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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 7 Hansard (18 October) . . Page.. 1777..


MR HUMPHRIES (Attorney-General and Minister for the Environment, Land and Planning) (11.20): Mr Speaker, I can understand Ms Horodny's angst about this and her concern that there has been slow progress towards the reduction of reliance on old growth forests. She is right to say that this part of the industry that relies on old growth forests is a dying industry. She is right to say that the future of the industry lies in plantations. She is right to stimulate progress towards elimination of the old growth element of the industry. But I think she is wrong to suggest that her motion, which she says is designed to encourage that process, does not just bring down the shutters and say, "This is it; this is the end". That is not what we should be trying to achieve in this process.

Ms Horodny is urging us to write to the Prime Minister and say that he should not have any further export licences for native timber logging. He is unlikely to accept that advice anyway, if it is tendered. If he were to accept it, it would bring down the shutters on that industry straightaway. That is not the way that responsible legislators should behave. I think it is responsible to encourage a process of change, but not to be absolutists or extremists in the debate and pretend that change can occur instantly.

I think Ms Horodny would accept the argument that these things will require a very considerable adjustment on the part of the forestry industry. There are significant numbers of people who depend directly on those old growth forests at present. I accept her argument about needing to reduce that number, but at the moment they are dependent on that sector of the industry. I would hope that she would accept that it is responsible for us and the Australian community generally to cater for their needs and their employment base in the future. To immediately cease all export woodchip licences and put an end to native forest logging, were it to be acted upon by the Prime Minister, would not provide that breathing space for adjustment. I simply make the point that that is a consideration which we ought to take into account.

It would be very easy for us to pass a motion knowing that we would not be responsible for carrying it through. I do not think the ACT Assembly should be doing that kind of thing. I think we should, in these situations, put ourselves in the shoes of the people that we are urging to take certain steps and ask ourselves whether we could, if we were in that position, take that step that we are urging them to take. The answer must be that at this point in time we could not do that.


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