Thursday, 11 June 2020
I, and also on behalf of Senators Rice, McKim, Hanson-Young, Faruqi and Steele-John, move:
That the Senate—
(a) notes that:
(i) Regional Forest Agreements are federal–state agreements under which native forest logging operations have been exempted from federal environment law (Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act)) for more than 20 years;
(ii) the Federal Court has found that:
(A) VicForests logging operations breached its Code of Practice for Timber Production and did not apply the precautionary principle when assessing impacts on the Greater Glider or Leadbeater's Possum, and
(iii) this landmark decision sets an important legal precedent—meaning the exemption for native forest logging operations does not apply if they are in breach of rules that apply under the RFAs, and planned logging with a significant impact on federally listed threatened species must be assessed under the provisions of the EPBC Act; and
(iv) this decision has implications for native forest logging in all 10 areas under Regional Forest Agreements:
(A) Tasmania, with implications for iconic species such as the Tasmanian devil, Swift parrot, Eastern quoll, Giant freshwater crayfish, masked owl and others which are at serious risk due to logging;
(C) Victoria in the Central Highlands, East Gippsland, Gippsland, West, and North East, including implications for the spot-tailed quoll, the smoky mouse and others; and
(D) Western Australia, including implications for the Western ringtail possum, remaining continental populations of quokkas, the forest red-tailed black cockatoo, Carnaby's black cockatoo, the numbat and other species, and
(b) calls on the Government to:
(i) accept the Federal Court decision that, in circumstances where the rules underpinning Regional Forest Agreements are not complied with, logging operations that will impact on Matters of National Environmental Significance need to be assessed under the provisions of the EPBC Act, and
(ii) take immediate, urgent action to ensure Australia's native forests are protected for their values including threatened species habitat, carbon storage, water supplies, and regional tourism.
Labor won't be supporting this motion. We believe issuing a running commentary—and we acknowledge the Greens have drafted this motion in a way that forces that—on court decisions is not how you protect the environment or ensure certainty in regional employment. It's reckless for the Greens to claim that the decision sets an important legal precedent. Labor support the social, economic and environmental benefits that flow from sustainable management of our native forests and support regional forest agreements. We are committed to ecologically sustainable development within the forestry industry. Furthermore, the EPBC Act is under review, and we shouldn't pre-empt it. Labor support the protection of threatened species, and we know this government isn't doing enough. The motion does nothing to address the key challenges we as a nation need to confront on climate action, protecting our environment and threatened species. For that we need real change, not motions which seek to wedge the Labor Party, which is what the Greens excel at.