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Estimates Reply - Attorney-General

12 June 2019

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Madam Deputy Chair, I have a whole new line of commentary to make about the Estimates that showed, in another form, how much this minister refused to answer some significant questions within her responsibility as the Minister for the Environment; the minister responsible, sadly, for protecting the 700 threatened and endangered species on this island and responsible for undertaking all the duties to do with this important portfolio. That is, the natural world, which sustains every agricultural system we have, every flowing water system, the quality of the air that we breathe, which supports parts of the tourism industry in Tasmania. This Government is intent on corrupting the processes we have in place to protect the natural environment to support the very industry they would like to grow.

This is the minister who refused to provide answers to repeated questions that I asked of her about which parts of Forestry Tasmania's - the so-called Sustainable Timber Tasmania's portfolio of lands - would be excluded from the Forest Practices Authority and included under a PAMA agreement between Sustainable Timber Tasmania and her portfolio area.

She refused to answer some basic questions about the lands that would be exempt, that would be included within a PAMA, and the location of those lands and importantly, why some hectares were to be chosen and others were not. This showed a total disregard for openness and fair dealings and the transparency and accountability of the work that she does supposedly in acting to protect species such as the swift parrot that would be the subject of a PAMA, which apparently is near completion. The PAMA is the statutory agreement which the minister, under her powers of jurisdiction under the Threatened Species Act 1995, would enable the secretary to sign-off a PAMA between DPIPWE and Sustainable Timber Tasmania. That would provide an exclusion from production, we understand, of some 9300 hectares from being managed and protected under the Forest Practices Authority and that would instead be managed under a Public Authority Management Agreement, or the PAMA.

This is a totally opaque process. It is clear from the evidence of Sustainable Timber Tasmania on their website and their high conservation values assessment and management plan, which was produced April this year as part of their attempt to get forest stewardship certification, they are seeking this PAMA over some lands within their portfolio. What we simply wanted to know was, where are these hectares that are to be excluded? Show us the map - because it is the map that provides the actual information about which forests and which areas - so we can have some openness about why some areas have been chosen and others have not been chosen.

It is clearly the case that DPIPWE has decided, it appears, in making a PAMA with Sustainable Timber Tasmania, it will be cutting out some swift parrot habitats on the permanent timber production zone and placing it under a PAMA for protection. It will leave others languishing under the Forest Practices Authority approvals process. The creation of a PAMA suggests to the ordinary person that there is some different standard of protection that will be being provided to swift parrots in the harvesting process of Forestry Tasmania.

That is really what the Greens were spending such a large number of questions trying to extract from the minister and she simply would not answer. She would not provide a map of the area of permanent timber production zone that was seeking to be exempt and covered under a PAMA. She would not provide an answer to why some areas were going to be afforded a particularly higher level of protection than other areas.

Clearly, the scientific evidence is that swift parrots have a diminishing amount of habitat and they have a range of foraging and nesting requirements that mean they move around the state on a seasonal basis, and are not neatly packaged into certain areas. It is our view that there is no argument for harvesting any trees that are habitat for the swift parrot. We would like to understand - and I am appalled at the minister, who is not sitting in the Chamber at the moment - at her lack of transparency and openness about such a significant endangered bird as the swift parrot in terms of what is going to be protected and why. Why are some areas chosen and others have not been?

I also cannot leave a discussion of Estimates and this minister responsible for taking action on the most serious issue threatening Tasmania and that is the climate emergency. I asked the minister why she does not support the science that has been presented by the United Nations and the recommendation of scientists. The new and changed language of scientists to recognise that we are in a climate emergency. What we find from Liberal governments is that it is easy to slip into quibbling about words - climate emergency, climate urgency, climate crisis. The point is we should be taking the leadership of the scientists who have done the research and who are telling us the way things are. There is no point arguing about not using the word 'emergency'. It is an emergency. The reason the scientists have chosen to use those words that the minister refuses to understand is because we must change business as usual.

It is pathetic and woeful that the minister falls back onto a Climate 21 plan that finishes in two years and has nothing beyond it. It is pathetic and dispiriting for people to understand that there is no intention, well nothing in the words that I can hear from the minister, to look at sector wide targets. I asked the minister repeatedly whether the Government was planning to set sector wide targets instead of whole-of-state targets on carbon emission reduction. The minister refused to go to that point. She made some incredibly patronising comments about the process that must be gone through in order to bring the state climate change bill back for the overdue review, which it is in. That is because there is a process it has to go through. The process should involve talking to the stakeholders about sector wide targets. I have no inclination and no understanding that that is happening from this minister or this Government.