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Wednesday, 16 August 1972
Page: 92

Senator WEBSTER (Victoria) - 1 shortly oppose the amendment which has been put forward. I suppose that every senator is keen to align himself with what are considered these days to be environmental practices - whatever they may be and whatever the words 'environmental practices' mean. In this instance the Australian Democratic Labor Party is seeking to change the wording of something which has been agreed upon between the various

State governments and the Commonwealth Government on the granting of finance for the planting of about 30,000 acres of forest during the ensuing 5-year period. This has been agreed upon by the Premiers, who are of all political complexions. Labor Premiers control 3 States. In this instance we have had the interesting exercise of the Australian Labor Party moving to deplore the agreement which has been made between the Premiers and the Commonwealth. 1 hope that honourable senators opposite can report to their States-

Senator Keeffe - Come on, back to the game.

Senator WEBSTER - That is the fact, Senator Keeffe, and you know it as well as I do. The wording which the Labor Party has used has been to deplore the action which the Premiers, including those of the Labor States, have agreed upon with the Commonwealth Government.

Senator Keeffe - The honourable senator has been reading Grimm's fairy tales again.

Senator WEBSTER - The honourable senator says no but I hope that honourable senators opposite from South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania-

Senator Mulvihill - We have political freedom. What does the honourable senator want?

Senator WEBSTER - We will see whether honourable senators opposite have political freedom. 1 was pointing out that what has already taken place is that honourable senators who have been sent here by their States to represent their States have, in the wording which has been put forward by the Labor Party, deplored 'the Government's failure'. Of course, that means their State governments' failure. One can only deplore the action of honourable senators who criticise their States in such a way.

But the more interesting and perhaps more moderate proposition is presented by Senator Byrne. He seeks to delete clause 9 of the Agreement which in fact expresses how the programme is to be executed. In that clause the States and the Commonwealth agreed that consideration would be given to the work being carried out each year efficiently and in conformity with what is professional practice and also that a financial assessment of the proposition should be made. Great enthusiasm is showing throughout the community. Much as I would not attribute it to Condon Byrne, it really smacks of political-

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Senator Wood - Order! Senator Byrne, not Condon Byrne.

Senator WEBSTER - I thought I said Senator Condon Byrne'. I apologise. But political flavour is brought into this wonderful thing which we call 'environmental control*.

Senator Mulvihill - It is not a dirty word.

Senator WEBSTER - It is not a dirty word and it is one to which we are all most attracted. But it is very difficult to explain what may be meant by 'environmental practices'. Here we have an honourable senator putting forward for decision by honourable senators an amendment which says that the States shall ensure that there are efficient environmental practices. So far as forestry is concerned, I imagine that this is something which has applied throughout all generations. I do not know of any instance in which this has not applied. If honourable senators have in their minds some specific instance in which there has been a disregard of the environmental conditions of the area in the planting of a forest, I hope that they are able to express that to their own State Ministers for Agriculture in the future.

The second point made by Senator Byrne is less clear. He is asking the Senate to decide upon clause 9a, which states what the States shall do in relation to natural forests. To me, 'natural' is the interesting word. We are dealing purely with natural forests. So far as natural forests are concerned, I am afraid that I cannot speak with great knowledge of the situation in New South Wales or Queensland, but certainly in relation to the natural forests which exist in my own State of Victoria and in Tasmania I am aware that there is great environmental interest if environment' covers the regeneration of the type of forest which exists in natural forests.

The most amazing thing that has come to light in past years in relation certainly to eucalypt forests has been the enormous regeneration for commercial purposes that has been brought about in a limited number of years due to expert thinning. That regeneration has astounded even the most acknowledged expert foresters in the country. In Tasmania 10 years ago certain forests were thinned out and the best logs were taken out for milling purposes. A reevaluation of those forests after very few years - it was given to me by one man as 8 years - showed a complete regeneration of the hardwood forests to a stage at which a thinning for commercial purposes was required again. I think that in relation to natural forests it would be a financial and commercial assessment as to whether the forest was of a type that could be productive or whether it was one which was best cleared, burned and planted with pinus radiata or one of the other pine species that have become established these days.

The honourable senator's amendment refers to natural forests, lt refers to no others. It does not refer to any bush area or to any area of cleared land. It refers only to natural forests. It states that in natural forests there should be an environmental impact study. I suppose that in the last half a dozen years there have sprung up groups of people who call themselves environmental impact study experts. I think that Senator Little or myself could probably range through an area and say whether the natural forest should be left as it is. Perhaps that idea would appeal to us if we lived nearby or if we lived in the heart of Sydney and rode once a year, or at least when there was a bandwagon, to a particular area and declared that the area should be left in its natural state. The amendment will mean extra cost and extra time being forced on State governments, and they have not requested that. I suggest to honourable senators who claim to represent their States that they should not interfere with agreements that are drawn up by responsible State and Commonwealth officials.

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