Senate debates

Wednesday, 12 February 2020

Matters of Public Importance

Australian Bushfires

5:30 pm

Photo of Perin DaveyPerin Davey (NSW, National Party) Share this | Hansard source

Thank you to Senator Whish-Wilson for telling us what the IPCC tells us, except that the good senator claims that they say we need to leave our forests alone. I would like to remind the Greens what the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change stated when advising the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. They said:

… a sustainable forest management strategy aimed at maintaining or increasing forest carbon stocks, while producing an annual sustained yield of timber, fibre or energy from the forest, will generate the largest sustained mitigation benefit.

The Greens talk about logging and forestry as though we strip the landscape and don't replant. Our forestry industry in Australia is sustainable. It is a sustainable and honest industry that is highly regulated, well maintained and well managed.

It sounds like the Greens would rather us look at alternative materials. Let us not forget, timber is one of the most sustainable building materials available. Timber has a much smaller carbon footprint than any other building material. Imagine if, instead of using timber in construction, we were limited to only using steel. The carbon footprint! Imagine if, instead of using sustainable, well-managed forestry products harvested in Australia, we turned to importing from regions like the Amazon, where there is no regulation, where there is forest destruction and there is the carbon footprint from the transport. We would be exporting our problems, and that is what I get so fed up with in this place.

In rising to speak on this today, I am going to take the opportunity to highlight what a good industry our forestry industry is and the benefits it has. I will not shamelessly attack this industry, as we have seen from others, because, as the fires tore through the south coast of my state, New South Wales, this year and brought devastation to many communities, there was a group of people, purportedly environmentalists, who found joy and applauded when the Eden woodchip mill was in flames, when the largest employer in that town caught fire. If this group had their way, that mill would be completely destroyed, never to return, along with many jobs. So imagine that town, which was already suffering from the decline in tourism due to the bushfires and already suffering from the loss of homes and facilities and the loss of people from their communities in the regions, never having those mill jobs return. That would turn into the baker, the pub owner and everyone else put out of business, to the joy of this group on Facebook. Fortunately, that mill has been able to continue operations and will continue to be part of an industry that employs around 52,000 people across Australia and generates nearly $24 billion in annual income for our country.

Now, onto the issue of what is being referred to here as salvage logging, where there is a healthy environmental debate: at a time when we endeavour to ensure that the devastation that has just occurred does not occur again, is it not right for us to actually go out and allow for regeneration? We cannot completely dismiss a practice that may, in some cases, if handled appropriately, reduce future bushfire threat.

One point of this matter of interest that I'm glad has been raised is what we need to do to fund wildlife and habitat recovery, because that is what we in this government are doing. With an initial $50 million, we have directed this money for wildlife rehabilitation and recovery. It was one of the immediate priorities of the government and it includes identifying threatened species, controlling pests and weeds, and identifying unburnt areas where we can ensure the survival of native plants and animals. I am very proud to be part of a government that's recognised that need.

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