(b) the feasibility of paper recycling and the use of alternative materials and processes to extend timber resources and reduce pollution.

(2) That the Committee consist of six Senators, as follows:

(a) three to be nominated by the Leader of the Government in the Senate;

(b) two to be nominated by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate;

(c) one to be nominated by the Leader of the Australian Democrats.

(3) That the Committee may proceed to the dispatch of business notwithstanding that all members have not been duly nominated and appointed and notwithstanding any vacancy.

(4) That the Committee elect as Chairman one of the members nominated by the Leader of the Government.

(5) That the Chairman of the Committee may, from time to time, appoint another member of the Committee to be the Deputy-Chairman of the Committee, and that the member so appointed act as Chairman of the Committee at any time when there is no Chairman or the Chairman is not present at a meeting of the Committee.

(6) That, in the event of the votes on any question before the Committee being equally divided, the Chairman, or the Deputy-Chairman when acting as Chairman, have a casting vote.

(7) That the quorum of the Committee be three members.

(8) That the Committee and any sub-committee have power to send for and examine persons, papers and records, to move from place to place, to sit in public or in private, notwithstanding any prorogation of the Parliament or dissolution of the House of Representatives, and that the Committee have leave to report from time to time its proceedings and the evidence taken and such interim recommendations as it may deem fit.

(9) That the Committee have power to appoint sub-committees consisting of two or more of its members, and to refer to any such sub-committee any of the matters which the Committee is empowered to consider, and that the quorum of a sub-committee be all of the Senators appointed to the sub-committee.

(10) That the Committee be provided with all necessary staff, facilities and resources and be empowered to appoint persons with specialist knowledge for the purposes of the Committee with the approval of the President.

(11) That the Committee be empowered to print from day to day such papers and evidence as may be ordered by it, and a daily Hansard be published of such proceedings as take place in public.

(12) That the Committee present its final report to the Senate on or before the first sitting day in October 1989.

(13) That, if the Senate be not sitting when the Committee has completed its report, the Committee may provide the report to the President, or, if the President is unable to act, to the Deputy-President, and, in that event:

(a) the report shall be deemed to have been presented to the Senate,

(b) the publication of the report is authorised by this Resolution,

(c) the President or the Deputy-President, as the case may be, may give directions for the printing and circulation of the report, and

(d) the President or the Deputy-President, as the case may be, shall lay the report upon the Table at the next sitting of the Senate.

(14) That the foregoing provisions of this Resolution, so far as they are inconsistent with the Standing Orders, have effect notwithstanding anything contained in the Standing Orders.

This motion deals with the establishment of a select committee to examine paper pulp mills in Australia. Paper pulp mills will be very much on the Australian political and environmental agenda in the near future, as they have been in the recent past. What is happening, of course, is that the paper pulp producers in the Northern Hemisphere, having depleted their resource and having so aroused the ire of the populace that they are no longer able to operate there without environmental pollution controls, are coming to Australia to use our resources and our hitherto lax environmental laws to their advantage. These pulp mills are coming. There is no way they will stop coming. It is as if we are sitting in the middle of a railway track and a locomotive is coming at us with a big headlight, it is very apparent, and we are not doing anything about it. If we do not get off that track we will get run over by that locomotive. Politicians and society in general-but I suppose politicians more than most-look for simple solutions. They think that by merely making a statement about pulp mills the problem will go away. There is no such thing in the real world as a simple solution. Aiding and abetting the wish of a simple solution by the politicians is the media. The media also likes to simplify things.

There is a lot of confusion at the moment over pulp mills-what they mean, what they may produce in terms of wealth for this country and what the disadvantages are. There is so much confusion over this issue that as I stand here speaking I have not been told officially by either the Opposition or the Government what the outcome of this discussion will be. I do not know whether they are for this committee or against it.


Senator Haines —Do they know?


Senator SANDERS —As Senator Haines says, do they know? I am not sure that they do. The Opposition is very much in disarray at the moment. A journalist told me-I only have this second-hand-that the Opposition would like to defer this issue until after the Budget.


Senator Haines —After the Tasmanian election.


Senator SANDERS —After the Tasmanian election, as Senator Haines says, and further down into the never-never. It has already been delayed far too much. This is an issue of very great importance and the Opposition is using it as a political football. I do not know what the Government's attitude is, although I suspect that it will not support this matter. I will go into the reasons why I think the Government will not support it a little later. There is a tremendous amount of confusion over pulp mills in Australia.

The first issue which was raised was dioxins. I think we owe North Broken Hill Peko Ltd and Noranda Forest Inc. a great debt of gratitude for raising the issue as ineptly as they did. They actually did the nation a service because they focused the nation's attention on pulp mills. They were very ham- fisted and dictatorial in the way they did it, which is the way they operate. They forced the Gray Government to do backflips over their requirements and then they tried to force the Federal Government to do the same thing. I think that this points out the need for an inquiry.

The Federal Government knew so little about pulp mills at the time that even though it wanted to give the go ahead to Noranda and North Broken Hill, it made it impossible for Noranda to go ahead because it set guidelines which Noranda could not possibly accept. The Government wishes to give the go ahead to a project, but because it knew so little about it, it actually squashed the project by asking Noranda to do what was technologically feasible and possible in terms of controlling effluent. Noranda could not afford to do that because if it produced a relatively environmentally pollution-free plant in Tasmania it would have to do so in Canada and it did not want to do that with its many mills in Canada. It wants to run them wide open at great detriment to the environment.

The net result of all this is that there is a lot of confusion over what is an environmentally clean pulp mill. Somehow the argument runs that as long as it does not use chlorine bleaches it is clean. This is absolutely false. Chlorine, of course, does introduce a great number of pollutants into the environment. The dioxins which were discussed in the Wesley Vale issue are not the only things that a pulp mill produces. The kraft process which the Wesley Vale mill and many mills around the world use is a very old process which uses sulphate chemicals to break down the fibres of wood. It has great environmental problems. If honourable senators go to any pulp mill town in the northern hemisphere they will be immediately assaulted by the smell of sulphur in the air. The water and the air are polluted. Just having an unbleached paper mill is not the solution to the problem, but that is the way the argument seems to be running at the moment. There is an article in yesterday's Hobart Mercury entitled `Can do unbleached: ANM'. It states:

Australian Newsprint Mills at Boyer said it was able to supply all the Federal Government's needs for unbleached paper.

ANM's marketing manager, Mr Rocky Wells, said Boyer already made newsprint and other publication papers using pulps other than the chlorine-bleached chemical pulps used by most other papermakers.

Last Saturday the Prime Minister, Mr Bob Hawke, announced a feasibility study on an unbleached-paper mill-

unbleached, again-

with a promise that the Federal Government would switch to such paper.

Mr Wells said the government could avoid using chlorine-bleached paper by using ANM's papers for many purposes including circulars.

Australian Newsprint Mills Ltd (ANM) has killed the Derwent River with pollution.


Senator Calvert —Rubbish!


Senator SANDERS —With rubbish, as Senator Calvert says. ANM has killed the Derwent River with pollution, with its sludge. It has caused so much pollution that its stretch of the Derwent is almost devoid of healthy marine life. Merely having a mechanical process, as ANM does, does not necessarily produce a clean environment. So unbleached paper is not in itself the answer. Nevertheless, the opinion in the community seems to be that it is. An article headed `Company may build unbleached paper mill' in the Australian of 10 May 1989 states:

A private company considering building a paper mill at Grafton on the NSW north coast might produce unbleached paper, the NSW Parliament heard yesterday.

The NSW Minister for Natural Resources, Mr Causley, said the company, Daishowa International- our friends from the south-east New South Wales forests; they want to expand into the northern part of the State-

had made it clear it would consider building an unbleached paper mill, and take pulp to Japan, if a bleached paper mill was unacceptable to local people.

There is now the impression that merely having an unbleached paper mill is the solution. Of course, it is not. Other problems are ignored and the select committee would cover them. I refer, for example, to problems with the resource itself. Is the resource available? Are the trees available? What about alternatives to trees? What about agricultural crops such as kino, hemp and other fibre crops? What about the use of recycling in pulp mills? These things are not covered by the simple minded pursuit of an unbleached mill.


Senator Puplick —Do you see a great future for hemp, Senator?


Senator SANDERS —There is a great future for hemp. There always has been. As Senator Puplick knows, the first paper actually came from hemp and its derivatives. It makes a wonderful fibre. It facilitates the use of the thermo-mechanical process, incidentally.


Senator Calvert —You can read it and then smoke it, is that it?


Senator SANDERS —Whatever turns you on, Senator. There is a Government reluctance to have this industry. I contacted the Minister for primary Industries and Energy, Mr Kerin, over this and he said, `Oh, such an inquiry might jeopardise existing mills'. If it does, what is wrong with that? If these mills are operating in such a manner as to harm the environment, why should they not be jeopardised? Why should they not clean up as well?

We need environment friendly processes. The environment movement is not for closing down society and going out in the scrub, eating muesli and ignoring all the problems of employment and all that, as has been portrayed by the Opposition and some members of the Government. In fact, we do look for viable downstream processing of our trees, of all of our resources. There are ways to produce paper which are environmentally friendly. One way is by use of the thermo-mechanical processes which have been developed in Sweden. Thermo-mechanical processes are not new. Newsprint is always made this way. But as we can see from any newspaper, the paper is yellow and rather fuzzy. The Swedes have developed processes to make the paper suitable for the best quality paper, computer grade paper. This high grade paper can now be made with the thermo-mechanical process, using steam-brute force and ignorance, if you want, rather than chemicals-and bleaching with hydrogen peroxide which liberates no chloride into the atmosphere or into the water.

I have read accounts in the Australian press that our paper manufacturers say that this is impossible. Of course it is not impossible; it is done overseas. I note that the Government is sending experts overseas to look at this very thing. That is fine. But I reiterate that the Government does not really have its money where its mouth is if it is going to vote against the inquiry into the pulp mills. The Government has it about half right when it talks about the environmental pollution aspects of pulp mills.

The other issue, which they are not looking at, is the use of the resource. Thermal mechanical pulping uses half the number of trees as a chemical mill to produce the equivalent amount of paper. The Government has not mentioned this. I do not know if it intends to look at it, but it is a very important factor. The kraft process, the chemical process which these high-flying international paper companies are trying to foist off on Australia, is as dead as a dodo. Nobody is building kraft process mills anywhere in the world. Everybody is going to thermo-mechanical processes. This Government still seems ready to entertain the emplacement of kraft process mills.

I do not know how the vote will go on this matter. I will learn very shortly from the Government and the Opposition. But I still have the very basic feeling that neither the Government nor the Opposition is taking this issue seriously enough. Our environment obviously is too important to be left in the hands of politicians. Our politicians are simply incapable of looking after our future.