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Tuesday, 30 May 1989
Page: 2983

Senator AULICH —I have a mini-question for the Minister for Resources.

Senator Haines —I hope he gives a mini-answer.

Senator AULICH —We are going to try to save the trees by keeping the answer short as well. I refer the Minister to reports of the recent meeting of the International Tropical Timber Organisation (ITTO). Did Australia participate in this meeting? If so, what was the nature of our participation?

Senator COOK —We did participate in the meeting. It was held on the Ivory Coast last week. The ITTO has been going for about three years. Forty-three countries-some of them producers, some of them consumers-are members of the ITTO. Australia has been a member since February 1988. The ITTO Council met last week. A representative of my Department represented Australia at the meeting. With the concurrence of the Malaysian Government the ITTO Council undertook to make a study in Sarawak of rainforest cutting practices and what conservation and human rights issues needed to be considered in the context of what is going on in Sarawak at present. The study team consists of Bolivia, the Ivory Coast and Indonesia representing the producers and Japan, the United States and a Nordic country-probably Norway or Sweden-representing the consumers. On the non-government organisation side environmental organisations will choose someone from the United Kingdom and someone in the timber trade from Denmark.

The study will assess the sustainable utilisation of tropical timbers in rainforest areas and conservation and environmental measures that are necessary. It will focus on human rights concerns of the local indigenous people, including the Penan people about whom there has been some publicity in Australia recently. An Australian doctor, Alf Leslie, who is the former head of forestry at the Food and Agriculture Organisation headquarters in Rome, will lead the forestry component of the study. Australia will make a $US50,000 contribution to the cost of completing the study.

I note that the World Wildlife Fund, in acknowledging what the ITTO had done, in a press release last Thursday said that this was `a key victory' in the battle to save the world's remaining tropical rainforests. It went on to describe the initiative I have outlined to the Senate. It concluded its press release with these words:

It is pleasing to see that the Australian Government delegation has played its part in the support of these developments.