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Janet on the extension of Regional Forest Agreements

Speeches in Parliament
Janet Rice 8 May 2018

Senator RICE (Victoria) (17:47):  I move:

That the Senate take note of the documents.

These amendments to the regional forest agreements for the Central Highlands, East Gippsland and the north-east regions of Victoria is a simple summary of what these amendments to our logging laws do. They allow ongoing industrial-scale forest-and-wildlife destroying clear-fell logging to continue in our precious forests for another two years and, outrageously, to continue with exemptions from our country's environmental protection laws. These logging laws are outdated, they are destructive, and they are not achieving the environmental and economic purposes for which they were intended. Instead of extending them, the federal government and the Victorian Labor government should have scrapped them, should have sent them to the dustbin of history where they belong. I introduced legislation into this place three months ago that recognised that the ongoing logging of our precious forests is a question of justice across generations.

We are stealing a healthy future from our young people today. I challenge all of us in this place to consider how we will feel if we can't offer our children and grandchildren the same experiences in the natural world that we were able to have that we experienced as children, if they can't enjoy camping by a crystal clear river fringed by wonderful forest, if they can't marvel at birds like the sooty owls, powerful owls, creatures like Leadbeater's possums or the gliders which are critically endangered—their homes, their nesting sites and their food supplies have been destroyed—that live in these forests

The regional forest agreements, when they were introduced 20 years ago, were meant to provide long-term sustainable forest management to protect these complex ecosystems and to ensure the health of the wildlife living in these forests, as well as govern the production of timber from these forests and maintain jobs. They have failed in every regard. By extending these logging laws for a further two years, the federal government and the Victorian Andrews Labor government have teamed up to continue to destroy our precious wildlife, destroy our carbon stores, trash our carbon stores, pollute our air, dry up our water supplies, and undermine the tourism hot spots and the current and future jobs of locals who rely on all of these.

Under the regional forest agreements that have been extended for a further two years, these forests are being logged, mulched, pulped and burnt. The extension to the RFA in the Central Highlands area will allow logging to continue to occur in the habitat of the Victorian state animal emblem, the Leadbeater's possum, which is critically endangered. Its primary habitat, the amazing, beautiful mountain ash forests, are in such dire condition that their ecosystem is now listed, in itself, as critically endangered.

Instead of extending the regional forest agreements, we need to scrap them and move the remaining just 13 per cent of the industry that is still logging our native forests into sustainable plantation forests. We're in a situation where 87 per cent of the wood that is coming from Australia is coming from plantations. That percentage is rising every year. We do not need to continue to log our precious native forests in order to be growing wood. Wood is a great product when it's produced sustainably, when it comes from plantations and when it comes from agroforestry and farm forestry. That's where the bulk of the wood in Australia is now coming from. The native forest based industry is the absolute rump of the industry, and yet these logging laws are just continuing the regime for another two years—and continuing it with exemptions from our federal environmental protection laws. These measures extend for another two years the provision that logging operations will be exempt under the conditions of our Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. This is outrageous. It's not what the people of Australia want. When people find out that our precious forests are still being logged, they are outraged, and rightly so. Governments that are continuing to allow this ongoing logging are going to bear the brunt of that at the ballot box. It will be on their heads. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

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