Tuesday, 11 May 2010
Environment: Millewa Forest
- That the Senate calls on the Government to uphold the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 in the Millewa Forest by immediately stopping red gum logging.
The government does not support this motion. The government is working with the New South Wales government to ensure that its reforms lead to forestry action being compliant with the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.
This is the International Year of Biodiversity. We have on the front page of the Sydney Morning Herald and in other newspapers today the news that there has been a massive loss of biodiversity on the planet with over 30 per cent of wildlife gone since 1970 and an increasing loss of species, including the loss of plant species, across the planet at a totally unacceptable but accelerating rate due to human activity. The red gum forests of Australia are an heirloom of this nation, but the most recent reports are that upwards of 70 per cent of the red gums along the Murray-Darling system are dead or dying under huge stress and the process is continuing.
In the Millewa forests we have a damaged but intact ecosystem of red gums in the Murray system. We have an Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act—let me repeat that—a biodiversity conservation act which requires that there be a probity which errs on the side of protecting biodiversity. Here is an opportunity for it but the government opposes it. It is working with the New South Wales government. What does that mean? What we need to hear in the Senate is that these red gum forests will be protected and that the vigour of this government will be put into protecting this nation’s heritage against this onslaught of extinction, with Australia one of the worst-performing countries. It is time that the legislation was backed up and action was taken. I am surprised the government will not be supporting this motion.
I would like to add to this debate that I have visited the red gum forests. I was down there last weekend and some six months ago. Locking up these forests and leaving them will destroy these forests—make no mistake about it. The forests have been managed for more than 150 years. They are a renewable resource. I urge Senator Brown to go down and have a look at the 900 hectares that was burned some four years ago. Red gum will not stand any fire whatsoever. When it was burned, the millers asked to remove the timber within 12 months before it cracked so that they could use it for some good. They were not allowed to do that. The locals asked to remove the dead timber to use it for firewood and to allow the growth of a new forest. They were not allowed to do that.
We now have 900 hectares of dead trees, and people call this conservation. I call it absolute destruction of our environment. You take the grazing out, you let the fuel levels build up and, once you have more than five tonnes of fuel per hectare, a 40-degree day and a 30-kilometre wind, the fire is uncontrollable. By locking this land up, just as the past Premier of New South Wales, Nathan Rees, did on the very day he was sacked as Premier, you are losing jobs and taking millions of dollars out of the economy. There is a destruction of the economy and now you are going to destroy the whole red gum forest with fire. Make no mistake about it—it will happen as sure as I speak here now if that country is locked up and left. The grasses will grow, the fuel will increase, the lightning will strike and there will be the destruction of the whole environment.