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Thursday, 22 May 1980
Page: 3136

Mr HOWE (Batman) - I do not want to delay the House for very long. I want to refer, briefly tq what I regard as a very serious situation which has developed within one of the committees of this House, namely, the Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation. The Standing Committee has been considering the question of the south-west of Tasmania. It visited the south-west of Tasmania in February at the invitation of the wilderness society of that area. Subsequently the Committee resolved on 1 7 April to report on the south-west of Tasmania. Honourable members will recognise that this area of Tasmania is one of the unique areas in terms of heritage and of the natural environment not only in Australia but also more broadly in the world, indeed, the previous Minister for Science and the Environment in speaking on the southwest of Tasmania said: . . South West Tasmania is one of the few remaining wilderness areas in the temperate regions of the world and together with Cape York shares the distinction of being the largest remaining wilderness area in the eastern coastal region of Australia. As such it is of national significance and in the opinion of some is a potential candidate for World Heritage status.

The Minister further stated that the Government is committed to assist the Tasmanian Government in establishing a national park of world significance. Not only the Minister but also the Australian Heritage Commission has advertised an intention to put the south-west of Tasmania on the Heritage Commission list.

A Committee of this House has unanimously agreed in relation to the status of the south-west of Tasmania to recommend to this House that a certain course of action be taken. As a result of the biased tactics of the Chairman of the Committee- tactics which were specifically designed to introduce a partisan element into the committee system of this Parliament- it has not been possible for the Committee to get to the situation where a report can be released at a time which is critical in terms of decisions which may be made by the Tasmanian Government with respect to this area. It is extremely unfortunate that, in a committee that is supposedly responsible to the Parliament rather than to parties, certain committee members have sought deliberately at three or four meetings of the Committee to act in the strongest and most partisan way. They have used obstructive tactics. They have sought meeting after meeting to delay any decision, to the point where the situation has become extremely difficult.

The Chairman, having been present at a meeting which by a majority decision decided to take a certain course of action in this Parliament, ratted on that Committee today. He came into the Parliament and did not have the guts to stand up against his party. He was not prepared to follow through in terms of concern for the national environment, for the national heritage or for the south-west of Tasmania. I want to place it on record that if anyone suggests that the honourable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Cotter) or the honourable member for Petrie (Mr Hodges) have the slightest concern for any serious environmental situation in this country they are seriously misled. Certainly, if they ever go to Tasmania and suggest that they have the slightest concern for any wilderness or conservation areas in the south-west of Tasmania they ought to be rubbished. They would be lying; they would be deceitful; and they would be expressing views that they do not hold.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! I ask the honourable member for Batman to moderate his language. There is no need to use terms such as 'lying' and deceitful'.

Mr HOWE - I regard this as a very serious situation. Mr Speaker, you have talked about the need for reform of this Parliament. You cannot seriously move in any direction in terms of reform until you have looked at how the committee system operates. It is not a representative committee system of this Parliament; it is a committee system of the Government. As far as honourable members on this side of the House are concerned, until we receive assurances that that Committee will not be run in a way which reflects only the interests of the Government, only the interests of the Liberal and National Country parties, we will not be part of the processes of that Committee. That Committee is being distorted in the interests of a particular party- a section of this Parliament- and no longer can be regarded in any serious way as representative of the institution as a whole.

Mr SPEAKER -Order! The honourable member's time has expired.

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