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Wednesday, 15 December 1993
Page: 4679

Senator COULTER (3.13 p.m.) —by leave—I move:

  That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Minister representing the Minister for Resources (Senator Richardson), to a question without notice asked by Senator Coulter this day, relating to advice from the Australian Heritage Commission on forest management.

The Senate will recall the question was: on how many occasions has the Minister for Resources—either this minister or the previous minister—actually taken advice and acted on advice from the Australian Heritage Commission with respect to the protection of old-growth forests with high conservation value? Honourable senators will recall that Senator Richardson's reply was that he refused to table either the advice or details of the action which the minister has taken. The reason for that, quite simply, is that in the last three years neither this minister nor the previous minister has ever acted on advice from the Australian Heritage Commission. As a consequence, one has seen the destruction of old-growth forests being driven very much by exploitation at any cost.

  The factors which the Australian Heritage Commission, and indeed the conservation organisations and the departments in the various states, are feeding in in relation to the damage which is going on, the threatened species which are disappearing, the habitats which are being destroyed, are carrying no weight whatsoever in the decisions in relation to the renewal of woodchip licences.

  While I was asking my question, there were interjections also from Senator Boswell, who said, `There the Democrats go again—only concerned about the forests, not concerned about jobs'. The Senate will also recall that this morning I gave notice of a motion stating that Manildra, a company operating out of Nowra, as a direct consequence of the bounty scheme which the Democrats negotiated with the government in the last budget, has now committed itself to a $37 million investment.

  This relates very much to the forest because what we are primarily concerned about is not just development at any cost but development which is sustainable, development which does not destroy the job opportunities for the next generation by destroying the very environment on which those jobs are going to be based—development which in fact produces jobs now and at the same time protects the environment on which future jobs will be based.

  As a direct consequence of that $37 million investment, Manildra, which is currently making 1.825 million litres—these figures are significant—of ethanol a year, will make 33.3 million litres in the next financial year, 44 million litres in the following year and 60 million litres in the year after that. This is a fuel which will substantially replace petroleum for transport. It is a fuel which is totally renewable. It is a fuel which is produced in regional centres. It provides the sort of employment which should not be provided by tearing down old-growth forests and sending away low-value woodchips and provides a solution to many of the environmental problems which the present consumption of petroleum is causing.

  It also launches us on a massive attack on our balance of trade problems. Last year we imported $4 billion worth of petroleum. The bureau of resources and the Australian Institute of Petroleum both say that we have seven years supply of petroleum left in this country and that by the year 2000 we will be importing over $9 billion worth of petroleum.

  The development of alternative sources of energy in this country, particularly for transport, is absolutely crucial if we are going to bring together a solution to those three problems: an attack on our balance of trade, a move towards sustainability, and producing the sorts of industries which will provide employment in the long term. So, quite contrary to Senator Boswell's interjection, the Australian Democrats are very concerned about job creation, but job creation which is sustainable and which is not at the expense of the environment.

  Again, I enjoin Minister Lee to take on board the advice which he gets from the Australian Heritage Commission, which is coming from state departments of conservation and land management and other departments around Australia, to recognise that there are very few jobs in the forests and that those jobs are temporary because other countries have done what we have not done. They went into plantation timbers, including eucalypt, years ago. There will be lower cost chips available from Chile, Spain and other countries in a few short years. (Time expired)

  Question resolved in the affirmative.