The Minister for Resources Paul Harriss must come clean on whether he has secretly negotiated a formal change to the Regional Forests Agreement (RFA) with the Commonwealth, or whether he is in breach of the RFA with his announcement to overturn the January deadline for an end to broad-scale clearing and conversion of native forest on private land, Greens Leader and Forests spokesperson Kim Booth MP said today.
“Clause 45 of the 2005 Supplementary Regional Forest Agreement details the 10 year deadline for the end of broad-scale clearing of native forest vegetation on private land as formally agreed by both the federal and state governments,” Mr Booth said.
“Clause 51 of the Supplementary RFA goes on to state:
51. The Parties agree that, if the actions outlined in clauses 45, 46 and 48 have not occurred, then the Commonwealth may suspend funding to the State, in whole or in part, until such time as the actions have occurred.”
“Any change, including an open-ended deferral as announced by Minister Harriss, would require both governments agreeing to that serious change to the RFA.”
“The Minister does not have the authority to unilaterally stop this process.”
“Mr Harriss has some serious questions to answer. Has the Tasmanian RFA been changed in secret by both governments, or is the Minister acting in breach of the agreement?”
“If Paul Harriss has had the RFA formally altered in secret then he must disclose immediately when and how that occurred.”
“The Greens find it hard to believe that the Commonwealth would be keen to drop this requirement to end broad-scale clearing of native forest on private land by the agreed timeframe, given the Supplementary RFA saw Tasmania receive federal funding of $45.9 million for private forest conservation.”
Mr Booth also described as “nonsense” complaints that the 1 January 2015 deadline was sudden or unworkable.
“The Supplementary RFA was signed in 2005, so Tasmania, and all those affected have had 10 years warning, plus almost $46 million, to plan for and adjust to the agreed 2015 deadline.”
"The permanent native estate is there to try and ensure the survival of critically endangered forest types and their habitat.”
"Biological diversity is critical to our survival and it is ruthless and uncaring to allow these forests to be driven to extinction on a political whim," Mr Booth said.