MARCH 5, 2014
Topics: Forestry, Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area
PRESENTER: Joining us now is the Tasmanian Senator Richard Colbeck, he's also the Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture. Richard Colbeck, good morning, thank you very much for your time.
COLBECK: Good morning, Michael.
PRESENTER: Do you agree with the Prime Minister that we have quite enough national parks in Australia?
COLBECK: I agree with the Prime Minister that we have a good balance of national parks and protected areas in Australia and that's appropriate, but it is about having a balance and if you lock too much up you actually start to have a negative impact on your regional communities and there's plenty of evidence to say that is the case.
PRESENTER: The Prime Minister last night, and you were there I assume, did not use the words good balance he said quite enough national parks. Do you agree there are quite enough national parks?
COLBECK: Yes, I do.
PRESENTER: Okay, so we take that argument to its next step, would you support the closure of some of those parks and access to timber operations for some of those forests?
COLBECK: Well in Tasmania at the moment we're in the process where we're requesting the World Heritage Commission to repeal a section of the recent listing that was put through by the previous Labor/Green Government. A lot of that area should never have been put into the World Heritage area in the first place. It didn't qualify under anyone's classification of an outstanding wilderness world heritage area, it's previously been logged and there are thousands of hectares that have previously been used for timber production. They should remain in timber production and remain with access to the forest industry and so that our regional communities can get the benefit of those areas.
We know that our forest practices are among the best in the world, demonstrated by the fact that green groups want to lock up previously harvested forests as wilderness.
So let's acknowledge the quality of our forest management and have the appropriate areas protected, and I know that's what the Prime Minister believes in, and get a benefit for the community, for the environment and for our local industries out of the remainder.
PRESENTER: Looking at that 74,000ha we have experts including Peter Hitchcock who advised on last year's World Heritage extension, he argues that 90% of that 74,000ha is undisturbed forests.
COLBECK: Well I don't agree with him. I've actually flown over and had a good look at it myself and in fact I think he had a different view when he reported in 2008. The area has been extensively harvested.
PRESENTER: No old growth forest at all in this 74,000ha?
COLBECK: There may be some remanent old growth forest as part of it which there are as part of any forest operations because you don't go and clear stream side reserves for example under our forest management practices. So there may be some remanent areas of old growth and those areas will most likely remain protected as part of our forest management in any circumstance. There are also some additional protections under our forest practices code with respect to areas that need to remain outside of harvest areas.
So there may be some old growth but you have to be very careful around the terminology that is used around old growth, there is a technical terminology that is used by the forest science sector but there is also a terminology that is used by the green groups which is very different. They regard 40 year old regrowth for example as old growth forest so be careful of the terminology.
PRESENTER: As a Tasmanian, Richard Colbeck, you well know of the nature of the forestry debate and I do note that the Tasmania forestry industry is opposing the Government's move to delist that 74,000ha. They argue it would upset that finely balanced recent forest agreement. So if they're not on-board why is the Government pressing ahead?
COLBECK: Well as I said it should never have been listed in the first place. We never supported this forestry deal which is a Labor/Green construct. The forests aren't the forest industry's to give away and they aren't the environment groups' to claim, they belong to the broader community.
PRESENTER: The timber groups who logically would get access to these forests if they were delisted say they don't want to be part of the deal.
COLBECK: Well the Government won three seats at the last election on the back of this policy. We won a 13.7% swing in Lyons defeating a really strong supporter of the forest industry in Dick Adams. I believe we have a very strong mandate from the Tasmanian community in particular for our forest policy and I think you'll see that reflected in Tasmania at the state election in a few days' time.
PRESENTER: Okay, but do you find it at the very least embarrassing that you don't have the timber industry on side as you press ahead with this move to get those 74,000ha delisted?
COLBECK: I'm not embarrassed at all. The timber industry know my policy, they know the Government's policy very well. I think at the dinner last night there was a very strong show of support for this Government's forest policy. They great hall of Parliament was full last night, there were 600 people there and they mobbed the Prime Minister after his speech last night. I think the timber industry is very much on side with the Government and they know our position very well in respect to the forests in Tasmania.
PRESENTER: And finally do you share the timber industry's worry that if this move goes ahead it will smash that forest peace deal?
COLBECK: Well we never supported the peace deal in the first place. We've said from the very first day of negotiations that this is a very bad deal, that it would hurt the industry. It doesn't provide sustainable supply for the timber industry in the future, what it does is kill the industry by 2030. There's no timber left for a sustainable forest by 2030 under this forest peace deal. Under our policy you'll have a sustainable industry for 100 years and beyond and that's what I call a sustainable forest industry not one that's going to die in 15 years.
PRESENTER: Okay, Richard Colbeck we appreciate your time this morning. Thank you for joining us.
COLBECK: Thanks, Michael.