Wednesday, 25 March 2015
Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers
That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Assistant Minister for Education and Training (Senator Birmingham) to a question without notice asked by Senator Milne today relating to protection of the swift parrot.
This afternoon we heard in here that the federal Abbott government intends to do nothing to stop the logging of the critical nesting habitat of the swift parrot in Tasmania. This demonstrates that all the talk we have had over the years about the marvellous Regional Forest Agreements, in protecting threatened species and conservation outcomes, is just hot air, hogwash, rubbish.
The Tasmanian government has signed off on logging the habitat of an endangered species, the swift parrot. The federal government intends to do nothing about it, using the excuse that the EPBC Act does not apply. They do not have to look after threatened species if they are in a logging coop, if they are under the Regional Forest Agreements. This comes at a time when the Commonwealth is keen to roll over the Regional Forest Agreements into the future. Let us not have any pretence that the Abbott government cares in any shape or form about the species.
All we got in the answers from the minister was, 'We want to make sure we have jobs in Tasmania.' Mr President, as you and I well know, the native-forest logging industry in Tasmania is on its knees. There was a rescue tried for the native forest industry, but the Abbott government determined it would not go down that path. As a result of this appalling logging—of three coops, already, out of a possible five—of threatened species habitat, Forestry Tasmania will never get Forest Stewardship Council certification. Never.
This is a classic and carefully documented case of where the Tasmanian government does not protect threatened species. In particular, the expert advice that was provided to the government before it made its decision said: 'There is no scientific evidence to support the position that continued harvesting of breeding habitat will support the conservation objectives for the species.' There is no scientific evidence to support ongoing logging whatsoever. It also said that in allowing the harvesting of breeding habitat for the species at this site, conservation objectives for the species at the coop and regional scales will not be met. Hence, the conservation management of this species would become ineffective.
It is obvious what needs to happen here. We all know this has been through the courts several times. My former colleague Senator Bob Brown took this to the Federal Court when the threatened species were absolutely being contravened, in the EPBC Act, in areas logged by Forestry Tasmania. The Federal Court upheld the view that the threatened species were not being cared for consistent with Commonwealth law. That was then appealed and overturned. Now the Commonwealth just washes its hands of threatened species in logging coops.
Make no mistake, Mr President. Anyone who suggests that the Regional Forest Agreements protects threatened species has a classic case here where it is absolutely wrong. Not only that, we have a Commonwealth that says they want to hand back environmental responsibility to the states. We had that again from Senator Birmingham today. They want to give the Tasmanian government full and total control over our World Heritage areas and over all environmental issues that the Commonwealth previously cared about, including threatened species. What good would that be when the Tasmanian government has deliberately, in contravention of its scientific advice, gone ahead and given the go-ahead to logging? That is the Hodgman Liberal government in Tasmania logging the habitat of threatened species, and the Abbott government in Canberra ticking it off.
That is a process they would support around the country. That is why the Regional Forest Agreements should not be rolled over and should actually be dumped. More particularly, we need the Commonwealth to now intervene. They have a Threatened Species Commissioner. What is he going to do about the swift parrot? We want an investigation into what Tasmania has done, into why they are so keen to log the nesting habitat when we only have 2½ thousand of the species left on the planet. It is very bad policy, unsustainable and is environmental vandalism endorsed by the Abbott government.
Question agreed to.