Thursday, 30 March 2006
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Minchin. Given the Prime Minister’s promise in his now infamous 2004 election forest policy entitled ‘Preserving Tasmania’s old-growth forests’ and his ‘immediate protection’ of 18,700 hectares of old-growth forests in the Styx and Florentine valleys and along the eastern boundary World Heritage area, can the minister explain why the heavy machinery yesterday went into the very area the Prime Minister promised the nation before they voted for him would be protected? Will the government immediately intervene to stop all forestry activities in the area to give effect to the Prime Minister’s promise of forest protection in the Florentine?
Honourable senators interjecting—
Thank you, Mr President. I can report to the Senate that, on the advice that I have received, Forestry Tasmania is not undertaking new harvesting in the Florentine Valley. The road is simply to provide access to possible coups for selective harvesting sometime in the future. The road itself has been approved by the state’s Forest Practices Authority and will not endanger any surrounding World Heritage values. The government has always believed that it was possible to have the best of both worlds in our forests, providing jobs while protecting the environment. That is what we achieved in the Tasmanian Community Forest Agreement. Not only are we increasing old growth forest protection in Tasmania to over one million hectares, we are also protecting the vast bulk of the Tarkine and a large proportion of the Styx Valley as well as reducing clearfelling and phasing out clearing of the native forest. The government did not promise to protect all forests in this area because of the need to maintain access to some higher productivity forest for timber production. Nevertheless, the agreement reserved an additional 6,460 hectares of predominantly wet eucalypt forests along the eastern boundary of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area as well as significant areas of rainforest. That is a very significant conservation outcome so I think that Senator Milne has her facts completely wrong, as usual.
Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Is the minister aware that the 6,000 hectares of the Upper Florentine that is now organised for logging and being couped is ringed on three sides by the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area? Will the minister undertake immediately to stop the road activity which is the precedent that will set the way for logging in that area? Alternatively, will he support a World Heritage endangered listing for the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area because the Prime Minister has failed to keep his promise? In his policy ‘Preserving Tasmania’s old growth forests’, he promised the immediate protection of 18,700 hectares of old growth forest in the Styx and the Florentine along the eastern boundary of the world heritage area?
It is absolutely outrageous to suggest that the Prime Minister has not honoured his promise. He is honouring his promises to the people of Tasmania in full. This was a major commitment to the people of Tasmania to achieve both the protection of vital forests and the protection of jobs, which of course Senator Milne has absolutely no concern for whatsoever.