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Tuesday, 23 November 1993
Page: 3473

Senator COULTER (9.22 p.m.) —I thank the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Primary Industries and Energy (Senator Sherry) for that answer because it provided two bits of information. Firstly, it answered Senator Harradine's query about the relevance of the Democrats' objection to this legislation. I notice that the reply went immediately to the national forest policy and I can tell Senator Harradine that that is what we are concerned about—that the government is implementing part of the national forest policy but not other parts which we believe to be even more important.

  The other important thing which the parliamentary secretary has just said is that the government will continue to subsidise forestry in Australia. I want to make it absolutely clear—and get it on the record so that everybody understands it—that this federal government will be putting money into value adding to forestry products but at the same time will continue to subsidise the destruction of our old-growth forests for an indefinite period. That is what the parliamentary secretary has said and it is now clearly on the record.

  The second point I would like Senator Sherry to deal with is a concern that has been expressed to me, particularly in Western Australia and Tasmania. Many craft workers in those states have found themselves locked out of mixed old-growth forests where they wish to go and take what are known as the minority species, many of which often make extremely high quality, very expensive furniture and pieces of timber. They have been locked out of those areas when those areas have been clear-felled on the grounds that it is simply easier for those who are clear-felling and chipping an area to do that and not worry about craftspeople coming in and selectively taking out those trees which have a very high value.

  One has seen in factories in the south-west of Western Australia and in Tasmania—indeed, in Hobart—pieces of furniture priced at thousands of dollars made from these minority species and the people making this furniture complaining that they have great difficulty getting access to the wood. If this bill is about value adding, surely there should be some assurance from this government—because this government is passing the legislation—that that will not continue and that those people who are making these high quality pieces of furniture and other timber products out of these minority species will continue to have access to them in these areas that will continue to be harvested. I would also like some assurance of that.