Wednesday, 28 February 2007
Questions without Notice
My question is to Senator Abetz, the Minister for Fisheries, Forestry and Conservation. Will the minister update the Senate on the environmental impact of this summer’s bushfires, particularly those in the Pilliga region of New South Wales and the Victorian Alps? Are these big fires and their effects inevitable?
I thank Senator Humphries for his question and note his strong commitment to and interest in this issue, including as a former Chief Minister of the ACT. I also note, as an aside, that, unlike the current Chief Minister of the ACT, he never faced a no-confidence motion in the Assembly dealing with the issue of bushfires.
This summer Australia has once again seen a number of big fires which have caused significant economic and, in particular, environmental damage. Last week I undertook a tour of some of these fire-affected areas, particularly in the ACT, the Pilliga region of New South Wales and the alpine areas of Victoria. Throughout this tour I was hearing a consistent message: large areas of well-managed, multi-use forests have been mindlessly locked up and are no longer being managed.
In the Pilliga region of New South Wales there is a forest which New South Wales Labor promised not to lock up but then did, supposedly to conserve its environmental values. Almost 100,000 hectares of this famous forest in that region have been literally razed to the ground, along with koalas and all the wildlife. Its cypress trees are not five resistant; they will not recover from the fire. It will be many decades, if ever, before these unique forests return. And the story is the same in the Victorian Alps. In 2003 an intense bushfire which reached temperatures hot enough to melt aluminium and warp guardrails killed the majestic alpine ash forests of the region, an area in which cattlemen had grazed their cattle for decades. Alpine ash, unlike most eucalypts, do not recover from fire. Instead, the dead trees drop massive amounts of seed and a new forest emerges the following spring. Unfortunately, this year we saw a second big fire sweep through the region, killing the regrowth. With no mature trees left to sow new seed, these majestic alpine forests are now gone, possibly forever.
As long as state governments continue to pursue their green, ideologically driven ‘lock it up and forget it’ mentality, these big fires will continue to destroy our environment. That is why the very well-researched article in today’s Bulletin by Tony Wright, ‘Greenies destroying our national parks’, should be compulsory reading, especially for the Leader of the Australian Greens, Senator Bob Brown, and especially given that the Australian Greens are currently reviewing their policies. As of yesterday, the Australian Greens website informed us that all their previous policies had been withdrawn. All of them—even their beloved drugs policy and even their beloved antiforestry policies—have been withdrawn. They are no longer operative. I kid you not—
As always, there is no point to anything the honourable senator says. The Greens have now gone from kooky policies to no policies, from the Chairman Mao view of the world to the Pauline Hanson policy-free view of the world. Given Senator Bob Brown’s policy announcement last week that he wanted to destroy 26,000 coal industry jobs in this country, and given his drugs policy, his no-policy stance is a lot more preferable to his previous policies. (Time expired)
Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I thank the minister for that answer and for including the ACT in his tour. Can he provide further information to the Senate on the role that governments can play in reducing bushfire rates and hazards?
State and territory governments have a vital role to play in reducing the bushfire threat. They need to accept that the Greens ideologically driven stance of ‘lock up and forget’ is not working for the people, the community, the economy and, above all, the environment and wildlife. The great challenge for the Australian Greens and the Labor state governments right around this country is to start accepting the local knowledge of the local people in these rural and regional areas and to stop this nonsense of locking up and forgetting our national parks. That policy is now responsible for bushfires pumping—as Tony Wright so rightly heads his article in today’s Bulletin40 million tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. That is courtesy of the policies that Senator Bob Brown and the Greens and the Labor state governments are advocating. (Time expired)