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Tuesday, 23 November 1993
Page: 3475

Senator SHERRY (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Primary Industries and Energy) (9.34 p.m.) —To be perfectly blunt, I think Senator Coulter is trying to have it both ways. The fundamental question is: will we be allowed to build a pulp mill, to value add with those chips we export? Senator Coulter wants to have it both ways.

  I will get as angry as I ever have in this Senate. I have been through this debate in the Tasmanian context. Really, I think Senator Coulter has a gall to request that this government value add by processing the chips we export and impose that as a licence condition on the current evaluation of exporting of chips. I would be very happy to go to my minister and say that we will do that, provided that Senator Coulter will give me an undertaking—which I know he will not give—and provided that the Greens will give me an undertaking that they will support the number of pulp and paper mills that would eventuate as a consequence of that policy. There would probably be two or three of them. I would love to see an environmentally responsible pulp and paper industry develop in Australia based on that chip export industry that we have at the present time.

  One of the great tragedies of this forest industry debate in Australia is that we seem to be locked into particular positions where there cannot be a reasonable outcome on this issue. As I said earlier in my speech, we are a net importer of forest products in Australia when we should be a net exporter. One dollar in every $10 of our total debt is incurred as a consequence of the particular difficulty we are locked into. That is a shame and it is a regrettable reflection of the relative immaturity with which we approach the debate on forest issues.

  I will not lay all the blame at the feet of the environmentalists. The approach of some of the developments that are being proposed in the handling of some of the environmental issues—not purely the public relations issue—has been a little naive. It is a sad reflection on the country and it is a cost that we are all paying.