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Monday, 5 June 1989
Page: 3306

Senator CHILDS —I ask the Minister for Resources whether he has seen reports that the New South Wales Premier has promised to direct his Minister for Natural Resources to reopen negotiations with the Commonwealth over its proposal for logging in south-eastern New South Wales. Has he any information about or confirmation of this development? Has he yet received the detailed considered response to the Commonwealth's proposal which he asked the New South Wales Minister for Natural Resources to provide nearly two weeks ago?

Senator COOK —I have seen a report that the New South Wales Premier, Nick Greiner, directed or asked his Minister for Natural Resources, Ian Causley, to reopen negotiations with the Commonwealth over the south-east forests in New South Wales. I have received a letter from Ian Causley, which one imagines is this effort to reopen negotiations. It is in part a reply to the balanced proposition that the Commonwealth has put to the State of New South Wales to resolve the issues outstanding over the Harris-Daishawa Pty Ltd woodchip export licence. Senator Childs's question was: Has there been any indication that there is a considered response from the State of New South Wales? Let me quote the following from the third paragraph of the letter to me from Ian Causley:

Resource availability has always been the crucial issue, as you correctly identify.

Thank you, Ian Causley. He goes on:

I have not reviewed the analysis prepared by your Department in great detail, as the conclusions agree generally . . .

with the conclusions of ours. I wish that the Minister, even after all this time, would review in great detail the proposition that the Commonwealth has put because, as I have said, the Commonwealth has been motivated on two fronts over this matter. I cite them not necessarily in ranking order; they rank equally. For the sake of convenience of presentation, the first is whether or not there is sufficient resource available in our proposition to maintain full employment in the sawlog industry in the south-east, and by virtue of doing that-based on the integrated logging practices in that area-to maintain the supply of material for the woodchip operation. In the first case we have said, all through this matter, that our calculations provide that there are. Initially Ian Causley contested that view and said that they did not. If he studies our detailed proposition further he will not only be of the opinion that they in fact do meet the requirements of the sawlog industry, but also know from the sawlog industry itself, from spokesmen from some of the sawlog companies, that they find our calculations adequate to meet their needs for the 12 months of the biological study that we would be conducting. Not only have they said that to me, but they said it, as representatives of the sawlog industry, to the Prime Minister last Thursday afternoon when they met him following a demonstration here.

The Senate would also know that this Government quite rightly has environmental obligations, and those obligations are to protect as much of the National Estate as possible, and that we have done. The proposal we have put enables logging in less than 10 per cent of the National Estate, with over 91 per cent to be studied by a balanced team of scientists to come up with recommendations of what we should regard as the principal properties of the National Estate for that other 91 per cent of the area. The third leg of our proposition has been to encourage and in fact involve the New South Wales Government and Harris-Daishawa directly in a plantation strategy, so that in the future we are not always in the situation of arguing whether a diminishing resource should go to industry or to the environment, but that we expand the resource base so that both can live side by side.

Minister Causley has indicated in his own words: `I have not reviewed the analysis prepared by your Department . . .'. I wish he would. If he did, he would find that it meets the very thing we have said it does, and that is the view of the sawlog industry. The week before last I went with the Timber Workers Union of New South Wales and addressed shop stewards from all of the sawlog companies in the south-east at a mass meeting of Harris-Daishawa workers and, subject to confirmation that is now available, they have also endorsed the proposition. So we have a situation in which the sawlog industry acknowledges that our calculations are right, the workers whose jobs and livelihoods are affected by those calculations endorse the proposition we have put, and Ian Causley is still not saying that he has studied this adequately. As soon as I can, I will be seeking a meeting with Minister Causley to resolve this matter. But I suggest that before I reach the discussion table, he take note of what the industry and the unions have said about the proposition we have put and that he move to adopt that proposition and stop trying to engage in a political point scoring battle, which is about the only thing he has ever tried to engage in in his public utterances. I ask as well that the environmental movement recognise the soundness of the propositions we have put and come in behind those too. I think that would properly isolate Minister Causley.

Senator Puplick interjecting-

Senator COOK —Senator Puplick has raised his voice again. I suggest that that is a very ill-advised thing for him to do in this matter. Just over a fortnight ago both Senator Richardson and I asked him to say publicly where he stands on this matter-whether he supports Causley and the New South Wales Government or whether he supports our proposition. In all of that time he has remained deafeningly silent and has not declared his position. Yet he comes in here with a motion today, World Environment Day, as if he were protecting the environment. Where does he stand on this proposition, given that the industry and the unions support it?

Senator Puplick —I ask Senator Cook to table the letter from which he was quoting.

The PRESIDENT —Will the Minister table the letter?

Senator COOK —I do not propose to table the letter. If Senator Puplick wants a copy of the letter he should see his mate Ian Causley.

Senator Puplick —Is the Minister claiming it is a confidential letter?

Senator COOK —If Senator Puplick tells us where he stands, I will consider tabling the document. Otherwise I do not intend to table it.

Senator Puplick —Mr President, unless the Minister claims the letter is confidential, having quoted from it, I believe that he is required to table it.

The PRESIDENT —Is it a confidential letter?

Senator COOK —Mr President, it is a communication by the Minister for Natural Resources in New South Wales.

The PRESIDENT —If you claim it to be confidential, it is.

Senator COOK —I claim that parts of it may be confidential. It is not as far as I am concerned; but the tone in which that Minister has written to me suggests that, in his view, parts of it are confidential. While that is the case, I do not propose to table it. Mr President, while I am on my feet, I ask Senator Puplick to tell us where he stands on this matter.