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Speech: Victorian forests

Speeches in Parliament
Lee Rhiannon 8 Nov 2011

Take Note of Answers, Tuesday 8 November 2011

Senator RHIANNON (New South Wales) (15:27): I move:

That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (Senator Ludwig) to a question without notice asked by Senator Rhiannon today relating to logging and threatened species.

The Victorian Liberal government plans to rewrite the environmental code for logging so that logging can be exempt from abiding by the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act. This is a deeply serious development that will have enormous environmental consequences and clearly should be something that this federal Labor government is giving consideration to and looking to how it can ensure that this destruction does not go ahead.

I understand that the Victorian government plans to undertake a series of surveys inside national parks. Our national parks are wonderful reserves for our wildlife. In most cases one would find a great number of species. Often we have both biodiversity and a large number of each species. If that is what the surveys find, the next step is that it will be legitimate to log in rich habitat outside those national parks. This is not scientific. This is not an evidence based approach to determining logging; it is just an attempt to legitimise something that is very destructive, is very wrong and, I would argue, is corrupt. So we have this extraordinary situation that, if a survey finds lots of gliders, quolls, owls, marsupials, unique bird species and all of the wonderful wildlife that we find in our national parks, it could legitimise these crazy plans that the Victorian Baillieu government is bringing forward. I do congratulate the many environment groups and my Greens colleagues in Victoria for coming out strongly to ensure that this madness does not proceed.

I put it to the Senate that there is a clear case for the federal government to take action for the environment and not hide behind the tired old federal environment laws that were so deeply gutted under the Howard government. There have been a number of comments that I have found quite interesting about the deep concern of many Victorians about this development. People have raised the issue of what will end up happening to the Victorian state symbol, the Leadbeater's possum. It might well be that the only place future generations will find it will be in the local zoos because of the madness of this extremely environmentally destructive plan that the government is trying to bring forward.

We also need to remind ourselves that logging these state forests in Victoria is a huge waste of public money, as it is in New South Wales and as it is around the country. There are massive public subsidies that go into this logging. This is one area where the Liberal Party should live up to their own ideology. They need to bring a bit of economic rationalism in here, surely. Why is forestry protected and subsidised to engage in such destruction?

Senator Cormann: To be lectured on economic rationalism by a communist—please!

Senator RHIANNON: I acknowledge the interjections from the opposition benches because I think they really do need to come to terms with what their colleagues in Victoria are doing and with the fact that their own policies are using public money to subsidise an industry that is not profitable. It is a highly unprofitable industry that should not be allowed to continue.

We really need to ensure that we are not the generation that allows the demise of so much of our wonderful wildlife. That is a message that is coming through in much of the correspondence that I know is circulating in Victoria as the awareness of this destructive policy builds. It is a matter that we believe the federal government has the responsibility to act on. It should not just hide behind weak federal environmental laws and flick it off to the state.

Question agreed to.

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