MILNE, Senator Christine Anne, Tasmania21.14 pmMilne, Sen ChristineKA5TasmaniaAG00Senator MILNE (Tasmania) (1.14 pm)—I rise today to draw the attention of the Australian Senate and the Australian people to criminal activity occurring in southern Tasmania. It is occurring as we speak. That criminal activity is being perpetrated by the Australian government, the Tasmanian government and Forestry Tasmania. I say it is criminal activity because it is criminal in several ways. We are suffering global warming. We are looking at a global emergency, not only because of global warming but because of biodiversity loss. Australia is a signatory to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and a signatory to the World Heritage convention. The one thing Australia could do immediately to keep faith with both of those conventions would be to protect the carbon stores and the biodiversity in Australia’s native forests and stop the logging. But, instead of that, it is being encouraged. This is criminal activity, sanctioned by the Prime Minister, by the Premier of Tasmania, David Bartlett, and by Forestry Tasmania, and it must stop.
I read into the Hansard Australia’s responsibility under article 4 of the World Heritage convention:
Each State Party to this Convention recognizes that the duty of ensuring the identification, protection, conservation, presentation and transmission to future generations of the cultural and natural heritage referred to in Articles 1 and 2 and situated on its territory, belongs primarily to that State. It will do all it can to this end, to the utmost of its own resources …
Far from doing the utmost, the Australian government is subsidising the logging of these World Heritage value forests. I am talking about the forests in the Upper Florentine in Tasmania which are being flattened as we speak. They have World Heritage values, identified by an expert in the field, Peter Hitchcock, who, in assessing those forests in the Upper Florentine, said in his report last year:
The 1988 nomination—
of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area—
specifically cited tall eucalypt forests as an integral part of the case for World Heritage listing, but overall the global significance was probably seriously understated.
He went on to talk about the values of the forests:
· the superlative expression of the uniquely Australian genus Eucalyptus;
· the ‘front line forwards’ of the eucalypt world that have shadowed, harried, and occasionally overrun the ancient Gondwanan rainforests receding in the face of progressive warming and drying of the continent …
· … … …
· the superlative example of a fire-dependent tall forest in a climatic zone capable of supporting rainforest.
The case for greater recognition of the global heritage significance of the tall eucalypt forests of Australia and Tasmania is stronger now than it was in 1988. Consequently, there is now also a stronger case for their effective conservation.
But instead of that they are being smashed. At the time that this criminal behaviour is going on, when we know that deforestation is one of the major drivers of global warming, when we know we are seeing species going to extinction, we are seeing governments perpetrating this destruction of native forests—and the people who are defending the World Heritage forests, the people who are defending biodiversity, the people who have the courage to do what is right for future generations, are the people being arrested. In the last week, 33 people have been arrested in the southern forests of Tasmania while standing up for the World Heritage value, the carbon stores, the biodiversity and the fantastic wildlife in those forests.
I want to pay tribute to the young people in Still Wild Still Threatened, who since 2006 have been in those forests trying to stop the roading and the destruction of those forests. They have been set upon and assaulted on numerous occasions and yet they have shown incredible courage. I think that, as history looks back on this period of destruction, history will reflect the criminal negligence of the people in power who had the capacity to stop the logging and will recognise as heroes and heroines those young people who are in there. I want to pay tribute to their courage as I stand here today.
I also want to take to task the Premier of Tasmania, David Bartlett, who came to power saying that he wanted to have a caring, kind and connected Tasmania. Well, he is not caring. He is not caring about biodiversity. In fact, today’s news shows that he is going to disband the whole Department of Environment, Parks, Heritage and the Arts—abolish the whole thing altogether.
QD4Brown, Sen Bob0Senator Bob Brown—Shame on him.
KA5Milne, Sen ChristineSenator MILNE—Shame on him. He is not caring and he is not clever. In fact, it is totally dumb to destroy a carbon store. It is totally dumb to destroy biodiversity when you need that resilience in ecosystems in the face of climate change and for future generations. As for ‘connected’, it is about as disconnected as you can get—disconnected from our own humanity and our connection with other species. We are part of a web of life here. We are connected to those forests and to the creatures in those forests, but we are also connected to a global community through the World Heritage convention and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. That connected global community expects better of a developed country like Australia than to see us trashing forests of World Heritage value.
We have got Australia in the most hypocritical position imaginable, going to the rest of the world, under the program of reduced emissions from deforestation and degradation, telling the rest of the world they should stop their logging in tropical forests in Indonesia and providing $200 million to that end, whilst at the same time subsidising the logging of Tasmania’s forests—and forests around the rest of the country, but in particular I am referring here to the forests of the Upper Florentine.
If anyone thinks that this kind of vandalism does not go on, they just have to remember back to 2002, when Australia’s most massive known tree was discovered in the Florentine, in an area being logged. The 21-metre girth tree was set aside and named El Grande. The following year, Forestry Tasmania burnt the adjacent logged area. The fire spread, the hollow trunk of El Grande acted like a furnace and the ancient giant was cooked from the inside. After an initial period of denial, Forestry Tasmania eventually had to concede that the tree had been killed. What we hear from Forestry Tasmania is that this goes to some kind of value adding. That in itself is completely untrue; in fact, it is a lie. Forestry Tasmania has now publicly conceded that 80 per cent to 90 per cent of the timber in the coupe from the Upper Florentine that is currently being logged will be woodchipped—woodchipped from World Heritage value forests. That is something that Australians will have difficulty getting their heads around. I can tell you now that, if a bulldozer turned up on the shores of Sydney Harbour and started pushing into the Sydney Opera House, people would be completely outraged. If that had happened before it was World Heritage listed, they would have been outraged. They would be more outraged now that it has been recognised as being of universal value to humankind and the future. Yet here we have exactly the same thing going on as we speak. In terms of the carbon richness of these forests, I can tell you that they are one of the most carbon rich terrestrial ecosystems on earth, sequestering up to 5,500 tonnes of carbon per hectare. So we are talking about massive carbon stores here—and they are being logged.
I will go on to talk about the unkindness and the uncaring nature of the Tasmanian government. There is no independent police force in Tasmania; it is directed and used at the behest of the government. The Tasmanian police force are arresting these young people and they are also arresting older people. At the weekend there were a number of older people arrested, and they said at the time that all they wanted to do was to stop the logging, to protect the forest and its ecosystems as a resource for their grandchildren and the wider community. A quote from one of them was:
It is just so precious and irreplaceable, and it’s the community’s forest.
Ridiculous bail conditions are being imposed on these people. One intelligent young woman who put herself on the line to protect the forests has been put under virtual house arrest. She lives in Hobart and cannot leave her home between 7 am and 3pm. She is being denied the ability to go about her daily activities and attend university and whatever else because she is under virtual house arrest. And what is her crime? Her crime is protecting the forests that this government ought to be protecting. Even former Prime Minister John Howard acknowledged in 2004 that the Florentine should be protected. His policy at the time was immediate protection for 18,700 hectares of old-growth forest in the Styx and the Florentine valleys on the border of the World Heritage area. But by May 2005 that promise was worthless. The Tasmanian Community Forest Agreement revealed that only 6,460 hectares would be protected, of which only 4,730 would be old-growth forests.
Is it any wonder young people have no faith whatsoever in the promises of governments? Then Prime Minister John Howard promised 18,700 hectares in the Styx and the Florentine, and he did not deliver. Even Paul Lennon did not log the Upper Florentine. Even John Howard recognised its value—even though he did nothing to protect it. And now we have the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts, Peter Garrett, and the Minister for Climate Change and Water, Penny Wong, ignoring it—ignoring the destruction of the carbon stores, ignoring the destruction of biodiversity—and sanctioning and paying the loggers to destroy it for woodchips. Is that the best this country can do under the premiership of a supposed caring, connected and kind premier? He is a not caring and not kind, disconnected premier.
I indicate that Senator Bob Brown is going to take a few minutes of my 15 minutes to conclude this discussion on the Upper Florentine. I am calling on the Prime Minister to honour Australia’s obligation under the World Heritage convention to do everything in its power to protect areas of World Heritage within its state—that is, the state of Australia. I am calling on David Bartlett to stop directing the Tasmanian police force to act as, effectively, his own private militia down there in those forests. And I am calling on people around this country to write to the Prime Minister immediately and call for the cessation of logging in the Upper Florentine. I would also urge people around the country to recognise the courage, strength and determination of the people who, since 2006, have stayed in the forests to defend them for future generations. Again, I put on the record my admiration for those young people in Still Wild Still Threatened and the community that has gone down there to support them and the forests.
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“There is no independent police force in Tasmania; it is directed and used at the behest of the government.”
“Ridiculous bail conditions are being imposed on these people. One intelligent young woman who put herself on the line to protect the forests has been put under virtual house arrest. She lives in Hobart and cannot leave her home between 7 am and 3pm. She is being denied the ability to go about her daily activities and attend university and whatever else because she is under virtual house arrest. And what is her crime? Her crime is protecting the forests that this government ought to be protecting.”
“I am calling on the Prime Minister to honour Australia’s obligation under the World Heritage convention to do everything in its power to protect areas of World Heritage within its state—that is, the state of Australia. I am calling on David Bartlett to stop directing the Tasmanian police force to act as, effectively, his own private militia down there in those forests. And I am calling on people around this country to write to the Prime Minister immediately and call for the cessation of logging in the Upper Florentine. I would also urge people around the country to recognise the courage, strength and determination of the people who, since 2006, have stayed in the forests to defend them for future generations.”