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Thursday, 16 December 1993
Page: 4776


Senator CHAMARETTE (9.20 a.m.) —I move:

  That there be laid on the table, by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Gareth Evans) immediately after question time on 16 December 1993, a copy of the letter sent on 14 December 1993 by the Minister for the Environment, Sport and Territories (Mrs Kelly) to the Minister for Resources (Mr Lee) detailing the conditions which should be attached to woodchip export licences and indicating the forest coupes to be excluded from the relevant forest areas.

The letter specified in my motion is crucial for the decision regarding the woodchip export licences and will be made either today or tomorrow. It contains advice to the Minister for Resources on which areas of forest should be excluded from the export licences and will seal the fate of priceless areas of natural heritage.

  Mrs Kelly has refused several requests to reveal the contents of this letter. As environment minister, she is accountable to parliament and the people of Australia, and in this chamber she is accountable via the Leader of the Government in the Senate. The minister therefore is not demonstrating that she can be trusted to act in the best interests of the environment. This chamber must be allowed to properly fulfil its role. Members of the community across Australia are extremely concerned about the fate of the forests in their areas and they have a right to know which areas will be protected and which will be excluded. Such vital issues cannot be settled behind closed doors and without the opportunity for public input.

  My understanding is that Mrs Kelly had advice from her department that 81 forest coupes were to be excluded from the licences and that this number was considerably reduced by Mrs Kelly herself prior to taking the matter to cabinet on Monday. Mrs Kelly led the environment movement and the wider community to believe that she would force the government to adhere to the spirit and the letter of the moratorium clause in the national forest policy statement signed by the federal government more than a year ago.

  By reducing the number of coupes to be protected by not forcing the immediate implementation of the national forest policy statement and by allowing the 1990 New South Wales forest logging agreement to override the national forest policy statement, the environment minister has failed in her duty to protect the environment. By these actions, Mrs Kelly has let down not only the environment movement but also the wider community. For these reasons, I have made the request and have moved this motion.