NATIONAL FORESTS POLICY STATEMENT
Mr COCHRAN: My question without notice is addressed to the Minister for Conservation and Land Management. Was New South Wales a signatory to the national forests policy statement at the Council of Australian Governments meeting held in Perth last year? Is the Federal environment Minister now seeking to change that agreement to the detriment of employment in the State's timber industry?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Illawarra to order.
Mr WEST: I thank the honourable member for Monaro for his question. The answers basically are, yes, we were signatories to that forest policy statement, and yes, the Federal environment Minister, Ros Kelly, is trying to put her own interpretation on how the policy should be implemented. The implications of her proposal to the State of New South Wales are enormous. We can all only hope that in two weeks her views will be totally irrelevant. On 13th March the people of Australia will be moving to kick out a Federal government which has done so much to harm the
economy of Australia generally and the timber industry specifically. Mrs Kelly wants a logging moratorium to lock up huge areas of forests which she describes as having high conservation values. She is talking about 1.4 million hectares. She is talking about cutting timber production in New South Wales by 52 per cent. That would cost the economy of New South Wales $200 million a year. It would devastate towns on the North Coast, mid North Coast and the South Coast. Around Grafton it will mean the direct loss of 2,200 jobs with a flow on affecting 6,000 jobs. Another 3,000 jobs would be at risk around Taree, Kempsey, Port Macquarie, Dorrigo, Wauchope, Coffs Harbour, Gloucester, Kyogle, Lismore and Casino. In the Pilliga region 60 jobs would be lost with no possible chance of alternative employment.
What is this Federal election all about? It is about jobs. On the South Coast more than half of the resource would be hit by the Kelly moratorium. That would mean another 400 jobs lost in Bega, Nowra, Bateman's Bay, Moruya, Narooma, Cooma and Bombala. Ros Kelly is talking unmitigated rubbish. The national forests policy statement was meant to put some common sense back into the forestry debate. Mrs Kelly has failed to appreciate this. She has gone on her own merry way. She is now heading down a road to see logging being stopped in one forest which had previously been used for agricultural purposes, has an extensive road system, is a former homestead site and has been subject to numerous harvesting cycles. Mrs Kelly seems to be unable to distinguish between wilderness areas and regrowth forests. Her letter covers 27 entire State forests in New South Wales and parts of a further 10 forests. In the southeast alone that leaves only six forests available to the timber industry, all of which contain little resource of immediate relevance to the local industry. Needless to say, the local residents are horrified by the attempted misapplication of the national forests policy.
It seems that the Federal Minister with responsibility for the environment is at odds with her own colleague the Federal resources Minister on this issue. Resources Minister Griffiths only recently issued a woodchip export licence to Harris-Daishowa. Much of the material licensed for export by that company is to be sourced from forest areas in the southeast which are specified by the Federal environment Minister for a moratorium on logging. How can one Minister expect that the licence is to be complied with, while the other Minister wants to take away the resource? They are obviously acting at cross-purposes. New South Wales has already taken action to avoid activities in areas that are likely to have high conservation value, pending the completion and determination of environmental impact statements. That process is formalised under the Timber Industry (Interim Protection) Act, specifically in schedules 1 and 2 to that Act, which place a moratorium on activities within nominated areas pending the completion and determination of environmental impact statements.
The environmental impact statement program is well under way in this State. It includes about 17 statements that will be completed by 1994 at a cost well in excess of $13.5 million. It is our belief that the process we have put in place, as was confirmed in all of our discussions at a Commonwealth level, meets the requirements of the national forest policy statement. I have written to the Federal environment Minister and her colleague the Minister for Resources asking them to clarify their respective decisions. Of course, as honourable members might guess, to date neither of them has replied. In the absence of any reply I have given the industry my assurance that I will work to ensure that the national forest policy statement is implemented in this State as was originally intended, and not as the Federal environment Minister would seek to have it implemented through her actions.