Documents - Tasmanian Regional Forest Agreement

Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (18:01): Thank you, Mr Acting Deputy President—

Senator McKim: On a point of order, Mr Acting Deputy President. I thought you gave the call to Senator Rice.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Gallacher ): Senator Macdonald, you have the call.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: I would not have minded if Senator Rice went next, as long as I would get my opportunity to proudly say that I was the minister that actually introduced the regional forest agreements and guided them through this parliament in a debate that, I think, went for some 35 hours by the time your former leader tried the effluxion of time as a way to get across the point that he, and not many others, agreed with.

The Tasmanian forest used to be a wonderful source of timber to Australia and the world. It used to mean that imports of timber to Australia from forests that were nowhere near as well managed as Australia's forests were lessened. And it meant that there was an industry, and that there were jobs created, in Tasmania. As a result of the work of Senator McKim and his allies in the state parliament and by some of the Greens and Democrats in this chamber over the years, I have to say to Senator McKim, somewhat reluctantly almost: congratulations. You and your lot have succeeded in, really, all but shutting down the Australian forestry industry—an industry that meant so much for Australia and that was sustainably managed.

I still remember when then Senator Richardson, on behalf of the Labor Party, shut down the forests in North Queensland. He went to the little town of Ravenswood to address about 1,000 angry people. The town was only about 200 or 300 people; there were 1,000 there to greet Senator Richardson. They had a sign across the street—I still remember it to this day—that said: 'Senator Richardson, you are wanting to save this pristine forest? It has been logged for 100 years.' That is the stupidity of the Greens and those who would do away with the sustainable forestry industry in Australia. Selective and careful management of our forests did provide for sustainability and for an industry. It provided some wealth for Tasmania, in particular.

I often ask people like Senator McKim: how many trees have been destroyed in the Tasmanian forest from wildfires that have burned out of control? That used not to happen in the days when there were forestry tracks through the Tasmanian forest and when there was a workforce on hand to get to the source of an outbreak of fire as it happened so to control that fire. But thanks to Senator McKim and to his lot, those tracks through the forest no longer exist. That skilled workforce which could get straight to the source of the fire and put it out has gone. As a result, there are hundreds of thousands of hectares of burnt forest in Tasmania—and in Victoria. That does far more damage to the forests than selective, careful management of the forests ever did.

The regional forest agreements, the subject of this debate, were a good attempt at that time—back in the early parts of this century—to try and regulate and to ensure that, forever, there would be a sustainable forestry industry in Tasmania. Regrettably, over the years—and when I left the job as the minister for forestry—the Greens and the Labor Party had their way. The forestry industry in Tasmania now is but a shadow of what it was and what it should have been. The regional forest agreements were a good attempt. The response by the government highlights some of the successes of the regional forest agreements, but, lamentably, the whole forest industry in Australia is now at a stage where it is a very tiny industry—a fraction of what it should be. As a result, of course, we import timber from forests around the world that are slashed and burned, and that are not sustainably managed at all. To the Greens, that seems to be okay.

The regional forest agreements were a good idea. They worked for a while. Regrettably, they did not achieve their ultimate goal.

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