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Wednesday, 7 June 1989
Page: 3537

Senator WALTERS —My question is addressed to the Minister for the Arts, Sport, the Environment, Tourism and Territories. In view of the conflicting statements made by the Minister prior to the Tasmanian election, can he inform the Senate what decision he has finally made regarding the issuing of a licence to Huon Forest Products (HFP) Pty Ltd for the export of woodchips?

Senator RICHARDSON —The decision on a licence for HFP is not a matter for me, so I have not made any such decision. I am not aware of any conflicting statements that I have made, but to clarify the exact position for Senator Walters, I point out that some time ago an examination was carried out of the resource available in Tasmania. That involved people from the Department of Forestry in Tasmania, from the Department of the Minister for Resources and from my own Department. After that exhaustive examination had been carried out, the Commonwealth determined that there was sufficient resource available for the Huon Forest Products mill to go ahead. I do not think that there is any doubt about that.

In more recent times, of course, there was an election in Tasmania. The Gray Government is about to be defeated on the floor of the Parliament and a new government will be sworn in. I am told that that new Government will not permit Huon Forest Products to go ahead. It was always within the province of the State Government to determine the way in which it would allocate resource. So I do not believe that there is any conflict. It will be up to the new Government to make the decision.

Senator WALTERS —I ask a supplementary question. I take it from the Minister's answer that he has no problem with the issuing of a licence for that particular project?

Senator RICHARDSON —Even Senator Walters would find it difficult to place that construction on what I said. What I said was that the Commonwealth had determined that there was sufficient resource. The way in which that resource is to be allocated is a matter for the Tasmanian Government. If the Tasmanian Government were to decide that it did not have to go ahead in its present form, then I would have no objections whatsoever.