PREMIER, AND MINISTER FOR ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
Debate resumed from an earlier hour.
(Newcastle) [7.30]: The Premier deserves the censure of this House, as does his Minister for the Environment, the Quasimodo on the opposite side who, at the time of the declaration - the Christmas present by the Premier - was fulsome in his praise of the consultation process that had taken place. He said that it was complete and that it had taken into account all the necessary considerations. Shortly thereafter he was hoping that there was a wilderness in which he could hide from the wrath of the National Party. On the day he made his Christmas present declaration the Premier said:
The public consultation process introduced by this Government in 1992 has been invaluable in ensuring that the views of a large number of affected groups with diverse interests were taken into account before the final decisions were made. This decision represents a fair and even-handed approach to environment protection and the large number of interest groups concerned.
There it was. Consultation had taken place. This was to be a magnificent declaration. It was to be a gift to future generations in New South Wales. It was to be the most wonderful declaration of wilderness. The Premier's statement showed that he had no real idea of what wilderness is or what the Wilderness Act says about what constitutes a wilderness area. As the Leader of the Opposition said, it was a bits and pieces wilderness legislation. Section 6 of the Act, "Identification of wilderness", provides:
6.(1) An area of land shall not be identified as wilderness by the Director unless the Director is of the opinion that:
(a) the area is, together with its plant and animal communities, in a state that has not been substantially modified by humans and their works or is capable of being restored to such a state;
(b) the area is of sufficient size to make its maintenance in such a state feasible; and
(c) the area is capable of providing opportunities for solitude and appropriate self-reliant recreation.
The areas proposed by the Premier could not comply with that section. It was, as the Leader of the Opposition said, a snakes and ladders declaration - not a coherent wilderness area. The Premier should be condemned for that approach. But he should be further condemned and even censured for his backflip, together with his Minister for the Environment, once he was placed under pressure from the people in this State who really determine what happens in the environment, that is, members of the National Party - in this case the honourable member for Monaro, the honourable member for Bega, the honourable member for Oxley, and in the case of the Macleay Gorges, the honourable member for Tamworth. I am sure, Mr Acting-Speaker, that you had something to say in ensuring that areas that were being considered for declaration as wilderness areas were chipped at, chopped up and rendered completely useless.
The record of this Government, particularly in relation to coastal areas, is one that has everybody crying out for their protection. The main interest of the Government in natural areas is to assess them as a resource first, but a resource to be exploited. If the area has anything on it that the Government thinks might be possible to mine, the Government's approach is to dig it up. If anything is growing, the Government considers chopping it down. The Government does not have a concept of the natural values and the extension of those natural values for the future. In the Government's seven long years in office it has added nothing whatsoever to the wilderness areas of this State. In December last year it made this supposed declaration, but on 9 September the reality of the declaration was attacked universally by the environment movement both in this State and throughout Australia, and attacked by people who have an interest in conservation. The declaration did not add to the wilderness areas.
I mention the coastal areas in my electorate and the coastal areas in the Hunter. The honourable member for Port Stephens is very proud of the
Tomaree National Park, an area set up by Labor. My electorate boasts the Glenrock State Recreation Area, recognised as very valuable land and land useful for recreation and conservation purposes; again, an area declared by the Labor Party. The approach of the Liberal Party-National Party for the rest of the coast in my electorate is evident: assess the wonderful coastal resource and consider how it can be exploited - "How can we dig it up? How can we sell it off?"
Our precious coastline is rapidly being nibbled away and eroded by coastal developments that are being encouraged by this Government. Barrington Tops is an area of great significance close to the Hunter Valley. Of all wilderness nominations, the nomination of Barrington Tops by the Wilderness Society in 1992 was greatly supported. On 6 February that year the Wilderness Society submitted a written proposal for the identification and declaration of approximately 70,000 hectares of land located on the extreme south-east of the northern tablelands, centred on the Barrington massif itself, the Mount Royal Range and the escarpment edge. That area of land has extremely significant environmental conservation value: it was assessed as being suitable for world heritage. It is a magnificent piece of country.
Barrington Tops is not included in the group of bits and pieces of national parks and wilderness that the Government has declared. The Government's approach is completely unsatisfactory. That is a great tragedy, for without doubt, the Barrington wilderness would be of world significance and could be regarded as an inland Lord Howe Island. Most who travel to Barrington Tops recognise its highly significant environmental and conservation values. In February 1992 the Wilderness Society put forward its nomination of 70,000 hectares of land to be incorporated into a wilderness area. The society recognised that it had to put forward a first-class nomination, and it certainly did that. That nomination went before the National Parks and Wildlife Service, which put it on public exhibition. The nomination was exhibited between April and August 1993, giving the public plenty of time to inspect it and make recommendations, and giving plenty of time for the Minister and the Premier to bring it forward as they have brought other areas forward.
I ask the Minister: why has the Barrington wilderness not been recommended by the Government for nomination as a wilderness? Is it because the Barrington wilderness is a significant wilderness surrounded by National Party seats and is located on the edge of the Maitland electorate? I would be interested to hear the views of the honourable member for Maitland. I am sure he would agree that the Barrington wilderness is an area of great significance for the people of the Hunter, and the Maitland, Myall Lakes and Upper Hunter electorates. Why has such a significant area not been brought forward for nomination?
On 7 November 1993 the honourable member for Maitland, the Minister for Land and Water Conservation, the honourable member for Cessnock and I toured that area with the Four Wheel Drive Association, whose members were concerned about whether the area would be declared a wilderness. They decided to take us for a trip through that area to bring forward their views about wilderness declarations and whether the Barrington area should be declared a wilderness. They were a very responsible group of people. I think we travelled about 300 kilometres, and it was a most enjoyable day. We had a nice morning tea at Moonan Flat. We drove up into the Barrington area and finished up at Polblue, right in the middle of the potential wilderness area in the existing national park.
The association members could not understand the concept of wilderness. They asked whether we could give a declaration that we would support continued four-wheel drive use in that area. I know that the Minister for Land and Water Conservation and the honourable member for Maitland said they would, but I said I could not do that because the area was a very significant piece of country and that we had to look at what was most beneficial for it in environmental and conservation terms. A report on environmental values in that area describes it as having diverse vegetation communities including world heritage listed rain forest, outstanding examples of tall old growth forest, several species of rare and vulnerable plants, numerous plants of biogeographic importance, and the southernmost extensive and best developed examples of Antarctic beech. The area has inadequately preserved plant associations, ancient subalpine swamps, several wild and scenic rivers, and scenic beauty. In fact, it is highly prized as a potential wilderness area.
As the Leader of the National Party said, in that area it is possible to find trails, old huts, and indications that people have been through there, that horses have ridden through there and that cattle have been there. But that does not mean that over time that area cannot be returned or restored to a wilderness state. Those are the horns of the dilemma the Minister is on, for he has said that he strongly believes in wilderness. I quote from an article in the Sydney Morning Herald
The Minister for the Environment championed the Wilderness Act as the State's best chance to protect biodiversity. "Wilderness is the pristine areas of the State or those parts of it that can readily be returned to their pristine condition", said Mr Hartcher.
Once that proposition came before the National Party the Minister very soon found that the Man from Snowy River and all those very passionate defenders of the rights of people to trample through the wilderness and to have their form of recreation ensured said no. He did not stand up in any way to that, nor did the Premier. Unfortunately, the Premier does not understand the issue of wilderness. An article in the Sydney Morning Herald
of 24 January expresses concern about the Premier's view of wilderness. It states:
This week, Fahey was talking about protecting the rights of four-wheel-drive users and horse riders. He also said that wilderness couldn't be wilderness if people were riding their horses or driving through it. In fact, he appears not to understand the legislation, which makes it clear that wilderness can be declared if it is "in a state that has not been substantially modified by humans and their works or is capable of being restored to such a state".
The Barrington area has a magnificent variety of plants, different climatic types, wonderful wild rivers in an area which, in the view of the National Parks and Wildlife Service, is capable of being declared a wilderness area when combined with the existing national park, 38,000 hectares; existing State forest, 30,000 hectares; and 700 hectares of vacant and reserved Crown land. That could be consolidated into a World Heritage Area of international significance. A very tiny part of New South Wales could be preserved, as the Premier said in his bogus announcement, as a gift for our grandchildren. It would be a significant gift for our grandchildren. Of course, it would have a cost, and that is recognised. The cost has to be taken into account. The tourism and recreation values of the areas have to be carefully assessed. A classic example of the failure of the Minister for the Environment and the Premier is that the Barrington area was not declared wilderness and the area declared was totally inadequate. [Time expired
(Gosford - Minister for the Environment) [7.50]: The motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition is consistent with his other statements. He has always attacked anything the Government has done on wilderness. He has never been supportive of the Government's position and he has played party politics with the wilderness issue throughout. On 23 December 1993 when the Premier and I made the announcement on wilderness, the Leader of the Opposition was at the airport. Nonetheless, he dictated a press release at the airport in which he criticised the Government and said that it was playing a cruel hoax on the community.
On 2 March, again anxious to develop the politics of the issue, he moved a motion in this House to condemn the Premier. The motion was unsuccessful. The position of the Leader of the Opposition and the Australian Labor Party all along has been to oppose anything the Government said. Today, Opposition members pretend that the Government's announcement of 9 September is a terrible thing. The Labor position is based totally on political expediency. This afternoon the Leader of the Opposition played to his supine backbenchers, who were laughing at his silly and irrelevant jokes. He had no substance to his allegations; all he did was make grandiose statements, which mostly were irrelevant. After listening to the speech by Leader of the Opposition for five minutes, Mr Speaker said that the Leader of the Opposition had not made a single comment which was relevant to the motion that he had moved.
Let us look coldly and dispassionately at the issue. The announcement I made on 9 September declared the largest area ever of wilderness under the Wilderness Act. I invite anybody who is to contribute to the debate, including the honourable member for Bligh, to look at the record. A total of 113,000 hectares was declared. You cannot get bigger than the biggest! What is the concern then about the announcement of such a massive area? I invite the honourable member for Bligh to contrast that declaration with the only declaration of wilderness made by Bob Carr in his two years as Minister responsible for the environment. On 17 May 1985 he declared 24,500 hectares of the Washpool area. This is the man who jumps up and down and screams about the issue. That was his one declaration - under the old Act, the National Parks and Wildlife Service Act.
Let us look further at the Government's record. On 13 December 1991 my predecessor as Minister for the Environment, the Hon. Tim Moore, declared the Nattai National Park, 29,800 hectares. On 6 March he made what was to that time the declaration of the largest area, a total of 100,000 hectares - at Mootwingee 47,600 hectares; New England National Park, 28,000; Nungatta National Park at Genoa, 6,100 hectares; and Nymboida National Park in the Mann area, 18,998 hectares. Then on 10 April 1992 he declared 60,000 hectares at Moreton National Park. So this Government has had a consistent record on wilderness, a consistent record of acknowledging the importance of wilderness. It is the subject to which I have a strong commitment and on which I have spoken many times. The Government has consistently declared wilderness areas where appropriate. The record speaks for itself. The honourable member for Bligh should look at the record.
Yes, it does, does it not?
The honourable member quite clearly has a closed mind on the issue. There is not much point in addressing any argument to her. I wonder why we have debates in this House when people have closed minds. The Government has a complete, clear and consistent policy of declaring wilderness in New South Wales. The declaration on 9 September covered more area than any other single announcement. The Government could have rejected proposals for declaration of wilderness; it was appropriate and within the Government's powers to do so. But because of the Government's commitment to wilderness it made the declarations.
I refer to the issue of consultation. On 12 November 1987 when the present Leader of the Opposition introduced the Wilderness Act he made it clear that consultation was not required. In his speech introducing the legislation on 12 November he said that "the Minister is not required to notify any person before making an order". When he made his one and only declaration of wilderness he did not consult anybody. There was no consultative process. This Government and this Government alone instituted the consultative process. That process is an issue in which the honourable member for South Coast has taken a strong interest, and the Government is committed to that process. Let me give the House details of the consultative process undertaken in relation to the wilderness nominations which have now been declared.
The Minister is having difficulty finding them.
There is a considerable number of them. I ask the House to bear with me in respect of the wilderness proposals. The Government has undertaken an extensive program of consultation. I will give the House some details. A total of 15,921 submissions were received. There was zero under Labor. Labor did not consult anyone. The honourable member for Bligh knows what Labor governments are like. There were 15,921 submissions received: for Deua, 1357; Lost World 1,436; Macleay Gorges 1,527; Guy Fawkes 1,565; Washpool 1,501; Nadgee 1,690; Goodradigbee 2,185. They are some of the figures. I will give the range of percentages for and against the declarations: Deua, 78 per cent for, 22 per cent against, down to Goodradigbee, 54 per cent for, 46 per cent against. There was wide concern in the community about wilderness, some supporting it and some opposing it. There were widely diverging views on the issue among large sections of the community.
The Government acknowledges that. It has been conscious of the fact that this is an issue which does not have a united community behind it. I support it; most members of the House support conservation of wilderness. But there are many in the community who do not support wilderness, and many in the community who have a concern about wilderness declarations. Those concerns have to be acknowledged and addressed. Accordingly the Government has engaged in the extensive process of community consultation. That, of course, was something requested of me by members of this House, including the honourable member for South Coast and members of the Government. It was felt that there should be wide and extensive community consultation before any declaration was made. Those consultations now constitute the figures given in relation to the wilderness declarations that now have been determined.
The wilderness declarations that are undetermined are still subject to the public consultative process in the sense that members of the public can still make their voices heard. Having dealt with the issue of the largest single declaration of wilderness ever, and the importance of the Government's commitment to community consultation, I will deal with the issue of what the Government is doing on wilderness management. One of the community concerns raised by many people in their submissions is that wilderness management meant neglect - that the areas once declared as wilderness were simply neglected. This was neglect in a perceived way, in respect of feral animals, noxious weeds and bushfire management. In the previous address to this House by the honourable member for South Coast on 2 March, on the motion by the Australian Labor Party, he raised the specific point that there was much concern about these issues.
To address them the Government has increased the budget of the National Parks and Wildlife Service from $43 million to $79 million, with large sums of money earmarked for those very concerns of proper control of noxious weeds, which are in devastatingly large areas of national park, for proper control of feral animals, which are devouring large amounts of our wildlife, and for the proper control of bushfires, which threaten the very viability and flora values of national parks if allowed to sweep through them in an uncontrolled and devastating manner year after year. The Government has addressed each of those issues that were raised on 2 March. In addressing the issues of consultation, funding for the National Parks and Wildlife Service, management of national parks and wilderness areas in an appropriate way, and in regarding them as a great community asset, this Government has acted clearly and determinedly.
Any fair-minded person who is prepared to look at the record will see a government which, first, has advanced the course of wilderness with major declarations; second, has consulted with the community in relation to its wilderness nomination and assessment process; and, third, has been prepared to put large amounts of money into the proper management of these great and beautiful areas of the State. It would not be seen as a government which has simply allowed them to be ignored and neglected and therefore devastated by noxious weeds and feral animals.
If any member of this House thinks that noxious weeds and feral animals are not a problem in national parks and wilderness areas, they need only take a helicopter trip over some of them to see the hundreds and thousands of hectares that have been devastated by uncontrolled weeds and neglected feral animals. Those three issues are important. They may not be exciting, but each of them is important - the advancement of the cause, the large areas declared, the consultation and proper funding for management. The fourth issue in this debate is that of the censure, that somehow the Government has morally failed and is deserving of the condemnation of the House.
Censure of the House.
The condemnation was last March.
There was no condemnation. That motion in March was defeated by the House. Is the Premier and therefore his Ministers, myself included, somehow deserving of censure? What is the argument that justifies the censure? No argument was advanced by the Leader of the Opposition - none whatever in his theatrical performance. He simply spoke about the history of the debate on the issue. He offered no argument to show that the Government was somehow morally wrong and unjustified in its conduct. This Government was elected to office. If people do not like its decisions, they have their remedy at the ballot box when elections are held. For the Government to be censured there needs to be something more: there needs to be the belief in the public mind that the Government has acted in a way that right thinking people would not act, and that such conduct cannot be morally justified.
There is a moral element in any censure motion. It is not a motion of disagreement. It goes much further, claiming immoral conduct. It is incumbent upon those who propose or support such a motion that they be able to establish the claim. Where is the lack of morality in the Government's action? The Government had, on 23 December, made clear that its preferred position was for 350,000 hectares of wilderness, which it announced. As the Premier said, that position, after further consultation, could no longer be held tenable. That community consultation was engaged in through the Surveyor General, a public officer of the State, and through a community consultative process. It was engaged in by listening to the representations and concerns of the members of the House - democratically elected members, members elected to represent the views of their constituencies.
So where is the sense of moral outrage that justifies censure? Where is the immorality that would constitute a need for censure? A previous censure motion moved in this House against the Hon. Nick Greiner and the Hon. Tim Moore was based upon the claim that they had acted with a degree of impropriety in the Metherell affair. That was the basis for it. In this particular case there may be disagreement with what the Government has done. There may be a feeling that the Government should have done more, or a feeling that the Government should not have done more, or a feeling that the Government should not have participated in a consultative process dealing with its own members and the community; but there is no allegation of wrongdoing let alone any established allegation of moral wrongdoing. To vote for a censure motion on a matter like this simply degrades the whole process of debate and turns the censure motion into a political weapon - not a control of the House or a judgment of the House, but a political process of the House.
Opposition members who are prepared to vote for this motion must think carefully about what that will mean to the whole process of parliamentary debate and parliamentary control over the Executive. It will become simply another political tactic, another thing that members of the House and the public come to expect and ignore, that "today the Government or the Minister was censured". The censure motion itself will become meaningless and nonsensical. These are very grave and important issues. There is also the issue of consultation. A process of consultation was followed for the first time ever under this Government. There is the issue of whether there should be wilderness areas. Wilderness has been advanced under this Government. There is the issue of proper financing for national parks and wilderness areas. That also has been taken up under this Government.
The issue of whether there is any moral wrongdoing or turpitude that would justify an act of censure of this House also has to be considered. Unless honourable members are willing to have the whole notion of censure watered down and used purely as a tactical weapon by the Australian Labor Party in its attempt to try to destabilise the Government, they will realise that this motion cannot be consistently supported, regardless of whether they agree with what the Government did in relation to wilderness. Honourable members may well decide that there should have been more emphasis on wilderness, they may decide that they would like more consultation and they may decide that they would like a lot more done by the Government, but that does not mean that the Government is guilty of a moral crime that deserves the censure of this House - not in the same sense as was the opinion of the majority of the House in the 1992 Metherell affair.
I wish to state for the record my personal commitment to, and belief in, wilderness. I have stated that commitment clearly on many occasions. I have stated it when addressing hostile meetings at Kempsey. I have made it clear that wilderness is of fundamental importance to this State because it is the one way of ensuring a proper approach to biodiversity and the one way of showing that the community believes that there are some areas where humankind should not be dominant, where nature itself should be the determining force. On 9 September the Government established 113,000 hectares of wilderness. The Government had established areas of wilderness on previous occasions, too, the most recent being an area of 100,000 hectares declared on 6 March 1992.
The Government is advancing the cause of wilderness but it is doing so in a consultative and responsible way. It is advancing the cause of wilderness in a way that acknowledges that there are community concerns, and seeks to address and meet those concerns. Unless honourable members are prepared to take the step of saying that a government should not govern, that a government should do only what a majority in the House thinks it should do on any issue, they will not support the motion before the House. I urge all honourable members simply to look at the record. It is the Government's wilderness record that is the issue before the House, not whether honourable members consider that more should have been done.
(Bligh) [8.10]: I made an announcement to my electorate last December. I published a Christmas newsletter that was distributed throughout the Bligh electorate before the Premier made his Christmas present announcement. In that newsletter I pointed out that under this Government there had been destruction of old growth forests. I explained that at four o'clock one morning the Government combined with the Niles to defeat my South East Forests Protection Bill, a responsible compromise between environmental and timber interests that was consistent with the national forest policy statement signed by both the Premier and the Prime Minister. My bill provided for a moratorium on more than 90,000 hectares of the highest conservation value areas of the south-east. In the upper House the Government combined with the Niles to defeat that bill, a bill that had gone through the law-making chamber of this Parliament.
In August 1993 the Government allowed logging in compartment 1402, the most valuable part of the south-east forests, and by November that compartment, which contained 84 threatened species, had been destroyed. In my newsletter I explained that nine wilderness nominations had been waiting for ministerial approval for up to 11 months and that during the delay the Government had approved logging or mining in their most sensitive areas. That was the Government's record on wilderness up until December, when the Premier made his Christmas announcement that a large area, 300,000 hectares, was to be set aside. I feel quite sorry for the Minister for the Environment. His parliamentary office is situated near mine, and I have noticed that over the past two weeks he has looked quite depressed and hunted. It is my feeling that he has to defend in the House an action of his government that he fought in Cabinet and totally disagreed with. It must be a terrible thing for a Minister to have to defend a policy that is destructive of one's portfolio.
Honourable members can imagine how delighted I was, having written in my newsletter that nine wilderness nominations had been waiting for ministerial approval for up to 11 months, when the announcement was made that the Government was finally to set those important areas aside in a responsible way for future generations. I was astounded with what occurred subsequently, which has been aptly described in the Chamber tonight. The Premier and the Minister had to back off because of the National Party rump. Tonight the Deputy Premier has said that democracy is the basis of this place. If only that were true! Every time an environmentally responsible or socially progressive proposal is made in this Chamber it is opposed by the National Party homophobic, regressive and conservative rump. Every time I have talked on a social justice issue or an environmentally responsible issue I have had the conservative, regressive, homophobic rump oppose me. The Deputy Premier further said that in the protection of wilderness the Government was all about probity, honesty and integrity. I have never heard so much nonsense. I do not know how the Deputy Premier can make such a claim.
We have the National Party rump interjecting again. What the Deputy Premier really means is not probity, honesty and integrity to protect wilderness but open slather for everyone. That is his definition of wilderness usage. What has happened is appalling. It is no wonder that the poor Minister for the Environment looks so distressed and so hunted; I would, too, if I were him. I just wish that he had a little more support in Cabinet and a little more strength to be able to maintain his preferred position. I support this censure motion, and I support it with a great deal of feeling. The Government is supporting the declaration of only an eighth of the original 800,000 hectares identified by the National Parks and Wildlife Service as wilderness within the 10 areas nominated by community conservation groups. That is an absolute scandal.
One of the important aspects referred to by the Minister for the Environment is management. He talked also about consultation, and I shall come back to that issue in a moment. How will the Government manage these sensitive and important areas? It is very interesting to learn that the Government intends to establish wilderness trusts. Wilderness trusts will be constituted by the very people I have spoken about: conservative, anti-environment, homophobic, antiprogressive National Party appointees. There will be representatives from the pastures protection boards, local bush fire brigades, local farmers, off-road vehicle users, horse riders and four-wheel drive interest groups. Those groups are all part of the community and they are commendable groups. They have their own vested interests and their right to be involved in community matters, but not in wilderness. They have lots of rights, but bodies such as four-wheel drive interest groups have no right to be involved in wilderness decisions. For them to be involved in decisions about wilderness makes an absolute nonsense, a farce, of any government commitment to wilderness. These trusts will not be like the park advisory committees. They will have power to control finances.
Here we go, the conservative rump is interjecting yet again. The trusts will have power to control finances and to determine what sort of activities will occur in wilderness areas. Not only will the wilderness areas be fragmented and dramatically reduced when compared with the original announcement made by the Premier in December, they will accommodate every other land use that the National Party can think of. The Deputy Premier talks about having democracy in this place yet all the decisions about our environment are made by the National Party rump, a minority of this Parliament.
When public opinion polls are conducted the Independents get 7 per cent of the vote - and there are only three of us - and the National Party gets 2 per cent. That is extraordinary. The National Party talks about its support and its influence. The National Party and the Niles are running this Government because the majority of small-l liberal members of the Government support environmental issues and socially progressive measures. The National Party is a vested group with vested interests, and it seeks to dominate. The Peter Cochrans and the Albie Schultzes throw their little tantrums and hold their little press conferences, and the Minister for the Environment and the Premier roll over on their backs with their legs in the air and let the National Party make decisions about our wilderness.
These extraordinary trusts are managing, directing and making decisions about wilderness areas. Wilderness areas will be further cut up by fire trails, and there will be an allowance for travelling stock. Easements in the Guy Fawkes wilderness area run parallel to the Guy Fawkes River in the centre of this great national park. The trust is made up of appointees who seek cattle concessions. As a result
of the management trusts and the concessions that will be made, these areas will become ranches, not wilderness areas. Droving will also take place. The Reynella company has recently begun advertising that horse riders can now accompany its annual movement of cattle from its Monaro property to a Riverina property, through the area that was to become a wilderness area in the 23 December Christmas gift. Commercial horse riding tours will move through these so-called wilderness areas.
The Minister told us about his personal commitment and his belief, his support of wilderness and biodiversity, and setting aside areas where nature can be the determining force. Nature will not be the determining force in these areas; the trusts will manage them. They will have horse trails, and cattle will be driven through them. The Bicentennial National Trail now passes along Happy Jack's Fire Trail within an A1 management unit. A horse and rider weigh more than 500 kilograms, and because horses are steel shod the sensitive alpine environment of Kosciusko National Park is being torn apart and more benign bushwalking parties are being displaced. These bushwalking parties were once the only people to use that area. The National Parks and Wildlife Service has admitted that this section of the trail is illegal according to the park's plan of management. So illegal activities are also being carried out in this area - condoned by the National Party rump, the tail that wags the dog. This trail should be relocated out of Kosciusko National Park. Its use has taken priority over park management.
This national trail runs for 5,100 kilometres from Cooktown to Healesville, through many wilderness areas inside national parks. The organisers of the trail promised the Colong Foundation for Wilderness in a letter dated 5 May 1988 that their trails would not encroach on any existing or future wilderness. Contrary to these assurances the Bicentennial National Trail has taken priority over wilderness declaration areas. This new abuse of the national park system by trail horse riders takes priority over park plans of management and wilderness declaration. Park plans of management and the Government's wilderness proposals were subject to extensive public consultation. The Bicentennial National Trail, on the other hand, is environmentally damaging to the park but has never been subject to environmental assessment, public comment, or review.
The Government's claim that wilderness declarations are the result of community consultation and examination of existing usage is a sham, especially in the light of the bicentennial trail, which has been declared in secret. The Minister for the Environment spoke about consultation. It is one thing to say consultation has taken place but it is another thing to talk about the outcome of that consultation. The Premier said that the Surveyor General's report, on which the Government based its decision, was available to the community. Environment groups wanted access to that report but it was not made available to them. There was no advertising and no way they could have access to it. The terms of reference of that report state that the final report, which documents more detailed information about the nature and character of the claims, is to be submitted to the Director-General of the Cabinet Office. We all know, through the reforms that have occurred in the Fiftieth Parliament - and one important reform was freedom of information - that Cabinet documents are not available to the public.
The Surveyor General's report has been prepared for the Cabinet Office, and documents that are prepared for Cabinet are not available to the public. I question the Premier's statement that documents are available. Although the Minister has said that widespread consultation has occurred, it appears that there was no input into that final report before it was made public. Wilderness protection comes last under this Government. Off-road vehicle users and horse riders can now go anywhere in Australia. They can go into the last unprotected fragments of wilderness. No wonder the Minister for the Environment hangs his head in shame. The record of this Government on the environment and on wilderness matters is a disgrace because of the National Party regressive, conservative, homophobic rump.
(Upper Hunter - Minister for Land and Water Conservation) [8.27]: I am pleased, as Deputy Leader of the National Party, to support the declaration of 113,000 hectares, the largest declaration of wilderness that has ever been approved under the Wilderness Act. Nobody need worry about whether the coalition is united on this matter; it is united and unanimous. That is why National Party members support the Government's decision on the Wilderness Act. The bulk of the areas not gazetted as wilderness are still protected as national park or nature reserve. It is not as if there has been any reduction in conservation values, or in protection of sensitive areas. Rather, 113,000 hectares have now been declared in the higher category. The decision was not anti-conservation.
The decision was made following extensive consultation. So often in the Parliament and in the community we hear the cry that extensive consultation should be undertaken. There could not have been more open and extensive consultation and, ultimately, a greater reflection of universal community views than has occurred today with these declarations. The consultations essentially centred around recreational access, horse riding trails, four-wheel drive access, fishing and so on - traditional rights, traditional access patterns that have stood the test of 200 years. Mostly these people are environmentally conscious people. They derive recreational benefit from using these beautiful areas; they would not despoil them in any way. Many of the comments made suggested that unless these areas were all declared as wilderness - and I suppose that means all 4 million hectares of national park - and as no people zones, they would not be protected.
The concept of managing national parks and of managing our estate is not a concept that any Opposition member is prepared to listen to or take any
interest in. Labor's proposal is purely a case of locking out people and, therefore, something has been done that is good for the environment and is conservation conscious. The issue is the conscientious management of conservation. The Leader of the Opposition can sit on the sidelines and choose to ignore half of the equation. He is eccentric and out of touch with mainstream community attitudes and needs. If we took any notice of opinion polls during the debate over the last eight or nine months, we would have noted that mainstream community opinion is in favour of this Government's final decision.
Quality of life for the people of New South Wales is affected by the health of their environment, the state of their economy and the preservation of their traditional rights. The Government's decision represents a fair balance between the present and the future. It ensures that we have a healthy environment and productive jobs, and that current usage and access by local communities has been recognised. In his eccentricity, the Leader of the Opposition forgets that people are part of the equation and part of the environment. The issue is about traditional rights and access for recreational purposes. Unlike the Labor Party, the Government recognises the rights of local people to have a say in how their local environment is managed.
I would have thought that part of the politics, particularly of the Independents, closely reflects community views. I am appalled and surprised to hear some views which are essentially against general and local community attitudes. The Labor Party claims to derive its traditional support from labourers - the working men and women of this State. One would expect the worker to be asked what he or she wants. Did the Labor Party ask the timberworkers whether they wanted its proposed wilderness areas declared over their timber resource? This issue has not yet been raised. The debate is not about whether some part of national parks is declared wilderness but rather about the greater wilderness nominations and intentions of the Labor Party. It is fair to say that with wilderness nominations the Labor Party intends to remove extensive areas of productive forests and extensive numbers of timberworkers. I bet in a plush Sydney office with the trendy greenies the Opposition did a deal without giving hard-pressed workers in the bush a second thought.
The Government was concerned that jobs in our small timber dependent communities would not be adversely affected by a remote Macquarie Street decision. Not only were the views of local communities taken into account in the decision making process, but the Government ensured that local communities continued to have a say in the management of these areas. The Government will establish district advisory committees and wilderness management trusts to ensure that local communities take an active role in developing management plans for new wilderness areas, including control of feral animals and noxious weeds. This is an important aspect of the management of wilderness areas, something that was not contemplated by members of the Labor Party or the Independents who have spoken thus far. This Government introduced the concept of managing for conservation and managing by local people who know the area.
The Government has also increased the National Parks and Wildlife Service budget to provide an extra $6.8 million for fire management and an extra $4 million for the control of noxious plants and animals. After all, wilderness areas are affected and despoiled by those things. This Government has increased dramatically the level of budget support and expenditure available to the National Parks and Wildlife Service for important management issues affecting wilderness areas and national parks. However, the Opposition is concerned only with locking aside tracts of forest, regardless of the environmental or economic value. On the other hand, the Government takes a broader management perspective, with the emphasis on management.
The Government is concerned about the actual management of public and private land. In particular it is concerned about timber harvesting operations on private land. The Government is working cooperatively with the New South Wales Logging Association to develop and implement a protocol for logging on private property to ensure that best practice is implemented across the range of land tenures. The forestry office has spent considerable time in recent months working with the New South Wales Logging Association and with the New South Wales Forest Products Association to finalise details of a voluntary code of practice to cover aspects such as soil erosion mitigation, harvesting plans, a training program for forest workers and a contractor accreditation scheme. These are hitherto unthought of matters which are absolutely vital to the proper sustainable management of our resources.
The private property logging protocol for New South Wales is a practical, tangible step towards more responsible management and harvesting of the State's private forests. Where does the Opposition stand on such matters? I would like to hear some Opposition members say something about that in this debate. The Opposition should focus on practical programs instead of becoming involved in political rhetoric and mud-slinging. The Government is considering the big picture, the long-term management aspects, unlike the Labor Party which is only looking at short-term vote grabbing from metropolitan areas. The Leader of the Opposition probably did not look at the potential impact of the original wilderness nominations on timber resource. I shall give examples of the impact of private logging under the original nominations.
In the Deua nomination the Georges Creek catchment, which was included in the original nomination, contained a valuable timber resource - a volume of approximately 21,000 cubic metres gross in a loggable area of 637 hectares. The New South Wales Forest Products Association advised that the withdrawal of this resource would have serious implications for the operations of Coastline Timbers. Coastline Timbers is a company that directly employs
14 people and several subcontractors in harvesting and distribution, the direct distribution of wages, and contractor payments amounting to $750,000 per annum, all of which finds its way into the local community and creates a multiplier effect. Opposition members scoff at these jobs, which are the lifeblood of local communities in areas that are highly dependent on this sustainable resource. That is what the game is all about: trying to reduce the available land, particularly for the forest industry, to unsustainable proportions, thereby destroying the industry, jobs, people's livelihoods and local communities. That is what the Opposition is all about. I am delighted to have flushed it out on that point.
The mill was purchased in 1981 after the conclusion of negotiations on national park boundaries and personal guarantees on the adequacy of preserved areas for public land were given by the then Minister for the Environment, the late Paul Landa. Coastline Timbers produces both seasoned and unseasoned sawn products, export woodchips, landscape materials and sawdust. Over the last six years an investment of $800,000 in improvements and equipment was made and further investment in value adding was planned prior to this decision. When the Labor Party visits these areas frequent mention is made of value adding, resource security for the timber industry, and creating 5,000 jobs immediately. How does the Opposition propose to achieve that? Its promises are empty and are not believed in those areas. People are cynical when the Labor Party proposes determined wilderness areas that would have the effect of destroying the timber industry and those jobs that it baldly said it intended to increase in local areas. It is an absolute lie.
The New South Wales Forest Products Association advised that this particular company requires 40 cubic metres gross sawlog per working day to maintain present levels of productivity and full-time production. Any further loss of quota would seriously jeopardise the future of the company and its viability. No wonder the business community and the public lose faith in governments. On the assurance of a former Labor Government that the reserve system in the area was adequate, the owner of Coastline Timbers, Mr Ferguson, invested substantial sums of money to purchase and upgrade facilities. Now, 13 years later, the Labor Party completely reverses its earlier position and censures this Government for not withdrawing all of the resources that this particular mill would use, thereby causing the mill to close immediately. The former forestry Minister who is at the table - the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, and Minister for Mines - is aware of that situation. How can anyone have confidence in the Labor Party when it gives an assurance one minute and does a complete reversal the next?
In recognition of this complex situation, the Government has taken a balanced decision and excluded Georges Creek from the final declaration. The Leader of the Opposition fails to realise that Australia exports $700 million worth of timber and timber products each year and it imports $2.4 billion worth of timber. Sixty per cent of the timber involved in those exports - 60 per cent of the $700 million - comes back to Australia as imports. Sixty per cent of the $2.4 billion - value adding - is paid for by this country. It is impossible for Australia to create a sustainable yield which will lead to supply contracts, investment, value adding and jobs in this country. This industry exports $700 million worth of timber and imports $2.4 billion worth, but that does not involve the cutting of any additional timber. The same resource returns to this country with an enormous amount of value adding. This Government is paying for that value adding because of the idiotic, blind policies of the previous Labor Government, which suppresses industry and the job production potential it is capable of.
Recently the New South Wales Forest Products Association made the point that almost 50 per cent of forested lands in New South Wales is preserved or conserved. Only 26 per cent of all forested lands in New South Wales are in State forests which are set aside primarily for timber production. If Opposition members continue along the path on which they are travelling they will destroy the timber industry and the jobs that they are seeking to create. The withdrawal of timber resources is not a one-off situation. It should be remembered that timber is a renewable resource and we do not want to remove the benefit of any future cutting cycles. Let me give some other examples of resource loss. The Lost World nomination on the Queensland border included part of Mebbin State Forest - an area of 560 hectares estimated to contain approximately 8,000 cubic metres of merchantable timber, such as quota logs, smallwood, poles and veneer. That is about one-third of the annual requirement for the local Hurfords mill. How would Opposition members like to lose one-third of their income because of some political decision - some cheap grandstanding by Opposition members?
The Government chose to exclude that area of Mebbin State Forest from the final declaration. The Macleay Gorges nomination includes Winterbourne State Forest. Past logging has resulted in extensive areas of regeneration, so approximately 25,000 cubic metres of quota log are available within Winterbourne State Forest. That area cannot be classified as a wilderness area. Opposition members would declare that area as wilderness - an area which has been extensively logged, which is now subject to regrowth, and which has the potential to produce 25,000 cubic metres of quota log. Where is the wilderness in that area? It is the intention of Opposition members to destroy jobs in that New England area, hard hit by drought as it is. The honourable member for Tamworth, in whose electorate Winterbourne State Forest is located, is very supportive of his local community and jobs in his electorate.
He might even rejoin the National Party.
I assure honourable members opposite that that would be at their expense. This timber will become important to local industry with
the reduction of resources likely to result following the forthcoming determination of the Walcha-Nundle-Styx River environmental impact statement. This forest, which has been significantly disturbed by past logging, fencing, mining, grazing and drainage works, represents a buffer between grazing land and national park gorge country from which wild dogs emerge and bush fires occur on a regular basis. The wilderness nomination has caused real management concerns for local timber and grazing communities. Their voices have finally been heard. If Labor had its way we would ignore those concerns, ignore the fact that the area is far from pristine wilderness, and declare it anyway. That is not responsible government.
The Government has saved the jobs of its workers and protected genuine wilderness areas without throwing workers on the scrap heap. The Labor Party does not seem to realise that the withdrawal of timber resources will result in considerable deterioration to community life if jobs are lost. These losses are less capable of financial analysis; nonetheless, they are real. The Glen Innes environmental impact statement found that there were 2.36 dependants for each person directly employed in the timber industry. If a loss of jobs forces families to leave the area and seek work elsewhere, community facilities such as schools and health might need to reduce levels of service which, in turn, might lessen the quality of life in small towns and lead to a reduction in their continued viability. Other activities based on access to State forests, such as grazing and beekeeping, would also suffer economic losses with associated flow-on losses in terms of employment, turnover and incomes. At this time of severe drought access to grazing in State forests is a vital source of feed for starving livestock and is often the lifeline for many farming families. Our State forests are being used for agistment purposes, grazing and drought relief. We will soon be able to announce an important plan which will include other Crown land areas for drought relief.
The honourable member for Newcastle scoffs at that statement as he scoffs at the plight of drought stricken livestock and farming communities. He does not care thruppence. He interjects when people are talking about desperately vital issues such as drought. It makes me sick! Members from the National Party and the Liberal Party have defended the Premier in this obscene and unnecessary censure motion. It is futile for the Leader of the Opposition to try to divide the coalition parties as they are completely united. Members of Parliament have referred to the concerns and constraints of their communities. The decisions which have been taken by the Government respect the rights of people, take into account conservation requirements and are supported by all members of the Government.
(Manly) [8.47]: The remarks of the Minister for Land and Water Conservation are unconvincing. How will he face the children in his electorate when he starts talking about wilderness, logging, national parks, conservation and the environment? Frankly, I do not think he will be able to look them in the eye. His contribution was a shocking display of disregard for environmental protection. This Government - and the National Party in particular - is totally out of touch with the electorate. It is my job to reflect the view of the majority of my electorate. I state clearly that the Government has got it wrong. The Minister for the Environment, who is in the Chamber, has been rolled. He must feel quite uncomfortable today. He will probably be quite happy when this matter has been finalised.
I do not think the people in the Minister's electorate would agree with the declaration of these wilderness areas. The wilderness areas that were referred to in the Christmas period are a priceless resource - a repository of biodiversity and ecological processes. They are so precious that they should be preserved and not used in some sort of political game, which is what has been happening for the last nine months. The Wilderness Act 1987, which was agreed to on a bipartisan basis, defines what constitutes wilderness. That Act followed 20 years of study to try to clarify the situation and to bring in a good Act. The Wilderness Act 1987 is a good Act. People are claiming, quite falsely, that this is the most major wilderness declaration for the last six years. That is not true. In 1992 Tim Moore declared 400,000 hectares under the Wilderness Act.
The Minister might shake his head, but that is the truth. Even the Government's announcement, the so-called Christmas gift to the grandchildren, was inadequate. Many important areas were omitted from the list. From the representations I have received, and the reading I have done, it was quite clear that the area declared was less than half the area that should have been declared. In fact, 780,000 hectares were declared. Before Christmas the Premier promised that the declared area would be 350,000 hectares. The 9 September announcement is a cruel hoax and a final insult to the whole concept of wilderness. In fact, some of those areas included in the 113,000 hectares have no real significant conservation value. On the other hand the Government has rejected some very important wilderness areas and left them out of the 113,000 hectares, allowing access to special interest groups, such as four-wheel drivers, to possibly decimate some of those pristine areas.
In a sense the Government has torn up the Wilderness Act and that is the message that we have to get out to the people of New South Wales. The Surveyor General has been brought into this process, and now the Government refuses to release the latest report on which the decision of 9 September was based. I understand that some very significant areas have been left out of the 113,000 hectares, although they were included at the time of the Christmas announcement. I refer to areas in the Kanangra Boyd National Park - part of the Blue Mountains World Heritage area - and in the Lost World Wilderness Area, not to mention other areas. It is a tragedy and a sad moment. I had no hesitation in indicating my
full support for censure of this Premier. I noticed he was so embarrassed about the whole thing that he did not even come to the Chamber to face the Leader of the Opposition. He had to be ushered in, almost assisted in, at the last minute. I would also like to speak tonight on behalf of the average taxpayers of New South Wales. I have a letter from a constituent who is unknown to me, and I will quote a couple of brief portions of the letter in which he says:
I do not consider myself a "greenie" but an average NSW taxpayer who is concerned for the state of the planet I will leave to my grandchildren.
The Liberal Government's decision to slash the proposed wilderness areas to one third of the promised 350,000 hectares is an appalling breach of trust of those responsible citizens who wish to leave at least a tiny proportion of this planet in its original condition.
At present only four percent of the State is wilderness. The original promise of declaration covered one percent, and now they want us to cut this back to one third of one percent.
I do not accept that the Government of NSW cannot protect one percent of the state from development, exploitation and harmful recreational activities. Once again the Cabinet is being seen to bow down to a minority within its own party to the detriment of the majority of the NSW electorate.
This is my constituent writing to me -
to voice the concerns of the majority of the electorate to the Government and make it clear that we will not tolerate dishonest leaders, more concerned with keeping powerful minority interests satisfied than protecting the future of NSW.
This debate is about more than just wilderness; it is also about the whole concept of intergenerational equity. It is about today's land use decisions versus tomorrow's generation and its enjoyment. In terms of representation, we can do no better than to represent those who cannot speak for themselves. The next generation cannot speak for themselves and that is what the debate is about - trying to protect some of the pristine, precious original wilderness area of Australia for the next generation. We are not asking a lot; we have lost most of it. There is very little left in New South Wales and it is important to protect as much as possible of what is left. This is also about having a sustainable strategy for the future and acting for that next generation.
I was reminded of the words of one of the great Liberal Prime Ministers, Sir Robert Menzies, who said "It is always an embarrassment to be confronted by your own words." We ought to pause to think about that because this is exactly what this debate is about. Had the Premier had more wisdom, he would not have made that announcement, but he sought to get the accolades before Christmas, and now it has come back to haunt him. Sir Robert Menzies was spot on with that comment because the Premier is now confronted by his own words. The announcement is not lost on the public who recognise this is just another cynical, broken political promise.
Politicians from both sides of the House are at a low ebb in terms of the status they enjoy in the community, and this announcement does absolutely nothing to change that. It is no different from the cruel hoaxes we have seen in the budget. I saw it this week in my own electorate: promises were made last year that money would be spent, but it was not spent, and a reannouncement has been made about the same funding. We are beginning to see through this whole charade and this is just another example of it. On 23 December the Premier claimed in his announcement that he had gone through some sort of consultation process. This is where Robert Menzies was right: the Premier's words have come back to haunt him. Mr Fahey said:
The public consultation process introduced by this Government in 1992 has been invaluable in ensuring that the views of a large number of affected groups with diverse interests were taken into account before the final decisions were made. This decision -
That is the decision of 23 December -
represents a fair and even-handed approach to environment protection and the large number of interest groups concerned.
They are hollow words now as we see the backdown that has taken place after nine months. Those hollow words will haunt the Premier; they are the words he will remember when he looks at himself in the mirror in the morning. Those words are not lost on me, on this Parliament or on the electorate. The instability evident in Parliament throughout this debate has come from the rural rump on that side. It has been claimed that the Independents have provided the instability, but it has not come from the crossbenchers; it has come from the Government's own mistakes.
Oh, come on!
Does the Minister want me to list all the Ministers who have resigned? Does he want me to list all the members who have resigned? The list is so long, I will not go through it; in any event it is outside the ambit of this debate. This rural rump is giving the Government difficulties about daylight saving, about anti-discrimination legislation, and now about wilderness areas. It was a very happy Government that made those announcements in December 1993, but we have not heard many Government members speak in this debate. A few National Party members have made some great claims. I suppose 113,000 hectares is considered to be good by some Government members who, given the choice, would have given us nothing. Not many Liberal members have spoken in this debate.
I want to reflect on the terrible environmental record of this Government. One has only to note the old growth forest that has been consistently logged over the last 3½ years. There has been a proposal to nominate four new national parks - that is, Popran, Ourimbah, Cudmirrah and Nangar - yet none of them has been gazetted. Of the nine areas I proposed in my bill relating to new wilderness areas, the Government nominated four, but they remain to be gazetted. The coastal policy is in tatters. Western
leasehold lands have been sold off. The proposed endangered legislation is very weak and ineffective, and marine outfalls are being constructed up and down the coast. The environmental record of this Government is poor.
I do not know whether the Opposition will do any better. Quite frankly, when parties are in Opposition they make lots of promises but when they are in office they break them. I do not necessarily have great faith in a Labor government, unless there is a great deal of improvement in the Opposition. After all, in the last few years it has had to be dragged into environmental debates. There have been some disappointments, and I refer to the bill relating to the management of our river systems and, of course, to my private member's bill relating to new national park areas. I could not get support from the Labor Party on that latter bill, but I will certainly keep it accountable when it comes to government. We must all care for the environment because, remember, the same bell tolls for all of us.
(Tamworth) [8.59]: Coming from the electorate of Tamworth I was very concerned about the so-called wilderness nominations because the beautiful Macleay Gorges area was nominated. From the outset I say that I have disagreed with the Wilderness Act from the time I was elected a member of this Parliament in 1991, mostly because of the political nature of the structure of that Act. I have not deviated from that view, and until the Wilderness Act is modified I will not deviate from that view. That is not to say that I am opposed to areas being set aside and made off limits to chainsaws and bulldozers. In fact, the Oxley Wild Rivers National Park, which is in my electorate, will remain intact and have improved management and funding available to it. That is what this debate should be about. If we are realistic about conservation we would acknowledge that land management and man management is necessary in most of these wilderness areas.
I shall spend a short time discussing some of the issues in the wilderness debate that remained important over the past couple of years. I will not be supporting the censure motion before the House. In fact, I congratulate the Premier and the Minister for the Environment on the position they have taken. Before I became a member of Parliament I had the misguided belief that politicians were elected to listen to their constituents, that Ministers were appointed to listen to the local members, and that the Premier was appointed to listen to the people of the State. The Premier made the mistake at Christmas time of nominating certain areas. That was both a political mistake and a management mistake. I believe the Premier has acted correctly in listening to constituents in the affected areas. It is interesting that none of the Opposition speakers in this debate have any of these areas within their electorates.
That is not the reason for having it.
The honourable member for Auburn, who is one of the better members of this Parliament, interjects -
On a point of order: I am only a mere member of this Parliament, not one of the better members.
Mr ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr Glachan)
: Order! There is no point of order.
The honourable member for Auburn would not be an expert on this issue and I do not think he has ever had a wilderness area nominated in his electorate. I congratulate the Premier because I believe he has listened to constituents in the relevant areas. Criticism has been levelled, particularly by the honourable member for Manly, at this so-called rural rump. These areas are in rural electorates and I am disappointed that an Independent member of Parliament has said that the Government, the Premier, Ministers and so on should not listen to representatives of those constituents. I congratulate the Premier on acknowledging that initially he did make a mistake. However, he has taken the time to go through a process of assessing these areas and has used the resources of the Surveyor General, who did an excellent job in assessing these areas and doing what should have been done in the first place. I advise the Minister for the Environment that if the Government is to go down this road on another occasion, it should conduct a similar process involving the Surveyor General and the constituents concerned, and take into account arguments on existing rights, access, community and historic rights, before making rash announcements in relation to these particular areas.
This whole debate is about politics in its rawest form. In fact, in some ways it is more like a land rights debate. Both sides of the Parliament have engaged in political point scoring. I believe that the environment, the very thing that we are arguing about, has been ignored. There have been endless arguments in this Chamber about particular areas of land. I would be on fairly safe ground when I say that the honourable member for Manly and many other members who spoke against the Premier's action would never have visited the Macleay Gorges area. Many arguments in relation to that area in my electorate were essentially about the destruction that man would inflict upon this area if access were allowed on a limited number of roads. The community has claimed that controlled access should be allowed.
Those who have taken the time to read the Wilderness Act would be aware that controlled access is not allowed because it means that some human interference is going on within those areas. Even if there were unlimited access to all the fire trails within the Macleay Gorges - I do not think anyone would wish that, and I would strongly argue against it - the impact of those four-wheel drive vehicles and of those seen as vandals of the bush would be on no more than 2 per cent of the land area. Because of the typography of that area it is impossible for four-wheel drive vehicles to traverse the majority of that area. However, allowing access into those areas achieves two things which cannot, by definition, be allowed
under the Wilderness Act. First, it allows access for the broader community to enjoy those areas. Under the Wilderness Act only those people who are fit, those who can walk into the area, will be allowed access. Anyone who has any understanding of the Macleay Gorges area will understand the difficulty of doing that in a large proportion of that area. The broader community should be able to gain access to that area for their enjoyment. The small community of Walcha believes that some form of controlled access must be allowed, determined by the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the local community.
Second, is the issue of management of the access into these areas. For a number of reasons management is required in these areas. Those who support the wilderness theory would argue that man has created significant ecological problems in these areas. I would agree with that. In the Macleay Gorges area there is a massive outbreak of uncontrolled lantana and the National Parks and Wildlife Service has done nothing about that problem. That outbreak of lantana needs to be controlled, and the Minister is aware of that problem. I notice that he is nodding his head. I am pleased that the budget has allocated substantial sums of money to the National Parks and Wildlife Service to address some of these problems. If access is not allowed into those areas, it is very difficult to address the environmental threats that already exist in them. I do not think anyone would disagree that man has contributed to the access of feral animals and weeds into these beautiful areas.
However, if the areas are affected by feral animals and noxious weeds, it is up to man to do something about the problem. To do that, management access and funding are needed. To their credit the Minister for the Environment and the Premier have realised that funding and access provisions are necessary and that the Wilderness Act does not contain such provisions. That demonstrates the absurd way in which the Act was drafted. That Act is not an Act of conservation or environmental preservation but an Act of environmental destruction. It is being used for purely political purposes in this place by people who are not familiar with the land they are talking about. I was pleased to hear the Leader of the Opposition make a definitive statement about the Opposition's election policy. I believe he made a tactical error when he stated categorically that if people in country areas support the Labor Party they will be supporting the locking up of vast areas of land under the Wilderness Act. That will result in the removal of management activities designed to eradicate some of the problems caused by man in those areas.
I will be happy to stand in my electorate against a Labor candidate who presents that view. I will be judged, rightly or wrongly, in my electorate on my position in relation to the Wilderness Act. That is not to say that I am opposed to the retention of these areas for the enjoyment of the community and to the restriction of some activities of the timber industry and other industries that impact on the beauty of those areas, particularly the Macleay Gorges area. However, that can be achieved under the National Parks and Wildlife Service Act, rather than under the Wilderness Act.
At the next election the people of Tamworth and other electorates that have experienced the impact of this politically motivated Act will have a clear choice. They will have to decide whether they support the locking up of vast areas of land and the removal of the management of noxious weeds, feral animals and fire control. If anyone needs to be reminded of the devastation that was caused last January by inappropriate land management practices and the ignorance of 30,000 years of Aboriginal land management before the arrival of the white man, I encourage them to have another look at some of the videos taken last January and to have a look at what is happening now. The fires that are burning around Newcastle would obviously cause the honourable member for Newcastle to be very concerned about the lack of land management practices there.
I would be content to fight an election campaign against the Labor candidate for Tamworth on this issue of the declaration of wilderness areas. I believe that the people of my community, particularly of the Walcha area, who are very supportive of the decision made by the Government, will support the position I am taking. Irrespective of who wins government in the lower House at the next election, the position in the upper House in relation to this issue will be very interesting. I do not know whether the Opposition has taken into account the votes of the recreational users of these areas and what the Leader of the Opposition said in this place today. Although many of those who use these areas for fishing and four-wheel drive recreational activities live in city areas and probably support the Opposition, they also enjoy the Australian bushland.
The political announcement made by the Leader of the Opposition today is a threat to their ability to enjoy those activities. That is not to say that these areas should not be conserved and that logging should not be restricted in some areas. I would be the first to support the restriction of logging in certain areas, but the blanket approach taken by the Wilderness Act and the political nature of the Act verge on the absurd. That has been demonstrated today by a number of the speakers who have demonstrated their ignorance of the particular areas we are talking about. To gain an understanding of those areas, the Surveyor General, on the instructions of the Premier, went to those areas and talked to the people who have lived there for generations, who love the land, who have cared for it, and who are worried about the various land management problems. The Wilderness Act does not concern itself with those problems.
Most people understand that the assessment process that takes place under the Wilderness Act is sheltered and misguided, and is driven by people in the National Parks and Wildlife Service who have their own political agenda rather than an agenda of land management. I congratulate the Mayor of Walcha, Mr Alec Gill, for the stand he has taken over
a number of years. He has come to Sydney on a number of occasions to talk to various Ministers, not to openly criticise the conservation of these beautiful areas but to discuss the way in which that conservation practice is to take place. He and the general manager of Walcha shire, Mr Rob Callaghan, have been instrumental in putting a logical view in relation to this issue to the Parliament, to the Premier, to the Minister and to many members of the Government.
I am particularly pleased that the Winterbourne State Forest has been removed totally from possible declaration as a wilderness area. The majority of that area will remain as a national park, so it will not be overly interfered with for development reasons and many in the community will have access to it. As I said earlier, the assessment process has to be changed. Hopefully, one day members of this place who are not concerned about votes and who are not frightened of this political issue will look at it in a conservation sense. In a sense both Aboriginal man and the white man have been involved in the protection of these areas. As legislators, we must take that on board and try to do something within those limits. People such as the honourable member for Manly seek to win political points by pandering to people in Sydney and claiming that they are environmentally friendly. He did this again tonight, but I do not believe in the long run that is good for the areas we are trying to preserve.
Some speakers in the debate have claimed that all conservation groups are very much opposed to what the Government has done. That is an absolute lie. Those speakers should talk to those who are involved in conservation groups in the specific areas. Although the National Parks Association representatives and the National Parks and Wildlife Service administrators in my electorate may not be opposed to other areas being declared as wilderness areas, they have opposed the Macleay Gorges being so declared. They are country people who know the issue. They want to conserve that area but they know that the Wilderness Act is absurd and does not work. I congratulate those people on their involvement in conservation and for taking the time to be logical about it. They realise that these areas can be conserved without the use of the destructive Wilderness Act. I conclude by congratulating the Premier. I will not support the censure motion. I would have supported a censure motion against the Premier if he had not done what he did on 9 September. [Time expired
(Clarence - Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, and Minister for Mines) [9.19]: I support the Minister for the Environment. I believe this Minister has a genuine interest in national parks and the environment. He has certainly done everything he can to ensure that these areas are protected. I am alarmed at some of the distortions of truth that take place here. The honourable member for Bankstown would know, having come from Casino, that what I am saying is very accurate. The distortions that take place here are quite unbelievable. I listened to the statements made by the honourable member for Bligh and the honourable member for Manly. It is extraordinary that people who live in the city and have never been out near these areas can make such exaggerated, distorted and absolutely untrue comments.
To say that this Government has no feeling for the environment, and no commitment to wilderness, is quite wrong. This Minister, this Premier and this Government have announced the greatest declaration of wilderness area ever in this State. Surely that is evidence in itself of the fact that the Government is committed to the environment. The former Minister for the Environment and I, when I was the Minister for Forests, declared wilderness areas throughout the State. I recall one in particular, in my electorate near Grafton, in the Washpool area, where we revoked forestry activities because it was genuine wilderness. The Government declared it wilderness. Grafton is the biggest timber town in Australia. I am annoyed from time to time by members opposite who purport to support the Labor workers in the forest industry and then desert them on issues such as this. Those members obviously have no feeling for those workers and the fact that very valuable industry obviously needs protecting.
The Federal member for Page has made all sorts of statements, and supports a Federal Government inquiry into old growth forests. Everyone knows what that means: it means taking away resources from the timber industry. He does not tell them that but that is what it is about. The honourable member for Manly raised the matter of old growth forests. This issue of old growth forests is peddled constantly. One is never told that 80 per cent of old growth forests are in national parks. One is never told that of the timber not in national parks but hidden in forestry, only 5 per cent would be logged within the rotations of the forest industry.
No doubt the forest industry is a valuable industry and needs to be protected. Australia imports $2.4 billion worth of forest products. Members opposite talk about wilderness but never say too much about the clear felling that takes place in Third World countries to bring products into Australia. If honourable members have any conscience at all they should start to examine that matter. No doubt that is an issue and it should be considered. The Minister has supported the environmental protection of this State a lot more than the Leader of the Opposition did when he was the Minister. I am sure that honourable members have heard the Minister quote many times in this Parliament the way he has brought forward legislation to protect the environment of this State.
Mrs Lo Po':
Self-praise is no recommendation.
The honourable member for Penrith interjects. Again honourable members opposite show that they have absolutely no idea of what takes place. I heard the honourable member for Bligh talking about trusts to be set up to manage these areas. The honourable member was disparaging in her remarks about the people who might be the trustees of these areas. These people live very close
to the land; they know the land and understand it. Many national parks are held up as jewels in the crown of the north coast. Some of them have been logged in the past and it was the very people that the honourable member was making disparaging remarks about who managed and looked after them. The forests are there for everyone to enjoy at the present time. Again, that is something that people tend to forget.
To say that all environmentalists are opposed to this decision is wrong. The honourable member for Oxley has a letter from the co-founder of the Macleay Greens and the Cowper Greens supporting the decision. As the honourable member says, he is an ordinary family man who likes to take his children riding. That is the only thing he can afford: to go up into the Macleay Gorges and enjoy those areas. To say that the Greens are opposed is quite wrong; a certain section of the Greens may be. Many people tonight have quoted the notorious statement by the Leader of the Opposition when he was Minister for Planning and Environment about how rapacious these people are.
I have always said that there must be balance in this debate. We cannot have the damaging political point scoring that goes on in these issues. It is not doing this State or this country any good. Obviously these disparaging comments are hurting the economy of the country and doing nothing for the debate at all. They are certainly doing nothing for the truthfulness of the discussions. From time to time I am amazed by the stories that are started and that ordinary people are not sufficiently informed to have a balanced view on the facts. City people are not given a balanced view of the facts. I noted with dismay a couple of weeks ago an editorial, which appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald
. The editor has every right to comment in his editorial but in a country such as Australia, where we cherish freedom of speech and believe that people should get a balanced view of things, I also have every right to write a letter to the editor.
I note that the editor of the Sydney Morning Herald
has printed letters from the environment movement critical of the Government's decision on declaring wilderness areas. As Minister for Agriculture and Minister for Mines I also have a point of view. Whether the editor liked that point of view was another matter. I wrote a letter to the editor of the Sydney Morning Herald
, which the editor chose not to print. I would like to read that letter to Parliament because it has relevance. In that letter I said:
Your Editorial of Saturday, 10 September, leads me to question just where our priorities lie.
Australia is locked in one of the most severe droughts this century; unemployment is running at 9.5%; our balance of payments deficit has risen by $1 billion every month for the last six years; we are gripped by a national maritime strike; and your greatest issue for the day is Wilderness!
While genuine wilderness is important to us all, and is being protected, surely the real issues are more closely related to employment and production and long term economic security.
Public opinion is driven by the shallow, emotive approach adopted by the media. Have you looked at the definition of wilderness under the National Parks and Wildlife Service Act? Ask yourself, is it a reasonable definition?
In fact, it says "Anything that will grow back to Wilderness!". This could mean the whole State. There is also the position where anyone or any group can nominate an area without having to justify their position.
In fact, many of the present nominations were not pristine undisturbed areas, but old mining, grazing and freehold land. Far from being pristine. The real wilderness areas worthy of protection have been gazetted by the Government.
Your inference is that country people do not care for these areas. Nothing could be further from the truth. Country people are very caring, practical and productive members of the community.
You seem to have forgotten that 80% of our export income comes from mining and agriculture.
If we are going to enjoy our Toyota motorcars, our Akai videos or any other of our everyday luxuries then someone has to generate the dollars.
I believe the Sydney Morning Herald has long since lost its perspective of the real issues in Australia. It is myopic and is captured by the extreme environmentalists who never consider balance and the need for economic growth. It is not a matter of development for development sake, but a need to take a balanced view with an eye to the future.
The Sydney Morning Herald would apparently have us mortgage our grandchildrens' future. If we injure our economy then the environment will suffer. Empty stomachs have little regard to the environment.
That letter was not printed by the Sydney Morning Herald
, because those who run the newspaper obviously do not believe in free speech. I believe there must be balance in this debate and, as the Premier said earlier tonight, when these nominations came before the Government obviously people were concerned about the fact that areas which were not genuine wilderness were being included. The Premier was prepared to look at those areas, to determine whether they were genuine. What has come forward from those negotiations is that the various areas that have been declared - the biggest area of wilderness ever declared in this State - are genuine wilderness areas and they will be genuinely protected. It is a pity there was not a bit more truth in this debate, because there is no doubt that the distortions are not doing the State or this country much good.
(Southern Highlands - Premier, and Minister for Economic Development) [9.31]: The debate tonight and during the latter part of this afternoon really stems from the fact that the Government was prepared to act responsibly and in a balanced way in respect of those areas of land that were nominated for consideration as wilderness, and after a consultative process there was a declaration. If the process, which involved consultation, is ruled to be not appropriate - by virtue of the manner in which the Parliament decides this particular motion tonight - that will clearly be a vote against consultation. When the Government embarked upon this process of examining the nominations it became very clear that it had to balance the interests of the locals, the
interests of those who had adjoining land, the interests of those who engage in recreational activities, and at the same time we had to recognise that those areas had a particular quality that required a declaration as wilderness, to entrench them for all time, particularly for future generations.
During the course of debate honourable members heard from the Opposition that there should not be consultation; that there should be little regard for those who might have a point of view, those who might be able to make a contribution in respect of what should or should not happen to certain areas of land, the usage of that land, and the nature of access to that land. That is all irrelevant. The power comes from within this Chamber, the power comes from government, the power comes from the city. The decision can be made without regard to the fact that, in many instances, the land had been used for countless generations.
The other factor that has emerged during the course of debate is that when the Government determined wilderness, all of those wilderness areas - with the exception of one small parcel of land - were in fact within national parks, so there was a dedication of the land for specific purposes. We all know that there is a plan of management in respect of those areas of land and, if there is no plan of management, a plan of usage can be prepared. Such a plan can take into account recreational and other purposes - for example, how people visiting the grave sites of their ancestors might get access for such a purpose. That is taken into account when the plan of management is prepared.
The one exception to the declaration of wilderness within national parks was an area called Diamond Creek, just to the west of Moruya on the south coast, which has been recognised by many on this side of the House as having a very special quality, one which, despite its previous recognition as forest, could not be sustained in that form and which had to be brought into a wilderness area. I suggest once again that when honourable members vote on this motion they should take into account the fact that the Government, through a process of consultation in respect of the wilderness nominations, attempted to balance the need to protect our remaining areas of wilderness against the right of future generations to have reasonable access to those areas of special quality which have been well protected within national parks and nature reserves.
When the Leader of the Opposition, wearing another title as a member of the former Government, introduced this legislation he had little regard to consultation. No provisions were made to obtain the views of people on whom such declarations would have an impact. It is very clear that Labor has had no regard to consultation - except, of course, with Sussex Street. When previous declarations were made the Opposition did not consult and locked up many parcels of land to the exclusion of people who had legitimate claims to access. As a result of the decision of this Government after that massive consultative process, those areas of special quality within national parks are now preserved for all time as wilderness. I have found this debate very interesting in that the Opposition has sought to divide the coalition. I can assure honourable members that when it came to the consultative process and the final decision, there was no division. In fact, it gives me a great deal of satisfaction to know that in many instances members of the National Party suggested that we proceed in respect of certain areas - after full and frank discussion - after full input -
Order! I call the honourable member for Bulli to order.
- after a considerable amount of knowledge and information was obtained. I might say that in respect of most of my colleagues from the National Party it was knowledge obtained on the ground, not knowledge taken from newspapers and from those who seek to manipulate the Labor Party. If anyone seeks to deny the knowledge of the honourable member for Monaro, the honourable member for Bega or the honourable member for Burrinjuck, they are out of touch with the reality of politics in this State.
Order! I call the honourable member for Bulli to order for the second time.
They are out of touch with the reality of what occurs with members who represent the areas they have been elected to represent. They do not gain that knowledge in an office; they do it out there, in the areas where those issues arise. It gave me a great deal of satisfaction to have members of the National Party indicate that there was good reason why certain areas should be declared as wilderness. Honourable members can rest assured that I am satisfied that when we finally came to our conclusions on this matter the areas that were declared wilderness deserved that declaration.
Order! I call the honourable member for Penrith to order. I call the honourable member for Bankstown to order.
The Government will continue that process of consultation with the community, with the adjoining land users and those who seek to preserve for future generations the special areas that are entitled to be called wilderness. Another of the interesting things that emerged during this debate was the statement by the Leader of the Opposition that all areas nominated, all areas considered as proposed wilderness areas, as announced before Christmas, will be declared by a Labor Government, if it ever gets such a chance. Honourable members who are affected by these particular nominations, honourable members in whose electorates those areas actually sit, know damn well that the Leader of the Opposition has increased their majority at the next election by a considerable amount. The rash promises and the lies that continue to be spread by the Leader of the Opposition will ultimately be rejected by the people of New South Wales. He has no knowledge whatsoever of the facts in respect of these areas.
Order! I call the Minister for Sport, Recreation and Racing to order. I call the Leader of the Opposition to order.
He has absolutely no knowledge about the stock routes, the bridle trails, the four-wheel drive tracks, or the mine shafts. Notwithstanding that, he says, "I am going to declare those areas as wilderness". That quote will run up and down the State for a long time. The man who leads the Labor Party will be the object of derision. That statement will be the single most important cause of any increased majority enjoyed by honourable members whose electorates are affected by those nominations. The coalition parties are about balance and commonsense. We are about ensuring that the process of determining what is wilderness and what is not is a consultative one. We are about what is defined in the Act. We are about proceeding by way of the Natural Resources Audit Council to determine what areas of the State have resources within them, both above and below the ground. This debate should be conducted sensibly. There is always a motive behind anything that the Opposition does in its drive for short-term political gain. Members of the environment group, many of whom gave considerable assistance to the Government during the consultation exercise, will be interested to hear what the Leader of the Opposition - at that time he was Minister for Planning and Environment - said in 1987 when briefing Australian Labor Party candidates. He said:
Handing over new parks is like forking out chunks of raw meat to ravished timber wolves. They gobble them down in seconds then look up with lambent eyes and growl about the next course.
That is what the Leader of the Opposition said to ALP candidates in 1987. That is the disrespect and the disregard that the Leader of the Opposition has for those who seek legitimately and honestly to protect the environment. The Government will continue to work to protect the environment and to recognise those areas. The coalition did not stand still on wilderness nominations when taunted by the Leader of the Opposition - if one can use that word about anything that he says. He said that no decisions would be made by this Government on wilderness areas. When he had the opportunity he did not have the guts to do so. The Government always intended to accept genuine wilderness.
Order! I call the honourable member for The Entrance to order.
Those decisions were made after consultation and input from independent people. The Government is not about making a mockery of wilderness areas. If the Leader of the Opposition ever got the chance to declare all of those areas, he would destroy the concept of wilderness forever, because he has included areas that could never be wilderness. That became obvious when we consulted the locals.
Order! I call the Leader of the Opposition to order for the second time. He has the right of reply at the appropriate time.
This debate has enabled the Government to recognise legitimately that one cannot determine special purpose areas, whether they be national park or wilderness, without providing the resources, the necessary funds and the management structure. The Government has provided more funding than any government in living memory. Not only have we said that there will be wilderness areas; we have provided funding to protect those wilderness areas and national parks. The Government is proud of that balanced approach to its responsibilities. This debate has been a farce. The motion was moved to stop Government members from highlighting the many good features of the budget. If the Opposition were serious about censuring the Government or myself on this issue, why has it taken its members six parliamentary sitting days to bring the motion forward? How important a matter is it if it takes them six days to pluck up the courage to bring on the motion? Obviously the budget that the Government introduced this year was an absolute embarrassment to the Opposition. The Government looks after the needs of people in Labor electorates, National Party electorates, Liberal electorates and even Independent electorates.
The Opposition has stifled the opportunity for honourable members of the Government to highlight how well the budget serves the people they represent. Obviously the debate about wilderness areas was not important last week or even earlier this week. It was left until today. Opposition members said, "We're in a bit of trouble. We'll see if we can distract the Government from highlighting how good the budget is". The insincerity of Labor has made the debate farcical. It has no regard generally for what is wilderness, or for the rights of those who might be affected by wilderness nominations. The Opposition is simply looking at the short-term political gain by endeavouring to show those who also have limited knowledge on the subject that they might be able to drum up an issue. The Opposition will be recognised by the people of this State for what it is - farcical - and that recognition will be reflected at the election on 25 March.
(Maroubra - Leader of the Opposition) [9.47], in reply: He is a sad figure. There is no point opposing him. You know -
Order! There is far too much interjection from the Government benches and the Opposition benches. This has been a long debate and it should be concluded in an orderly fashion. All honourable members will listen to the Leader of the Opposition in silence.
The sad thing about opposing him is that you end up feeling so sorry for the bloke. The worst thing he could say about the Opposition was that it was defending his decision of 23 December. The worst thing he could say about the Opposition was that we were championing the position that he announced as a great gain for conservation on Christmas Eve last year. His condemnation of the Opposition was that we ventured to say a good, generous and kind word about what he had announced on 23 December. One can understand why he issued
suicide capsules to all his Cabinet after the Parramatta by-election. But I am surprised that he clutches one in his own pocket, ready for use on 25 March.
He is a sad figure, too, because he has less knowledge of conservation and land use and less commitment to conservation and environmental protection than any premier since Sir Robert Askin. It has to be said that Nick Greiner, Eric Willis and Tom Lewis had more interest in these issues and more commitment to them than this Liberal premier. The interesting picture they present is that the Minister for the Environment sat there during the debate this afternoon. There were no Liberals in the Chamber with him, but the Nationals perched like crows on the benches behind him. It was like a country road; the squashed rabbit was on the road, and the crows were perched there waiting until a decent interval passed before descending on the carrion. There the Minister is, the squashed rabbit on the road.
Order! I call the Minister for the Environment to order.
The great musical Chicago
has a line in it. The singer comes to the end of the stage and sings a song. The song is Mr Cellophane Man
On a point of order: the terms of the motion are specific. The Leader of the Opposition has obviously transgressed them. I ask that he be drawn back to address the motion.
Order! I call the honourable member for Blacktown to order for the third time. The point of order raises the question of the scope of a speech in reply. A speech in reply touches on matters raised during debate. As no matter was raised about past musicals, the Leader of the Opposition is outside the scope of reply. He should return to matters raised in the debate.
The Premier announced a decision on 23 December. We got condemned in the House today for purporting to defend a decision made by the Premier. That decision, about 350,000 hectares of wilderness, the "great gift to our grandchildren", was, to quote from the press release of that date, the "final decision" on it. Mr Cellophane Man had spoken: "Walk right through me, look right through me, you hardly know I'm there". The Minister is Mr Cellophane Man because in this debate he does not count. There has not been, since they first had environment Ministers, a weaker, more insignificant environment Minister.
Where is the substance, Bob?
Yes, where is the substance?
Order! I ask all honourable members to refrain from interjecting. Interjections do nothing to enhance the quality of debate in the Chamber. The Leader of the Opposition is entitled to be heard in silence. Whether or not his statements stir the hearts and emotions of those listening, for whatever reason, they do not give members licence to interject as they have. I call the honourable member for Drummoyne to order.
The decision of 23 December was "the final decision". The National Party went feral, even by its own standards, in response to the "final decision", the final solution to wilderness land use in New South Wales. And all of a sudden the Premier, that decisive figure, so admirable for his clear mindedness - in his speech we were reminded again and again, when all his other qualities are discussed and dismissed, it is the crystal clear mindedness of his thinking that stands out - with that crystal clarity of his mind and thinking, declared when the controversy had opened that the process of consultation was only just starting. What they mean by consultation on wilderness is letting the National Party off the leash. That is what it was all about. Look at this heroic figure opposite, Mr Cellophane Man.
Order! I call the honourable member for The Entrance to order for the second time.
We cannot understand this man without knowing this about him: he has that strength of character, that great Liberal spirit that comes of having in your office and in your bedroom photos of Alexander Downer. They often ask me where did his heroic Churchillian spirit come from. Where did he get it? Where did he acquire these qualities of leadership? I have to say, when every option is explored, it is his admiration for and kinship with that great figure, Alexander Downer - that is where that spirit comes from.
On a point of order: Mr Speaker, despite your earlier ruling that the Leader of the Opposition should return to the subject matter, he has unleashed this unbridled attack on the Minister.
Order! As I indicated earlier, no statement made by a member, irrespective of whether other members agree or disagree with it, should give rise to the sort of interjections we have heard. It has been a long day, as Thursdays always are, and members may by this time feel a need for some tension release. However, those seeking such release should leave the Chamber. I exhort all honourable members to maintain a certain amount of discipline between now and the conclusion of this debate.
It is so good to have a contribution from the honourable member for Monaro in this debate. His threats of resignation issued as daily bulletins throughout this controversy will be with us always - issued and withdrawn, issued and withdrawn. Marvellous what you can do in a hung Parliament. He will not have that problem in the next Parliament, I assure him.
Order! Interjections are making this debate difficult enough. I ask the Leader of the Opposition, who seems reluctant to come back to the job before him, to attend to the leave of the question and to reply to matters raised in the debate. I call the honourable member for Bega to order.
The Premier had that marvellous and unique position in this Parliament of condemning the position he himself had announced on
23 December. The "great threat to land use, to agricultural production and to forestry industry" was the position he had announced on 23 December as "the great gift to our grandchildren". The consultation process was not in fact a consultation process. The consultation process was heeding the cries of the National Party and the rural based -
Order! I call the honourable member for Bega to order for the second time.
Why create expectations of 350,000 hectares only to smash those expectations nine months later? That is land use planning under this mob - Mr Cellophane Man with his great leader! We know why every member of the Cabinet has a suicide capsule. We have to accept the following principles in respect of wilderness. First, we ought to protect it decisively. And, yes, we want to use the Wilderness Act to do it because it is right, and because we believe in biodiversity and grant it equal priority with other land uses. Second, there must be consultation with the community before major land use decisions such as wilderness declarations are made. The policy framework must be clearly enunciated with meaningful public input and participation.
Order! I call the honourable member for Monaro to order. I call the honourable member for Monaro to order for the second time.
That means a decision not simply thrown together for a 23 December announcement when there was no good news on health, education or anything else. Government members rifled the drawers of the most junior figure in the Cabinet pack for a Christmas time announcement, and they ran with what they found - from the Alexander Downer figure of this Parliament.
Oh, get off it, Bob.
I am sorry to embarrass you by talking about your Federal leader. When I mention the name Alexander Downer to the Liberal Party it is like holding kryptonite up to Superman. There will be defamation actions next. If one compares Government members to Alexander Downer, they go protesting to the Speaker. "Unfair. Not us", they say. What a bunch of nongs to be running a State. Third, we should be protecting wilderness in the context of an expanding national parks system that provides for all recreation uses. There has been no expansion of the national parks system under this Government. That is why there is pressure on Government members and why they tried to respond on 23 December. Fourth, adequate resources must be applied to wilderness management as well as to the interface between wilderness areas and land used for other purposes. On each of these principles the Government's bungling attempts have failed. This is truly a mess created by a Premier who boasts about his lack of vision. This mess, which went on from 23 December until the start of this month, is precisely what happens when one has a leader who has no vision.
Order! I call the honourable member for Coffs Harbour to order.
With the Labor government New South Wales will get 10 wilderness areas and 20 new national parks, in accordance with longstanding policies. Only under a Labor government in New South Wales will the historic Wilderness Act be administered as it ought to be administered and delivered with the vision that the people of this State want.
Question - That the motion be agreed to - put.
The House divided.
Ms Allan Dr Macdonald
Mr Amery Mr McManus
Mr Anderson Mr Markham
Mr A. S. Aquilina Mr Martin
Mr J. J. Aquilina Mr Mills
Mr Bowman Ms Moore
Mr Carr Mr Moss
Mr Crittenden Mr J. H. Murray
Mr Doyle Mr Nagle
Mr Face Ms Nori
Mr Gaudry Mr E. T. Page
Mr Gibson Mr Price
Mrs Grusovin Dr Refshauge
Ms Harrison Mr Rogan
Mr Harrison Mr Scully
Mr Hatton Mr Shedden
Mr Hunter Mr Sullivan
Mr Irwin Mr Thompson
Mr Knight Mr Whelan
Mr Knowles Mr Yeadon
Mr Langton Tellers
Mrs Lo Po' Mr Beckroge
Mr McBride Mr Davoren
Mr Baird Mr Morris
Mr Beck Mr W. T. J. Murray
Mr Blackmore Mr O'Doherty
Mr Causley Mr D. L. Page
Mr Chappell Mr Peacocke
Mrs Chikarovski Mr Petch
Mr Cochran Mr Phillips
Mrs Cohen Mr Photios
Mr Collins Mr Richardson
Mr Cruickshank Mr Rixon
Mr Debnam Mr Schipp
Mr Downy Mrs Skinner
Mr Fahey Mr Small
Mr Fraser Mr Smith
Mr Glachan Mr Souris
Mr Griffiths Mr Tink
Mr Hartcher Mr Turner
Mr Hazzard Mr West
Mr Humpherson Mr Windsor
Mr Kinross Tellers
Mr Longley Mr Jeffery
Mr Merton Mr Kerr
Mr Clough Mr Armstrong
Mr Iemma Ms Machin
Mr Neilly Mr Schultz
Mr Rumble Mr Zammit
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.