ENDANGERED FAUNA (INTERIM PROTECTION) BILL
(Kiama) [12.3]: I do not have a prepared speech but I will speak straight from the heart. The honourable member for Coffs Harbour went out of his way to attack the hairy armpit brigade, the unemployed, dole bludgers and so on who become involved in campaigns in defence of the environment. His comments were nothing short of bigotry. If the environment is under attack, I do not care whether I am involved in a campaign which is on side with the hairy armpit brigade, as he calls it, or with people whom I would sometimes describe as trendy North Shore people who like to adopt postures that attract attention to themselves. I have no hesitation in supporting this legislation. It was made necessary because of the knee-jerk reaction by the Minister for the Environment in bringing in an unworkable regulation to preserve the status quo that had existed for many years in New South Wales. The regulation was totally worthless and the House was pleased earlier today to disallow it. In many respects the bill is only interim legislation. The Government claims that it will introduce more detailed legislation by the end of March or some time in April. Provided the Government sticks to its word and brings in legislation which is acceptable to everybody and which gives everybody a fair go, I do not know why there is such paranoia today about the legislation. It is ideal short-term legislation. It compels the Minister and the director to issue a stop-work order against any activity likely to significantly affect the environment or any protected fauna. The objections of the Minister for Agriculture and Rural Affairs to this aspect of the bill were unjustified. The Minister and the director should have the power to step in when the habitat and welfare of any endangered species are seriously threatened.
The bill seeks to establish a three-member scientific committee charged with the function of reviewing schedule 11 and producing a revised interim schedule within one month. Some speakers have made the point that one month is an unrealistically short
period but I point out that much of the preparatory work is already done. It is a matter of collating it. It is not unrealistic to expect that with good will that could be done in a month. The importance of the welfare of species in this State cannot be overstated. Legislation has been introduced to protect immigrants from racist attacks or inconvenience they might suffer because they are a little different. It is totally appropriate that we introduce legislation to protect the welfare of other species, other creatures that inhabit this planet. Previously it was considered our prerogative as human beings, the species with the power of reason, to treat any other species as we saw fit. As a previous speaker said, that has led to the extinction of many species that inhabited the planet, making the planet a poorer place on which to live. When I was younger I lived in Tasmania for some years. I have seen photographs of the thylacine, the marsupial wolf, the Tasmanian tiger or whatever anyone wants to call it. That creature existed until the beginning of my lifetime. A photograph shows a farmer proudly holding up the last one in the world. He was proudly exhibiting that he had just exterminated the last one of these creatures on the planet.
In my lifetime I have been horrified by the fact that the great elephant herds of the world have been decimated for no better reason than to decorate people's homes with ivory products. Some time ago while on holiday in Singapore I saw various shops whose shelves were stocked full with ivory products. This wanton slaughter of a species of animal that has been on earth for perhaps longer than we have smacks of nothing less than perversion. The Endangered Fauna (Interim Protection) Bill may be flawed but it is not as flawed as the regulation that was introduced in a knee-jerk reaction by the Minister for the Environment. I do not know of any piece of legislation that has been passed by this House which has been absolutely perfect. In the time I have been a member of this House I cannot remember any piece of legislation that had the total agreement of all honourable members. Obviously some Government supporters are committed to the welfare of the timber industry, and for that I make no criticism of them, and will vote against the bill. With due respect to the timber industry and to the timber workers, the industry does not have a very savoury record when one considers the clear felling that has taken place and the damage to the environment, to fauna habitat and to endangered species that has occurred during the life of this nation.
About two-thirds of Australia's forests have been cleared. It is all very well to say that that practice no longer happens, that we are the good guys. It no longer happens because of the actions of the hairy armpit brigade, some of whose motives might not have been totally honourable, but who have been the pacesetters. I know many of them personally and I know that their motives are honourable and sincere. Because of the actions of these people, whether we like these methods or not, the rip, tear and destroy that we have witnessed in this continent in the past several hundred years has been stopped. There are pacesetters on both sides. There are some people who think that nothing should ever change, which is completely unrealistic. On the other hand, there are people who look for the quick quid. They would rip, tear and destroy and they are not committed to recognition of the fact that resources are finite. They are committed to the maximum profit they can make and how well they can live at the expense of some thing or some person. All things considered, and given the fact that the Government is committed to introducing new legislation next March or April, I support the bill.
(Tamworth) [12.13]: It is with both pleasure and sadness that I speak to this legislation. It seems as though this has been a week of environmentalism. This bill is a good example of environmentalism gone mad. The honourable member for Blacktown, wearing her zebra socks, would realise that some people in Africa, because of the mere presence of the zebra and its effect on the economy in their country, have
no option but to eat it from time to time. The mere presence of man has an impact on the environment. Debate on this bill is a mere extension of the environment protection authority legislation that was debated earlier. I, together with some Government supporters, expressed concern about the implications and particularly the interpretation of some of the clauses of that legislation. The EPA legislation has given birth to similar legislation, that being the Endangered Fauna (Interim Protection) Bill, which is an extension of the EPA logic. It is dangerous and should be stopped within this House.
It is encouraging, though somewhat disappointing, to note that at last the National Party and some segments of the Liberal Party have contributed to this debate today but did not have the courage to do so in another debate on similar measures. I am pleased also that the Leader of the National Party has decided to come off the fence but I would ask where those members were earlier in the week. It is hypocritical of the Opposition to introduce this legislation. Today I heard the Leader of the Opposition, who is at present in the electorate of The Entrance, being interviewed on radio. He was talking about the jobs that he will create within The Entrance and other places within this State when he becomes Premier. He will be talking about the alleged cuts to hospitals. He will be talking about schools and all these motherhood issues we all believe in but he will not be talking about how he will pay for them. He will not be talking about economic considerations that must be taken into account before any of those things can be achieved.
I was also interested this morning to hear the honourable member for South Coast say that we must formulate legislation to end environmental confrontation and court challenges. However, for the life of me I cannot see how this legislation and the EPA legislation will do anything but encourage confrontation and court challenges. In fact the EPA legislation has written into it the ease of court access for third parties and the finance of any radical group on either side that chooses to challenge in the courts any economic development. The honourable member for South Coast is a man I admire for his stand on many issues. He represents one of the great forestry electorates of this State and I cannot understand how he can say that this bill will end confrontation. Once an economy fails - and members of the Labor Party should be made aware of this as their Federal leader has been instrumental in the failure of Australia's nation - through sheer necessity man will decimate his environment. As I said on a previous occasion, I spent some time in Africa where the people are driven by economic necessity to prey upon some of their natural fauna.
The Australian Labor Party's view on the economy and the environment is hypocritical. However, I am encouraged to some extent by the fact that in the next session of the Parliament I will introduce conservation-minded legislation. Given the scenarios of the past week or so, I am hopeful that the Opposition will support that legislation, which will deal with the western suburbs of Sydney and decentralisation and soil conservation practices. Recently, with regard to the Environment Protection Authority, the honourable member for Manly referred to polarisation within the economic-environment debate. This legislation is an extension of that polarisation. If we are not careful, it will extend into the political arena, so that instead of the traditional Labor versus capital demarcation it will be environmentalism versus economic development. Given the legislation that has passed through this House in the past week, the jobs theme being promoted at the moment by Bob Carr is a joke.
Where do the members of the Opposition and some Independents believe money comes from in this State? It should be brought to their attention that money does not grow on trees. It certainly will not grow on trees if the total lockout mentality prevails.
The money that goes into our pay packets comes from agriculture, mining, forestry, manufacturing and small business. They are the basis of the economy, and they pay our wages. We must take a broader look at what is happening. I am disappointed that because of the numbers in this House the Labor Party is prepared to play politics with the economy of the State, particularly when our credit rating is under review. We should not be playing politics with something as important as the environment and the economy. The mechanisms that administer the bill will put a halt to any fast-tracking. It is obvious that members of the Opposition have not been talking to Michael Easson lately. He realises that jobs are necessary to maintain the economy. By definition, the maintenance of the economy will satisfy most environmental sensitivities. It is obvious also that most members of the Opposition have had little to do with the environment, other than the urban environment, the comforts of which have been supplied by the non-urban environment. It is disappointing that the Opposition has not recognised the links between the economy of this State and environmental issues.
(Wollongong) [12.25]: I support the Endangered Fauna (Interim Protection) Bill. I do so having had the opportunity to read a recent publication entitled Australia's Endangered Species - The Extinction Dilemma
by Michael Kennedy. Appendix 1 to the publication details page after page of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish and marine fish that are threatened with extinction in Australia. Australia is one of the world's driest nations. It has a fragile environment. I believe that European settlement has neither acknowledged that fact nor tried to preserve the environment. I draw the attention of honourable members to a draft for public comment published some time ago by the Federal Minister for the Environment, entitled "An Australian National Strategy for the Conservation of Species and Habitats Threatened with Extinction". The foreword to that comment stated:
Since 1788, 18 species of Australian mammals have become extinct; this is half of all the mammal species that have become extinct worldwide in recent historical times - the worst record of any country in the world. Forty species of mammals and 28 bird species are classified as endangered.
That is a record that no one in this State should accept or be pleased about. This bill relates to and seeks to amend the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 and the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979. Its basic aims are to provide interim protection for endangered species to provide coverage for all amphibians, and to protect the habitat of fauna that is likely to be adversely affected in its essential behavioural patterns. It will establish a three-member scientific committee to review unprotected, endangered, threatened, vulnerable and rare fauna and marine mammals, as referred to in schedule 2. The bill will require that fauna impact statements be prepared when any development or expansion is likely to have an impact on any environment or when fauna are in danger of extinction. The bill will remove the power to grant exemptions by regulation. I was disappointed by the short-sighted approach of members from the Government side of the House and the Independent member who has contributed to the debate.
Mr ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr Chappell):
Order! Too many conversations are being conducted in the Chamber. Side discussion to determine the business of the House should be conducted quietly. Other conversations between members should be conducted outside the Chamber.
Clearly a significant pollution problem exists for the Darling River. Though that is not relevant to this legislation, it is symptomatic of our attitude
and approach to polluting the environment. A significant proportion of what was a productive economic activity is slowly being ruined because of short-sighted approaches adopted elsewhere that have not been appropriately vetted or assessed before being put into operation. The same problem is evident on the Illawarra coastline. The effects of heavy industry in the Illawarra have damaged the environment significantly. Measures are now being put in place to attempt to repair that damage - but only after it has been done. Reports have been published regularly, in February, March and July, about foreshore poaching of shellfish and other marine crustaceans which have virtually sterilised a large part of the Australian east coast. At this stage there is only silence about that problem. Presumably one day a government official will attempt to awaken those in authority to the problem but by then the damage will have been done. Poaching and other activities affect the coastline and impact on the commercial activities of the fishing industry in the Illawarra. A widespread attitude seems to be "Don't care until it is too late". Honourable members must reject that attitude in debate and support the proposed legislation.
The honourable member for Blacktown, in a speech on 5th December, highlighted the three principles on which she based the proposed legislation. Her first principle, she stated, is that it is irresponsible to create a window of opportunity for the destruction of endangered species. That is one of the factors motivating the interest groups now expressing interest in the proposed legislation. Those groups, though acknowledging that the Premier and the Government eventually will move on it, perceive an opportunity for a period of time to take actions purely for economic advantage, which will have long-term environmental impact. The honourable member for Blacktown further stated in her speech that her second principle is that bodies such as the Forestry Commission are often characterised by a one-eyed approach to timber-getting and should be separated from the decision to harm endangered species. It is inappropriate for any authority sitting as both judge and jury to make an adequate long-term assessment of the effects of particular economic activities. We cannot continue to ignore damage to the environment of the Darling River caused by heavy use of insecticides by the cotton industry. The third principle enunciated by the honourable member for Blacktown is that consultation with affected groups can lead to a balanced and informed decision. One of the premises of democracy, in theory, is that the more people who know what is going on, and the more information that is brought into consideration in the decision-making process, the better a decision will be.
Tell that to rent-a-crowd.
I do not share the cynicism of the honourable member for Burrinjuck. The proposed legislation provides an interim basis on which we can start to move to protect the environment and avoid the situations that have occurred through ignorance or self-interest in this country during the past 200 years or more. I support the bill.
(Monaro) [12.35]: I oppose the bill and express grave concerns about the standards of representation the Australian Labor Party is giving to the working-class people of New South Wales. It is worth quoting George Loveless, a renowned British working-class revolutionary and author. In his book The Victims of Whiggery
Labour is the poor man's property, from which all protection is withheld. Has not the working man as much right to preserve and protect his labour as the rich man has his capital?
It is an indictment on the Labor Party that Government members in this House today are defending the rights of the working-class people of New South Wales and Australia against a continued onslaught from the green movement, which seems intent on destroying everything that is productive in this country. The environment movement unquestionably has controlled the Labor Party. The bill, if passed, will cost jobs. One only has to consider the hypocrisy of the Leader of the Opposition, Bob Carr, in his recent announcement with regard to the Jobs First strategy. I quote briefly from an urgent fax message which was sent by the Coalition for Economic Advancement to the Leader of the Opposition on 11th December this year:
The Coalition for Economic Advancement was heartened by the theme of your speech to the ALP conference on December 8, 1991 about creating the climate for job creation and investment. Therefore we find it impossible to reconcile your ‘jobs first strategy'.
Your proposed actions leave us with a clear message that, according to Labor, ‘jobs first' is a cruel joke perpetrated in the clear knowledge that the political debt to the extreme of the environmental movement is greater than your crocodile tears for the unemployed.
How true it is. Whatever happened to the great Labor dream of full employment? I shall give another quote that honourable members may attempt to identify:
We have a great objective - the light on the hill - which we aim to reach by working for the betterment of mankind not only here but anywhere we may give a helping hand. If it were not for that, the Labor movement would not be worth fighting for.
Who spoke those words? The Minister for Conservation and Land Management knows because he is an historian. None other than Ben Chifley spoke those words - he would be writhing in his grave if he knew that the bill proposed to deny the working-class people of New South Wales the opportunity to work. The Labor Party is the self-professed guru of working-class representation but it has done a deal with the greenies. The Labor Party should be warned about doing deals with the greenies because they have been known to move the goal-posts. I quote from another well-known person:
My experience of gentlemen's agreements is that, when it comes to the pinch, there are rarely enough bloody gentlemen about.
Who spoke those words? The same person, Ben Chifley. He was aware of the dangers of dealing with such groups because he was a great representative of the working-class people of Australia. I stand in this place representing them because no member on the Opposition benches has the guts to do it. I went through part of the parliamentary records to find out who of the Opposition members were representative of the working-class. I could find only five Opposition members who had ever got their hands dirty in their life. The rest of them are teachers, academics, lawyers and so on, and certainly do not represent the working-class people of Australia. I pay tribute to the honourable member for Kiama, who in his address acknowledged that people - humans - work in forestry industries and we should be concerned about them. The honourable member is a former waterside worker - not that he would know much about work from that experience - but at least he has had something to do with the workers of Australia. The Australian Labor Party is well and truly in the hands of the green movement. For about 20 years primary producers, foresters and miners in the southeastern area of New South Wales have all been subjected to the subversive treatment of unrealistic attacks on their existence by the green movement, which has used lies, distortions of the facts, and actual physical threats to undermine the existence of forest workers and those engaged in the mining industry and primary production in southern New South Wales.
I warn the shadow minister, who apparently cannot stand the pain of my remarks
and has left the Chamber, that the working-class people of New South Wales, particularly forest industry workers, are a resilient bunch and they will not give up. I shall give another quote to the people who claim to represent the working-class people of Australia. This quote refers to the resilience of working-class people in Australia. This person says: "It's just a matter of sticking. If we stick, the truth will out in time". Who said those words? None other than Ben Chifley, the great guru of the working-class people of Australia. Members opposite have deserted him and the working-class people of Australia. Make no mistake about it, they will fight back. It is little wonder that the Australian people have become somewhat cynical of politicians when there are people like those on the Opposition benches claiming to be representatives of the working-class people. However, they are not representing them. There is no question that this bill is a sell-out of the Australian work force. If Opposition members are worried about the extinction of species, I suggest that they start to worry about the Australian worker. Already the Federal Labor Government has created a 10 per cent, 15 per cent or 20 per cent, whatever the percentage is, unemployment list.
I will give another quote about unemployment. It relates to the parliamentary process and the representation of the Australian worker in this place. It is a quote from the same well-known person, Ben Chifley. This is what he said about the parliamentary process and representation at that time: "Logic will be buggered - it's pure bloody politics, that's what it is". That is what we are talking about. Members on the Opposition benches will rue the day they continued to pursue the green legislation before this House. They are stripping the people of New South Wales of their representation and denying them the opportunity to be heard in this Parliament. Members opposite should be condemned for that. I believe that the Australian worker will eventually rise against the Labor Party, as it exists in this country, and its members will deserve the flogging they will get. I believe that within the next 12 to 18 months when the policies of Keating as Prime Minister are revealed - and people realise he is about as representative of the working-class as are the Opposition members of this Parliament - the voters will reject him. Not only will they reject him, but they will reject the Labor Party. We will see a new movement which will represent the working-class people of New South Wales.
Mr J. H. Murray:
What will happen to you?
I will tell you what will happen to you. You will end up out on the street.
Mr ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr Chappell):
Order! Remarks will be directed through the Chair, not directly across the table of the Chamber.
It is difficult for one to control one's emotions, having come from a background where I have had to get my hands dirty and earn a quid. I am speaking on behalf of the working-class because Opposition members are not capable of reacting to the demands and wishes of the working-class. In the not too distant future the words of Ben Chifley will ring clear in the ears of the working-class - as will the words of George Loveless, whom I quoted earlier. I will again quote the words of George Loveless for members opposite. They relate to what this bill is all about. It is about denying the right of people to work:
Labor is the poor man's property, from which all protection is withheld. Has not the working man as much right to preserve and protect his labour as the rich man has his capital?
Do not ever forget that, because the workers in the timber industry in the southeast forests are hoping that sooner or later members opposite will find enough guts to stand up and defend them and their right to work.
(Burrinjuck) [12.45]: Not surprisingly, I rise to oppose the Endangered Fauna (Interim Protection) Bill. My reasons for doing so are similar to those of my parliamentary colleagues. We on this side of the House foreshadowed that this sort of legislation would come forward when we opposed the Environmental Protection Authority legislation recently before this House. The whole thrust of the legislation before this House today is centred around the ideological direction of the green movement. It amazes me that we are debating endangered species legislation which will create enormous problems, as my parliamentary colleague the member for Monaro has quite rightly pointed out, for the average working person in this State. More importantly, the bill does not address the real problem that is created in this State so far as endangered species are concerned. Today not one member of this House, particularly from the Opposition side, has mentioned that problem. The problem relates not so much to the endangered species, or timber getting, or the industries working in New South Wales forests, but to introduced species - not the introduced species that these people are trying to destroy, that is, the human species - foxes, feral cats and pigs.
In the past 12 to 18 months there has been an enormous explosion in the number of foxes in this State. Foxes are doing more damage to native fauna than is any industry in this State. More birds in this State are killed by foxes than by industry or any other means. Foxes are known as an efficient killing machine so far as birds are concerned. Foxes are not only dramatically impacting on mammals and amphibians. As an example, there was an endangered species released in the southwestern end of the Cataract dam catchment. It was a species called the palma wallaby. It was introduced by a very concerned person who went to a lot of trouble to breed that species of wallaby. He released the wallaby into that area and within one week of it being released, it was wiped out. What wiped it out? It was not humans, it was not the timber industry, but the fox. I sometimes wonder where politicians in this country are going when in the middle of an enormous recession, which is impacting on the jobs of all people in New South Wales, we are debating legislation that will restrict further the jobs to which these people are entitled. In my electorate there is an enormous downturn in the timber industry because of the recessionary action of the whiz kid who made the comment about the recession that we had to have and who will be the future leader of the Australian Labor Party and Prime Minister of this country - God forbid - in the next two weeks.
The whole thrust of what we are talking about today, as I said, has been driven by the irresponsible element of the green movement. They have brainwashed elements of the Labor Party on the Opposition side of the House. This movement is ably assisted by what I and many other people call the rent-a-crowd ferals, who are interested in using violent methods to put the so-called environmental message across to people. My son and daughter-in-law were subjected in the past fortnight to these sorts of people in the AIDEX demonstration at Canberra. They are the type of people that members opposite are supporting. They are the type of people who climb trees and use terrorist type tactics to harm and maim people trying to do their lawful duty. A statement that is made from time to time - I have reservations about it, and wonder whether it is true; it has been made by people on the Opposition's side of politics - is that many in the Labor Party in New South Wales are still living in the 1950s. For goodness sake, move with the times. Look at what is happening right across this State and country today, as distinct from what was happening 10 years ago, with regard to the protection of the environment.
The Government should not have to legislate for people to protect the environment. In the past decade people in rural areas have woken up to the fact that they have done damage to the environment. They are addressing the problems that forest and open country species face, soil acidity, salinity and land degradation. They are planting more trees and encouraging the wildlife to return. I could take honourable members to countless properties in the Burrinjuck electorate where people, out of their own pocket, have bought thousands of trees to plant because they recognise that our forefathers in their ignorance ruined the land from which they made their living. But the sustainable yield the farmers are capable of achieving in an environment in which they can protect endangered species should not be downgraded. People should concentrate on the real issues. As I said earlier, something should be done. Why does the Opposition not introduce some legislation or start a movement to attack the problems created by the species introduced to this country which are creating more problems with the native fauna than any problem the timber industry or any other industry is creating in this State?
The ideology of the Australian Labor Party does not allow it to agree with what is happening because a conservative Government is trying to run the State in the best interests of the people of New South Wales. The Australian Labor Party is intent on bringing the State to its knees economically. That is its general thrust. Opposition members wonder why people cynically say: "Why would we want to vote for the Australian Labor Party? It can't even manage its own resources". Look at what the Australian Labor Party did to its financial resources in the past 12 months. Yet here it is introducing a piece of legislation that will, as the honourable member for Monaro said, stop hard-working men and women in rural communities earning a living. The Minister said that 59 towns in New South Wales dependent on the timber industry will be affected. I am proud to say, as did the honourable member for Monaro, that I come from a working-class background. It is abhorrent that Labor Party members are following the stupid, ideological directions of people in the environment green movement who have so brainwashed and saturated their minds that they have lost all rational thought about the legislation. It can only be described as Coronation Hill revisited.
Many people in the timber industry in the electorate of Burrinjuck have told me there will be such an enormous outcry and backlash against the Australian Labor Party that it will affect its vote. That was indicated at the elections on 25th May this year when I was given votes in towns where the conservatives had never got votes before. Unlike those who represented these people in the past 12 years, they know that members of the coalition parties are fair dinkum about the problems affecting their lives. Opposition members should think about that. They are a disgrace to the working man. Many Opposition members would not know what it was like to do hard work with their hands or to bend their backs. They have put themselves in the same category as many politicians of all political persuasions in the past: they are thinking only of how long they can stay in the system and how much money they can get out of it. They have forgotten about the people of New South Wales.
(Bega) [12.55]: I oppose the Endangered Fauna (Interim Protection) Bill. Members of the Opposition have been hoodwinked. I have spoken to members of the Opposition and I am sure that the majority of them do not agree with the philosophy put forward by the Labor Party today. It is about time those people had their say in the party room. What they are doing will be to the long-term detriment of New South Wales and Australia. The Labor Party in New South Wales has gone off the tracks. Members have quoted real Labor people in this debate who protected the workers of this State. This issue has become a political game for the Labor Party. It thinks it will win the next election if it continues to represent the green movement. In 1988 the green movement
was on the crest of a wave, but the wave has disintegrated. The Australian Labor Party has been left floundering. The people who formed the party - the blue-collar workers - are leaving it in droves. For 25 years prior to being elected in 1988 I lived in a timber town called Bombala in the southeast forest on the Victorian border. It was a nice town full of hard-working people. Nowhere would people have worked harder than the people of Bombala who are engaged in forestry and agricultural pursuits. Bombala was always a Labor town. The people voted Labor at every election, State or Federal. Bombala, Eden, Nimmitabel and other South Coast towns now vote conservative. They have sent a message to the Australian Labor Party, but it is not getting through. The Australian Labor Party has left its roots, as the blue-collar workers are finding out.
This bill is a fraud. It is a grab for more political points, which the Opposition thinks will win it a few more votes and increase its membership in this House. I was disappointed that the regulation was disallowed. One of the reasons given was that it was rushed. It is incredible that this bill should come before the House with such little thought given to its consequences and amazing that the regulation was rejected on the grounds that it was not thought out. The legislation is only an interim measure, as the Leader of the Opposition said. By the time any of the provisions are implemented, the interim period will have expired. There will be so many problems with development applications that the Forestry Commission and probably a lot of agricultural plans and development will be affected. A fast-track system has been devised to overcome any immediate problems. The three-man committee that will look at proposed section 11 has been given 28 days to work out how it will implement the provisions of the bill, and how it will make a practical assessment of endangered species. A period of 28 days is unbelievably impractical. I assume the committee will receive representations and look at forestry, agriculture and mining. I do not know how it will do all that in 28 days.
For many years I have been involved with the southeast forests. More studies have been done of that area than any other area of New South Wales. Those studies take years, not days. The Director-General of the National Parks and Wildlife Service will then decide whether the classification of a particular species should be fast-tracked. He will have to decide whether to take the risk and decide that particular species are endangered and whether they are present in particular forests. He will not have the information in front of him to make that decision and the committee will not be able to give it to him. Environmental impact studies are not carried out in relation to many areas. Do environmental impact studies take into account the necessary detail of the fauna? Is a fauna impact statement necessary? Fast-tracking is unworkable. The real thrust of the legislation is the provision for fauna impact studies. Such studies will create more red tape that industry - forestry, agriculture, development or mining - will have to cope with. Who will use that provision? The conservation groups will use it to fight industry in the Land and Environment Court and every other court.
The major objective of the conservation groups is to stop the operation of forestry industries. They claim they have no objection to forestry industries; they merely want them run properly. I have seen evidence of their objective in the southeast forests time after time. As the honourable member for Monaro said a few moments ago, the goal-posts are constantly being moved. Each time one problem is overcome, another is presented. I emphasise to Opposition members that the economy should be taken into account in these matters. Conservation is an important issue but it should be dealt with in the context of the economy. At present Australia has a 10 per cent unemployment rate. Every tenth person one walks past in the street is likely to be unemployed. Probably 20 per cent to 30 per cent of our young people are unemployed. In the coastal areas where much of the forestry work is done, the percentage would probably be much
higher. We cannot continue to eliminate industries to preserve the environment. The economy should be as important as the environment of this country, in which we are all entitled to live. The environment and the economy must be balanced. The environment cannot take precedence over everything else. Recently the Leader of the Opposition told the State Labor conference that the aim of the Opposition was jobs, job, jobs. One way he could create more jobs would be to eliminate red tape from the development processes of this State. An alleyway must be cut through the red tape to allow industry to continue to operate in this State.
Mr ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr Tink):
Order! The honourable member's time for speaking has expired.
(Ermington) [1.5]: I am delighted to have the opportunity to address the House on the Endangered Fauna (Interim Protection) Bill. I do so within the general framework of my strong and passionate support for the need for comprehensive endangered species legislation in this State and, indeed, complementary legislation across Australia, which will apply to both habitat and species on private and Crown land. As an environmentalist and as the chairman of the Government's environment committee I have adopted that attitude, as have many other members of the House, not merely for consistency but openly both inside and outside of party and parliamentary forums. I strongly support the need for endangered species legislation. It honours a commitment that was made by the Premier of New South Wales in 1988 because of the need to preserve the biodiversity of the flora and fauna of this State and this country for the present generations and future generations. A significant and comprehensive level of protection for the natural heritage of our State was needed to prevent the further disinheritance of future generations of an environment we have long enjoyed and all too often abused.
I support the concept of endangered species legislation, particularly because of our treatment of the environment since European settlement, which calls many past and present decisions into question. Since European settlement, approximately 119 plant and animal species have become extinct in Australia. That fact has given Australia the unenviable reputation of having one of the highest documented rates of species extinction of any country or continent in the world. Three-quarters of Australia's rainforests have been destroyed. Many small but significant woodlands have been damaged. Necessary and appropriate levels of agricultural development have occurred in New South Wales and Australia. Mining operations have formed a necessary part of the economic growth on which we rely. The impact of those matters on endangered species has been significant. Since European settlement, 18 mammal, three bird and one reptile species have become extinct nationally. It is absolutely critical that the Parliament takes advantage of the opportunity to develop comprehensive legislation which will protect for future generations our birds, our mammals, our wildlife and our flora and fauna in a way that will correct the mistakes of the past.
For that reason, and as an environmentalist, I support strongly and passionately the need to provide comprehensive legislation. Such legislation is long overdue. In that regard I differ from my colleagues on this side of the House who have so far spoken to the bill. For the interest of honourable members, I particularly want to list seven species that would be protected by comprehensive legislation. The powerful owl, the Hastings River mouse, the eastern pigmy possum, the dome headed bat, the yellow footed rock wallaby, the Mallee fowl and the superb parrot are among the wide range of species currently threatened in this State. A total of 386 vertebrate and 294 invertebrate species are threatened. Ninety-seven vascular species have already become extinct and a further
3,300 - 17 per cent of the known total of 20,000 - are either rare or threatened. A complete vascular plant inventory is still not in place in Australia. It is estimated that 22,000 non-vascular plants are yet to be described. The situation continues to be critical. Of our plants 518 are either rare or threatened and 14 are already extinct.
The problem cries out for attention. I am delighted today that in the final analysis, given the outcome of negotiations between both sides of this Chamber - and of course forestry and environmental groups - I will be able to support legislation, once amended, that will finally address an important need that was neglected by previous Liberal and Labor governments, when it demanded attention far more urgently. I draw attention particularly to community concern about this matter. As honourable members may be aware, the Premier asked me and the Government's environment committee to undertake a public inquiry into the National Parks and Wildlife Act of 1974, submissions for which closed on 29th November. It is worth stating that of the many hundreds of submissions that our committee has received, almost all seek the opportunity to strengthen the National Parks and Wildlife Service. Many of them raise the very vexed question that faces the Parliament today: the need to strengthen the inadequate provisions within the current Act that relate to the protection of endangered species and that have precipitated the difficult situation in which we find ourselves today following the Chaelundi decision in the case of Corkhill
v. Forestry Commission
and the regulation which was introduced on, I think, 2nd October in order to circumvent the decision by Mr Justice Stein.
It has become clear to me as chairman of that public inquiry that the community wants endangered species legislation, and it wants the National Parks and Wildlife Act significantly strengthened. I support that community concern. In conclusion, I take the opportunity to congratulate the Minister for the Environment and the Minister for Conservation and Land Management. The honourable member for Gosford, who is in the Chamber, is a member of my committee, as is the honourable member for the Entrance, who will return next year to see the legislation in place. The honourable member for Wakehurst is also a member of the committee. We met with the Premier to strongly support the serious consideration of the Endangered Fauna (Interim Protection) Bill, on which we had had various negotiations and discussions. I place on the record my appreciation of a number of key environmentalists, some of whom are in the gallery today, who participated in developing landmark legislation for which the community will be very grateful.
The honourable member for Wakehurst and I, representing the committee, met with John Corkhill from the North East Forest Alliance; Sue Salmon from the Australian Conservation Foundation; Peter Wright, the liaison officer of the conservation group; Jeff Angel from the Total Environment Centre; and Ron Knight, the New South Wales forest campaign co-ordinator, who is a member of the Wilderness Society, as I am. We discussed those important issues and we took them directly to the Premier. I was delighted shortly after, on 17th October, to issue a press release which indicated that the Government remained committed to the introduction of endangered species legislation and the establishment of a natural resources management council. I reiterated that the Premier, the Minister for the Environment and I remained committed to the development of endangered species legislation, looking forward to bipartisan support from the Opposition in that regard. In the fullness of time as events unfold, that commitment will be brought to fruition with the amendment of the legislation. Like my Government colleagues, I have reservations about the bill as presented. After the bill is amended we shall support the third reading of it. I congratulate everyone who has been involved in a very tortuous process in developing this landmark legislation for which future
generations of Australians will be very grateful, even if some of our colleagues in this House are not.
(Lismore) [1.14]: I wish to express my grave concerns about the Endangered Fauna (Interim Protection) Bill. I have been disgusted with the obvious lying and confrontationist way in which radical greenies over the years have put their case in the debate about responsible management practices in primary and secondary industries. We have seen a continuation of this lying approach in the second sentence of the second reading speech of the Labor member for Blacktown. She spoke of consultation with the timber industry. I have contacted every major timber group in New South Wales. None of them - zero - have had proper consultation with the honourable member for Blacktown. Unless the timber groups can be named, the only conclusion that can be drawn is that in the best traditions established by the leader of the Australian Labor Party the honourable member for Blacktown is playing with the truth - in plain language, lying. The first two sentences of the second reading speech are in the style of the radical greenie, who cannot put two sentences together without twisting the truth.
The interests of the honest, hard-working timber workers have not been properly considered. The Labor Party continues to desert the real workers. This leads me to my second concern; that is, that even in the hands of the sensible, responsible conservationists this bill will be dangerous and a hindrance to responsible environmental management; but in the hands of the radical, extreme greenies it could have disastrous results. For example, in the hands of the extremists the objects of clause 2(g) and (h) could have results never intended or expected by any responsible conservationist reading the bill. I have seen the exaggerated behaviour, the lying and dishonesty of these extremists too often to believe that these same people would not try to do the same things again. The disrespect these people have for the truth, law and order and good management was clearly seen at the Chaelundi State Forest. An environmental impact statement of more than 300 pages and a report of more than 100 pages were prepared on proposed harvesting operations in compartments 180, 198 and 200 of Chaelundi State Forest. These reports were not challenged by the radicals because they did not have a leg to stand on. The reports clearly showed that a well-managed harvesting operation, specially planned for the area, could be carried out, protecting for eternity the forest environment and the fauna.
The reports supported what surveys and history have taught us. Let me clearly state: no bird or animal has been made extinct because of properly managed forest activities. Not ever. No species has even become endangered. Let me also state that along the east coast forest country are to be found high population densities of fauna bearing no relationship to the past tree-harvesting activities in the forests in which they live. The Bungabbee State Forest, which was logged in the past under less enlightened programs and more recently under more sound management practices, has high populations of species similar to those which were noted at Chaelundi - the owls, the gliders, the mice. They are all there along the eastern fall country in the forestry areas. Despite the environmental impact statement the radical greenies were not satisfied. They illegally dug up the roads, cut down the trees and behaved with complete disregard for acceptable law and order at Chaelundi. Next they sought extreme and unintended uses of a legal technicality in the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974. They took court action when they felt they could use the heritage law provisions to further their narrow, radical action. They wanted to force the Minister to follow their narrow agenda. These extremists are in the community still. Some of these parasites, who have never produced anything useful in their lives, have been in the gallery today. They will try to use this bill in extreme ways whenever it serves their narrow, selfish purposes, and they will try
to force the Minister to follow their narrow thinking. Paragraphs (g) and (h) of clause 2 and proposed new section 92E could well be used for this attempted abuse and thuggery. Proposed new section 92E reads:
If the Minister or the Director is of the opinion that any action is likely to significantly affect the environment of any protected fauna, and such action is being or is about to be carried out, the Minister or Director may order that any such action is to cease and that no action, other than such action as may be specified in that order, is to be carried out with respect to the environment within a period of 40 days after the date of that order.
That section taken in a narrow sense could be used to disrupt general agricultural and harvesting operations with disastrous effect. The radicals can be expected to try to force its use in its narrowest, extreme interpretation. Let me illustrate the point by referring to a family of common blue wrens, which made their nest in some shrubs not 25 metres from this Chamber - in the rooftop garden. In the spring of 1990 they built their nest in the shrub directly beneath my office window. Their total territory comprised the rooftop garden. Some of the crazy radicals could have argued that the environment of that protected fauna - and in the bill fauna is defined as any bird - was the rooftop garden. They could argue that no gardening activity should take place as it would significantly affect the environment of that bird family and they would try to force the Minister to issue a stop-work order. That is an illustration of how extremists could interpret the legislation to suit their own twisted means. Such action would appear crazy to any normal, responsible conservationist, but the Chaelundi issue has proved that these extreme radicals are not normal conservationists. If they have access to the provisions of this bill, what chance will normal, sensible farming and forestry management practices have?
The radicals will do everything possible to disrupt normal, sensible procedures. This bill will encourage those extremists in their activities. It does not recognise that the social and economic efforts of human endeavour must be balanced with measures to protect fauna and flora. It places unnecessary economic and regulatory hardship, borders and controls on agriculture and industry. It gives the Director of the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the Minister for the Environment unnecessary powers of veto over many proposals. Already these crazy greenies are rubbing their hands together with glee over this legislation. They have already begun to tell lies about the Dome Mountain area on the North Coast. These radicals are unconcerned that during periods of drought pine tree plantations on the North Coast do not stand up to the climate in the same way as native trees do. Large numbers of trees in those plantations will die because of drought conditions. Therefore, no forestry plantations to replace naturally grown forests will ever satisfy the needs of the country. For all of those reasons, I definitely do not support this crazy bill.
(Murray) [1.24]: I strongly oppose the Endangered Fauna (Interim Protection) Bill. I wonder what is the endangered species, whether it is flora and fauna or mankind. Members of Parliament, whether they are Government supporters, Opposition members or Independents, have a responsibility to ensure that this State has a sound, positive and viable economy. In my early schooldays I was never taught anything about the environment. I am pleased to say that children today are being educated on environmental issues. Everyone is conscious of the environment. As a farmer I am extremely conscious of the environment. In my electorate almost 50 per cent of voters earn their living from either rural or timber industries. My electorate has the largest redgum forests in the world - the Millewa State Forest and the Lowbidgee State Forest. Those forests are living proof of sensible management practices. Any changes within the ecosystems of rivers through the construction of water storage and irrigation facilities have been corrected so that the redgums are flooded regularly, as happened prior
to any damming of the waters. Past governments and the present Government have shown responsibility in this area.
The dams and bore holes that have been constructed on properties in the Western Division have attracted plague proportions of kangaroos, rabbits and other native wildlife. In times of drought those animals would not have been able to exist without that water. I disagree with the statement that we are destroying the environment. The redgum forests in my electorate exist today through multiskilled management. In the past 70 years the management of the industry has improved enormously. The forests today are in a better state than they were in 70 years ago. That does not mean to say that there has not been mismanagement in the past. However, the forests' sustainable product is a direct result of effective management of the industry. The redgum forest in Victoria was closed down some years ago. Some of the sleepers that V/Line require are supplied by the redgum timber industry in New South Wales. Unfortunately, there is a limit to what the forests can sustain. The Forestry Commission, the sleeper cutters and the sawmillers have agreed that the forests cannot sustain the rate of cut that has occurred in the past, so they are returning to a cut that they know is totally sustainable. Forests have a 40-year cycle where selective timber cutting can occur. The work force of Mathoura, a small country town, would be the endangered species if this legislation were to succeed.
I wish to address the issue of farming. The measures in this legislation could be the forerunner to an environmental impact statement being required for farming enterprises. For instance, farmers may be required to obtain an environmental impact statement to plough their lands prior to planting crops if wombat holes are present. This is a very serious matter. It is most important for Government supporters, members of the Opposition and the Independents to work together and come up with a beneficial result for the people of New South Wales. I am referring to those families who are facing so much hardship today. Because of the present drought conditions, the rural downturn and the demise of small business, many people in this State are going bankrupt. If their areas of production are taken away, they will lose their livelihood. How far should one go to protect endangered species? The eastern part of this State has few kangaroos, wallabies and rabbits, but in the western part of the State they are there in their thousands. It is suggested that in the past three years the kangaroo population of New South Wales has grown to almost nine million. How are we to classify an endangered species? Do we protect areas where there are only a small number of animals? Farmers, foresters and people in various industries are supportive of protecting the environment but how do we protect an endangered species in transport or irrigation areas? It could well be argued that water rats are an endangered species. Would we have to protect water rats who cause damage and erosion by burrowing into irrigation channels? How far do we go? I believe that we should protect our animals and our birds, but there is a limit to what we can do. We must work together constructively.
If these forest industries are closed down, many small towns will not survive. They will not have adequate resources to maintain their services. Huge amounts of taxpayers' money are invested in these industries. I referred earlier to the Millewa forest. If that area is closed to tourism, recreational activities and timber industries will be affected. People will not be able to access or utilise rivers in that area. The Water Resources Commission and the National Parks and Wildlife Service are doing everything they can to maintain water levels of rivers and the habitat for the ibis. These birds are breeding successfully in my electorate. However, they do cause some damage to rice crops. Because of a large number of earthworms which come to the surface of the rice fields the birds come in their thousands and destroy a lot of the crop. My electorate contains a large variety of birds and animals. I am honoured that I am able to look after people who need to be protected from this sort of legislation. I oppose the bill in its
present form. The court decision on the Chaelundi forest has had an effect on the people in my electorate. They are scared that they will lose their jobs. I am pleased that the regulation implemented by this Government has overruled that court decision. I hope that this legislation can be amended so that the jobs of people in that area are maintained.
(Blacktown) [1.34], in reply: Because of arrangements that were made last night and this morning I intend to speak only briefly in reply. A number of interesting issues were referred to in debate. We heard about the working-class credentials of people on the Labor side of politics; we heard a lot about the Labor Party's antipathy towards workers and farmers; we heard the contribution of the Deputy Leader of the National Party; and we heard also about the Federal Government. We heard about a number of issues which I believe to be extraneous to this debate. We actually heard very little about the bill from a large number of Government speakers. It is obvious, and disappointing, that most members of the National Party who participated in the debate have not read the Endangered Fauna (Interim Protection) Bill. However, I congratulate honourable members on my side of politics who participated in the debate. I note the contribution of the honourable member for Ermington who made a courageous contribution in light of the deluge of National Party speakers. Almost every National Party member of Parliament who was available decided to participate in this debate.
I do not believe that the National Party, farmers and timber workers have anything to fear from this bill. This bill has brought together a set of measures that will protect endangered fauna within this State and protect the livelihoods of people working in various industries who could be affected when this bill is implemented. For example, it might be necessary for stop-work orders to be issued by the National Parks and Wildlife Service, or it might be necessary to implement other parts of the bill. Sawmills will not be closed as a result of the implementation of this bill. If the livelihood of a sawmill is in danger of being affected because of the discovery of an endangered species, there is provision in this bill to protect such a sawmill. There will be sufficient fall-back provisions in this bill so the economy of rural New South Wales will not suffer. We heard also from a number of speakers about creatures that might upset the whole economy of rural New South Wales if unscrupulous greenies decide to exploit their existence in some areas. Not one member of the National Party who spoke in this debate seemed to be aware of the fact that the bill will establish a scientific committee to review the schedule of endangered fauna in New South Wales. It will remove from the list some fauna that should not be there, and this could be used as the basis of a future mischievous case against the Government.
Those who spoke with such venom against the bill should read it. This afternoon, in the Committee stage, they will have an opportunity to absorb a little more. I wish to reaffirm the arrangements that have been made about the passage of this legislation. I am disappointed that the Government has not seen fit to support the bill, even at the second reading stage. Over the past three years the Minister for the Environment and the Premier have made a number of comments indicating this Government's support for endangered species. We have had a lot of talk but very little action. Today should have provided an opportunity for the Government, even at the second reading stage, to back up its pious statements over the past few years that it supports this type of legislation. The Government does not support this type of legislation. That will be evident when members of the Government vote at the second reading stage. The only comfort that we as an Opposition can take is that the Government has been willing to negotiate with the Opposition and the Independents. We have negotiated over the past 48 hours and we have reached the stage where the
Chaelundi regulation has been disallowed. We have proceeded with the second reading debate on this bill which eventually will be passed through this House and the Legislative Council.
We have entered into those arrangements because of negotiations that took place between the Minister for the Environment, the Minister for Conservation and Land Management and the Opposition. It does not matter how many triple-star performances we witness from Government members, in particular members of the National Party; they cannot escape from the fact that their masters have already done the deal on this bill. This bill will pass through this House. Debate on this bill has been a bit like the debate on the Chaelundi forest. We will read a lot about it in the local papers, but it is quite meaningless. Once this bill is passed by this House we will have a successful package of proposals which will put in place, at least for a temporary period, necessary measures that need to be taken to protect endangered fauna in this State. I, like other speakers who have contributed to the debate today, pay tribute to the environment movement for the good work it has done to ensure that this bill was put in the proper form to be debated by this Parliament. I commend the bill.
Question - That this bill be now read a second time - put.
Division called for.
Mr ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr Tink):
Order! Pursuant to an earlier resolution of the House I set the holding of the division for 2.5 p.m.