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Thursday, 1 June 1989
Page: 3221

Senator SANDERS —My question is addressed to the Minister for Resources. I refer to an environmental impact statement (EIS) conducted by the Forestry Commission of New South Wales covering proposed logging operations from 1989 to 2009 for the whole of the Eden management area. This EIS is in addition to an EIS previously prepared for a portion of that area. I ask: Does the Minister or his Department have, or have access to, the complete 1989-2009 EIS or any portion thereof? If not, why not? If the Minister does not have the complete 1989-2009 EIS, will he obtain it immediately and take appropriate action to protect the National Estate? If he does have the EIS will he immediately examine the additional areas covered in the 1989-2009 EIS for prudent and feasible alternatives to logging, as he is required to do under section 30 of the Australian Heritage Commission Act? What proportion of the entire Eden management area does the 1989-2009 EIS cover compared to the previous EIS? In view of the fact that the Jarasius decision was intended to protect forests from logging, is the Minister now perverting the intent of the Jarasius decision by citing it as an excuse for not examining feasible alternatives to logging for the entire Eden region?

Senator COOK —Senator Sanders has to be recognised as a late developer in this debate. Apart from Government senators and the Minister for the Arts, Sport, the Environment, Tourism and Territories, Senator Dunn must take the prize for persistence in arguing for the environmental lobby. I am getting a bit annoyed with questions which assert things which are factually wrong as if they were right and, on the basis of that, go ahead and draw conclusions. Senator Sanders's question is riddled with factual errors, the first one being that the New South Wales Forestry Commission conducted an EIS for 1989-2009. It did not. That EIS was conducted by Harris-Daishowa (Australia) Pty Ltd on guidelines agreed to between Harris-Daishowa, the then Department of Environment, which has been taken over by the Department of the Arts, Sport, the Environment, Tourism and Territories, DASETT, and in consultation with the State department of the environment in New South Wales. Harris-Daishowa conducted the EIS, not the New South Wales Forestry Commission. I would have expected someone who puts himself forward as an expert in this issue actually to know the factual base of it, and not gloss over the facts.

Let me go to the questions. As I have said, the EIS to which Senator Sanders has referred was not conducted by the Forestry Commission. I have explained whom it was conducted by. That EIS covers the period 1989 to 2000. I am aware of it: I have a copy of it and I have certainly read it.

The next question was about prudent and feasible alternatives. Senator Sanders should know that I have thoroughly and exhaustively considered prudent and feasible alternatives that I have put forward to the logging plan in the south-east forest. He should know that because last week I tabled in the Senate a fairly full document which was a full analysis of my consideration of those prudent and feasible alternatives. I imagine that Senator Sanders has read it. No-one has yet come forward to challenge the content of that consideration. The absence of a challenge by Senator Sanders or his question to the content of that consideration is a notable omission. The current EIS for the period 1989-2009 covers the entire Eden management area of 630,000 hectares and considers the environmental impact of Harris- Daishowa's operations beyond 31 December 1989 to 31 December 2009.

The Commonwealth plans for the south-east forests do not pervert the intention of the Jarasius decision. Since this is now a matter of contention Senator Sanders should get the Jarasius decision out and read it so that he can be satisfied on that point. That decision relates specifically to the New South Wales Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1980 and imposes an obligation on the Forestry Commission of New South Wales to prepare a separate environmental impact statement if the forestry activity is likely to significantly affect the environment. As a result of that decision an EIS was completed by the Forestry Commission of New South Wales. That EIS covers forestry operations in the Eden management area and adds to the information presented to the Harris-Daishowa EIS by specifically addressing those additional matters required by New South Wales law. The information provided by the Forestry Commission EIS was taken into account in the preparation of my consideration, which I tabled here, under section 30 of the Australian Heritage Commission Act.

I conclude my answer by making this observation: I would be a bit more accepting of the criticism of the balanced, considered and rational proposition the Commonwealth has put forward to bring to a conclusion the dispute in the south-east forests, to enable the environmental aspects to be protected and properly studied, and to enable the industry to continue, if people such as Senator Sanders asked, `What should be the fate of the 700 families who are dependent on the industry in that area?'. These people are operating in a regional zone with twice the unemployment level of elsewhere in New South Wales. Indeed, that is a consideration of the Commonwealth as well. We should not simply argue one side of it; we should find the right balance between both sides in order to meet the objectives of both sides. I have heard this from Senator Dunn; she at least is aware of the question. I have not heard it from Senator Sanders. I would like to hear it from him some time.

Senator SANDERS —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Is the Minister saying that he cannot seek prudent and feasible alternatives except in areas in which the New South Wales Government has deigned to conduct its own EIS?

Senator COOK —I commend to Senator Sanders a reading of the Jarasius decision. I commend to him a reading of my full documentary consideration of how I meet section 30 of the Australian Heritage Commission Act, which I have tabled, which is a public document and which I have not been criticised on. If he reads those two documents he will find the answers to his questions.