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Wednesday, 20 September 1972
Page: 1635

Mr UREN (Reid) - This is an historic occasion. It is probably the first time - it will be only the first of many - that governments have been brought to task with regard to and reminded of the impact of certain legislation on the environment. In introducing his motion the Minister for National Development (Sir Reginald Swartz) said:

The absence ot reference to the 'environment' in the originally proposed agreement does not mean that this important field has been ignored.

I question that statement. I wish to deal briefly with the developments that have taken place since the Australian Labor Party proposed in this place the following amendment to the motion that the Bill be read a second time:

Whilst not opposing the provisions of the Bill, this House deplores the Government's failure to prepare and publish, in consultation with the States, a national plan for -

(a)   the full use and development of Australia's forest resources; and

(b)   the conservation of existing hardwood forests and associated flora and fauna in relation to softwood plantings.

That amendment was defeated in this House but when the Bill went to the other place a similar amendment was passed with the support of the Australian Democratic Labor Party. A further amendment was also moved at the Committee stage of the debate in the other place by the Democratic Labor Party, which reads:

At the end of clause 3 add ", subject to the amendment of the agreement by the omission of clause 9 of the Schedule and the insertion in place thereof of the following clauses:

9.   The State shall ensure that planting during each year is carried out efficiently and in conformity with sound forestry, environmental and financial practices. 9a. The State shall ensure that natural forests shall not be cleared for planting softwoods unless the particular proposed clearing has beforehand been the subject of an environmental impact study made by an independent expert on behalf of the Australian Forestry Council and that Council after considering the report of the said study has approved the particular clearing.' ".

That amendment was also carried in the other place with the support of the Australian Labor Party. This legislation seeks merely to ratify an agreement which has been in force for some 12 months. After further consideration of the matter, the Government decided that it would not accept the amendment passed in another place but would move a further amendment to its original proposal, which reads:

That the Senate's amendment be disagreed to, but that in place thereof the following amendment be made: 'In the Schedule, at the end of clause 9, add "and shall ensure that environmental factors relating to the planting have been considered".'

We on this side of the chamber, as the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) has said, support the motion. We are striving for a principle. We do not want to criticise and destroy the good work which has been done by the forestry commissions. The forestry commissions probably would be as environment minded as most people. In fact, they would probably be the leaders in the environmental field. But no matter how progressive the environmental people are they have to be open to criticism and there have been mistakes made by the States. I wish to quote to the chamber a comment which was made in Melbourne on 7th September 1971 by Dr R. F. Dusman, senior ecologist of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources. He said:

I don't like to criticise foresters because they are doing a better job than most others. Yet it seems slightly mad to see them knocking over the few remaining areas of natural forest to create exotic plantations of pinus radiata and other species. Surely this is (he time to set them to work planting up the lands that have been cleared as a result of past misguided policies.

I would like to ask the following question of the Minister for National Development: What does the future hold for the natural eucalyptus forests of the Boyd Plateau? During the debate in this House on the motion for the second reading of this Bill 1 received a telegram from the Colong Committee, which represents 170 conservation societies. In that telegram the Colong Committee called for an amendment to the legislation to protect native eucalypt forests from destruction for pine plantations and the specific exclusion from the agreement of the Konangaroo State Forest on the Boyd Plateau in New South Wales. It claimed that the Plateau is an integral part of the Kanangra Boyd National Park and should not be destroyed with Commonwealth funds. I want to know what the future holds for the Boyd Plateau. What is to happen to the natura] forest on that Plateau? We know that the destruction of natural Australian eucalypt forests can affect not only other species of flora but also the natural fauna living in the area. We know that certain flora and fauna indigenous to our country will not survive in areas replanted with exotic softwood forests. The result is an upsetting of the balance of the eco-system. I believe that the hardwood and natural Australian forests should be allowed to remain. The forestry authorities are mainly interested in planting exotic softwoods. The question of overplanting also has to be taken into consideration. It may be that too much pinus radiata is being planted. My advice is that a particular type of infectious germ can affect the whole softwood forest in an area. In other words, we may be putting all of our eggs into the one basket. Perhaps we should diversify more. I believe that we should be planting more hardwood forests. But I do not believe that we should destroy the natural hardwood forests. By doing so we upset the balance of the eco-system. What we should be doing is restricting our farm acreage instead of extending it.

Mr Chipp - Is it not true that three State Labor governments have opposed the Senate amendment?

Mr UREN - lt is quite possible. I am not saying that it is true.

Mr Chipp - It is true.

Mr UREN - It is not true. It is quite possible that the States have adopted a chauvinist approach. As far as I am concerned, when one starts to deal with the environment one should remember that everything is connected to everything else. I can assure the Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr Chipp) that I do not support the policy of the Labor Government in Tasmania with regard to Lake Pedder; I do not support the Liberal Government of Victoria's destruction of Westernport; and I do not like the conservative Government of New South Wales sanctioning the destruction of beaches by sand mining interests on the north coast of that State or the angophora forest near The Entrance on the central coast of that State. We are going to have chauvinist problems with the States, but we can by education and discussion bring the matter to a higher level. As I said, this will be just the first of many actions to be taken in this Parliament with regard to the environment. I commend the Government for at least relenting. I hope that it will take action and not just speak words. I want to hear what the Government is going to do about the Boyd Plateau. What action does it propose to take?

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr Drury) - Order! The honourable member's time has expired.

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