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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 7 Hansard (18 October) . . Page.. 1772 ..

MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):

To the extent that the statement was designed to defuse controversy, it could be said to have failed. In terms of preserving significant areas of our national forest heritage, I think, Mr Speaker, it could be described as at least a partial success, if not a substantial success. There are now hundreds of thousands of hectares of land which is reserved under that system from logging - the figure may be much higher than that - and that process has very much limited the areas that are available for old growth logging, and the process provides for a reduction in that area over a period of time. The Commonwealth and the States have since agreed that a process should be put in place to allow for the elimination of woodchipping from all areas of native forest by the year 2000, unless it is part of a regional forestry agreement that protects all the values of the forest.

I have no doubt that that does not satisfy some, and I take it from Ms Horodny's remarks that she is one of those people. I think, Mr Speaker, that it is an extreme position within this debate to expect that we should immediately move to cease that kind of woodchipping in the context of a very large industry based on a dependency on that kind of woodchipping. However, I believe that it is important for us as a community, as an Australian community, to move to the elimination of that kind of woodchipping at the earliest appropriate time. The elimination of woodchipping in most of the present woodchipping areas by the year 2000 is an appropriate step in that direction, I believe, and, in most senses, that is the earliest available date at which that target can be achieved.

Mr Speaker, as I have said, forestry has been a part of the ACT's economy since 1915. It has been based, during that period, on pine plantations, and that example is one which, as I have said, I believe other places in Australia should be following. The recent report by Plantations Victoria that Ms Horodny, I think, referred to said that we can achieve very high yields from plantations to achieve an end of dependency on old growth forests. I have to say that there is substantial alternative opinion about the direction of that report. There are some who would say that the report has been discredited for overestimating the potential yield from plantations in a way which was designed to suit the predetermined argument that there should be less dependence on old growth forests. Certainly, there is no lack of alternative points of view or alternative evidence in this debate. The report is correct, however, in saying that plantations will play a large role in the future, and that wood supply in this country should increasingly depend on that source. The only issue is whether they will be able to fully substitute for timber from native hardwood in the very immediate future. The softwood-based industry in the ACT is fully sustainable and operates as a commercial trust account within the Environment Division of the Land and Environment Bureau.

The national forest policy statement, Mr Speaker, will continue to be of controversy, but I believe that it is a balanced document which is supported by all the States and by both sides of the forestry debate, at least to some extent. The Commonwealth, I understand, will be releasing an overall wood and wood products industry strategy in November. The ACT Government has already been asked about its views about that strategy. The strategy has been built on the national forest policy statement and it deserves to be supported, in principle, by those with a long-term interest in the forestry debate and the preservation of old growth forest values. I hope, Mr Speaker, that when we choose to debate these sorts of issues, issues with a national context, we examine and understand the implications for our own industry and our own position as a government and as a community.

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