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Tuesday, 18 June 1996
Page: 1707

Senator ABETZ(4.28 p.m.) —I am delighted to take part in this debate, because forestry is a very important aspect of the Tasmanian economy. This afternoon we are debating a motion moved by the Greens (WA) which, in effect, condemns the government for its continued commitment to the national forest policy statement. Yet again we have criticism of the Liberal and National parties for sticking by the platform on which they were elected. We committed ourselves to the national forest policy statement and we made it quite clear in the lead-up to and during the election campaign that a Howard government would continue to implement that policy statement. Similarly, we are being condemned for pursuing our policy on Telstra, industrial relations, social security, and whatever else.

Part of the motion tells us about the decision of the Dutch government, allegedly, not to buy certain Western Australian timbers for canal liners. If we are talking about sustainable forest practices, I have to ask the Dutch government: why can't they produce their own timbers for their own canals? Where is their sustainable timber industry?

Senator O'Chee —They don't have one.

Senator ABETZ —Possibly you are right, Senator O'Chee. They do not have one, but they have the audacity to lecture Australia that somehow we ought to do unlike they did. What is the real reason? I suggest that the real reason might be that they are getting their timber now from the West African country of Cameroon. It is closer and it is cheaper. But the big question is: is it as sustainable? Clearly it is not. With respect, it is a classic example of ripping off a Third World country's resources and promoting that action as being environmentally sound. It is exactly the same with the export woodchip argument. At the moment in Australia we have three million tonnes of potential woodchips rotting on the forest floor or being burnt.

Senator Chamarette —They're trees.

Senator ABETZ —No, they are not trees; they are on the ground today, Senator Chamarette. You will not save a single tree by not allowing these timbers to be exported.

Senator O'Chee —If it's horizontal, it's not a tree.

Senator ABETZ —If it is horizontal, I have to say to you, Senator Chamarette, it is no longer a tree. We in this country have a $2 billion timber and timber product deficit. Ten per cent of our current account deficit is because we import timbers.

Let me say to Senator Chamarette and the others who want to debate this: if we cannot woodchip those timbers that are on the forest floor today and export them, what happens? Where does the world community get its woodchips from? From Asia, South America and all those other Third World countries who do not have anything like the forest practices we have in this country. What you are doing—allegedly—is saying, `Protect the forest,' which you do not, because all it is doing is rotting on the forest floor. What you are doing is allowing them—the international community—to rip off the Third World countries.

We always hear these bleeding heart stories that somehow forestry is endangering certain specifies. A co-founder of Greenpeace, Dr Patrick Moore, was in this country for over one month. He went right around the continent of Australia and challenged every single green and environmental group to name one species that had been allegedly made extinct or endangered through forest practices. Not a single green group could nominate a single species.

If you were to talk about housing developments, you would be absolutely right. They have meant the endangering and extinction of certain species. If you talk about agricultural clearing and agricultural practices, you would be absolutely right. Yes, that has endangered species and made some extinct. But if you talk about forest practices, you are absolutely wrong. Not a single species—

Senator Chamarette —You can't prove it if you don't monitor what you are doing.

Senator ABETZ —Senator Chamarette says you can't prove it. If I can't prove it, neither can you, and it puts the lie to your assertion once and for all. By confirming that to us and to the Australian people, that is the one contribution, Senator Chamarette, you will have made in your term in this parliament. Thank you so very much for that.

Time is limited in this debate. It was interesting to hear Senator Faulkner recount the great achievements of his government and, of course, his ministerial control. He never ever did get around to tell us who Natalie was. I was hoping that he might tell us some time, but he still has not. That was all part of the ground truthing process that he told us about.

The thing that he never told us was why the Australian Labor Party were so comprehensively routed in regional Australia. It was because they did not believe him. All the electorates that have a timber industry know what Senator Faulkner and his government did. We are going to be responsible for looking after those regional areas whilst having a proper balance for those important environmental factors to which we are absolutely committed. We are also committed to truth and intellectual rigour in this debate.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Childs) —Order! The time for the discussion has concluded.