Thursday, 9 February 2006
Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers
That the Senate take note of the answers given by the Minister for Fisheries, Forestry and Conservation (Senator Abetz) and the Minister for the Environment and Heritage (Senator Ian Campbell) to questions without notice asked by Senators Barnett and Milne today relating to Recherche Bay in Tasmania.
It really concerned me to hear the different approaches within the Howard government in relation to Recherche Bay. This is a win-win scenario that has occurred. We have managed to get to a situation in which one of the most beautiful places in Tasmania, which has a highly significant cultural heritage, has been protected, and there is now an opportunity for everyone to work together to make sure we maximise the benefits for Tasmanians and other Australians including Indigenous people, and for the French.
It is a great opportunity and yet we found Senator Abetz behaving in a hostile manner. It was very much like 1983 after the saving of the Franklin all over again. With respect to the attitude that Senator Abetz took today he was obviously very hostile to the idea that the area was not going to be logged. He had obviously had his heart set on the logging of it. Last week he gave $2.5 million to Gunns. That was completely unnecessary. The government promised that money to Gunns if they worked on a study of a chlorine-free pulp mill that was plantation based. Instead, they are building a native forest based pulp mill that is to use chlorine dioxide. There was absolutely no undertaking whatsoever from the Howard government to make that money available for an old-fashioned, business as usual pulp mill, but Senator Abetz could not help himself and was falling over himself to give $2½ million to Gunns. There was also Premier Lennon’s $200,000, which was virtually given to Gunns to compensate them for the loss of the logging contract. So we have that kind of old-fashioned attitude of ‘Log it; we want to destroy it,’ and absolute misrepresentation in relation to jobs.
Then we had Senator Campbell who, to his credit, is at least prepared to meet with the French ambassador and start negotiations as to how we might best create a good interpretation of the site which, over time, will be a major tourist drawcard for the southern part of Tasmania. It will build capacity in tourism in a way that that part of the state has not seen for a long time. There is huge potential to be able to take tourists on craft similar to longboats and to retrace the steps and voyages of the French in that area. That will be hugely interesting for people to do and it will create a local industry.
I do not think some people in the Senate realise the extent to which the French collections in Paris contain incredibly rich collections of documents and specimens relating to Recherche Bay. I went to the Natural History Museum in Paris, and they got out of the drawer for me the very specimen that the botanist on D’Entrecasteaux’s expedition, Labillardiere, had collected of Eucalyptus globulus, which became Tasmania’s floral emblem. Senator Abetz wants to log the area which is the type site of Tasmania’s floral emblem—that is the nonsense here. At least Senator Campbell appreciates that it is significant. The other great significance of Recherche Bay is the ethnology, the connection between the Indigenous people and the French, who were the first Europeans in that part of Tasmania.
The French are hugely interested in the connections that they have made with Indigenous peoples throughout the world, and I am excited about the proposition that Australia might work with the French Academy of Sciences, the Natural History Museum and the National Maritime Museum in Paris. There is huge potential. There are tours you can do that show where the specimens that were taken from Recherche Bay ended up. They are in Kew Gardens, the museums in Florence, and in Geneva. It is a fantastic story. Also, there is a whole avenue of eucalypts in the south of France that came from the seeds taken from Recherche Bay. There is so much to celebrate and to work on, to have collaboration between the two countries to give real meaning and context to French language teaching in schools. There is just so much that can come from it.
I am hoping the government will back Senator Ian Campbell’s view of Recherche Bay and work to find ways to use Commonwealth funding and good offices for the interpretation of this incredibly rich area. I look forward to working with the government to make this happen. I hope that Senator Abetz will be counselled by his colleagues on how all he is doing is undermining the state Liberal Party in the lead-up to the state election and making the local member, Will Hodgman, look ridiculous in the context of the state election as everybody is pleased that it is saved except, it seems, Senator Abetz.
Question agreed to.