Thursday, 10 December 2020
Regulations and Determinations
Industry Research and Development (Forestry Recovery Development Fund Program) Instrument 2020; Disallowance
As I was saying yesterday, this fund will be subsidising ongoing destructive native forest logging. It is clearly recognised as being destructive by the Federal Court, by the government conservation regulator in Victoria, by the amazing scientists who have put in decades of research on these forests, by First Nations people and by the communities who are living with seeing their precious forests being devastated and who are putting their bodies on the line to protect these forests. There are brave, incredible community groups like Environment East Gippsland, the South East Forest Alliance, Friends of Leadbeater's Possum, the Knitting Nannas of Toolangi and Forest Conservation Victoria. This is what this fund would be doing.
I'm really pleased that this debate has continued across to today, because just this afternoon I received some answers from some questions on notice that I asked at estimates in October. I asked: what proportion of the forest reserves system was burnt in last summer's fires? The answer for the worst fire-hit areas was really sobering. In East Gippsland, 71 per cent of the forest reserves were burnt. In south-east New South Wales, 70 per cent of the forest reserves were burnt. In north-eastern Victoria, it was 67 per cent. And yet these are the very forest areas that this fund would be subsidising the further logging of—the forests where over two-thirds of the reserves were burnt, where there were massive deaths of precious wildlife and where every single bit of unlogged and unburnt forests that remains is incredibly precious. We would be spending $40 million of taxpayer funding to subsidise the ongoing logging of these incredibly precious bits of forest. This logging has got to stop rather than be propped up by further subsidies, and the regional forest agreements that allow this logging must be scrapped.
I want to finish by noting that not only are our forests and wildlife that live in them in a desperate situation, not only have we got logging laws that are resulting in our wildlife hurtling towards extinction, not only do we have this slush fund that we're considering today that would prop up and subsidise native forest logging, but yesterday we saw Senator McKenzie's bill that would make things even worse. Her bill would mean pretty much open slather to native forest logging. Her bill would completely exempt logging from our national environment laws in order to overrule the Federal Court decision that found that logging in Victoria that impacted on critically endangered Leadbeater's possums and threatened greater gliders was illegal. When you find something that's illegal—they have been breaking the law—what do you do? According to Senator McKenzie, you change the law. You don't fix it in order to protect the animals; no, you change the law.
Senator McKenzie's bill would be a licence for extinction and should be renamed the 'killing animals bill'. Instead of propping up a failing industry, we should be doing everything we can to protect our precious forests, to acknowledge that we've now got almost 90 per cent of the logging industry in plantations, to celebrate the plantation based industry, to shift the remaining 10 per cent as quickly as possible out of our native forests, to protect our precious forests, and to see them valued for their beauty, for recreation and tourism, for wildlife, for water and for carbon. If we really care about our forests and care about how important they are to us, to all Australians and, in fact, globally, we can start caring about them and show that care by disallowing this fund today.