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COVID-19 Matter of Public Importance


Cassy O'Connor MP

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Thursday, 25 June 2020

Tags: Native Forest Logging, Forests, Environment, Climate Emergency

[4.26 p.m.] Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Madam Speaker, I listened with great interest to the Minister for Police, Fire and Emergency Management's presentation and agree that the people working in our emergency services and Tasmania Fire Service do an outstanding job to keep us safe in bushfire season.   
 
However, if the minister wants their job to be that much easier, he needs to advocate within Cabinet for an end to native forest logging, because the science that has come out of the University of Tasmania, the University of Melbourne and the Australian National University, and is verified by the experience of science agencies overseas, is that logging increases bushfire risk in intensity and severity.  It is that simple.  If you log an old forest you take the moisture out of the ground and you make it a tinderbox.  One day this minister and this Government will come to terms with that science.  I hear Dr Broad up the back huffing and puffing again. 
 
Today we asked questions in parliament about evidence we have received that native forest logging is escalating under this Government and has particularly ramped up during the emergency period.  When most Tasmanians, including people who would normally be out there defending the forests, have been in lockdown and making those personal sacrifices, the logging industry has gone hell for leather.  We know that.  Just this year, an extra 19 coupes have been added to so-called Sustainable Timber Tasmania's three-year plan.  We first became aware of this through coupe CZ003A, which is in beautiful forest up near Derwent Bridge.  That was added to the website on 5 June - two days after the Forest Practices Plan was completed.  This is what we found out from STT when the Bob Brown Foundation asked the question about that coupe. 
 
The wood volumes are as follows:  categories 1 and 3 and veneer, 1300 cubic metres; category 2, 200 cubic metres; specialty timbers, 0 cubic metres; category 8, 200 cubic metres; peeler, 300 cubic metres; and pulpwood, 7000 tonnes.  Dr Woodruff and I had to do a bit of mathematics in order to work out what 7000 tonnes equates to in cubic meterage, and it is 16 600 cubic metres.  No wonder STT fudged that last number.  The rest of it is in cubic metres but the woodchip is in tonnes.  What we find out now is that while 1300 cubic metres might be going for categories 1, 3 and veneer, there is 16 600 cubic metres coming out of that coupe and going straight to woodchip.  Our question to the minister, which he refuses to answer, is:  can he confirm what we are hearing; the evidence of our constituents and stakeholders and what we have obtained from Sustainable Timbers Tasmania that native forest logging is escalating?  The vast majority of the timber that is coming out of those forests is woodchips, which means it ends up as toilet paper and newspaper.  In a time of climate and extinction crisis, that is unforgivable.  It makes a lie of this minister's claim that those forests are being logged for sawlog.  They are not; they are being logged for chips.   
 
We know that last December Mr Barnett, at a cost to the taxpayer of close to $10000, went on a trade mission to China where pulp and paper companies do not demand Forest Stewardship Certification.  They do not care.  On his itinerary is a meeting with Asia Pulp and Paper. This is handy for Mr Barnett because Sustainable Timbers Tasmania has twice now failed to secure FSC.

The auditors found that STT is driving species to extinction; it is logging the habitat of species such as the swift parrot and the masked owl.   
 
In question time this morning it was the most surprising statement to hear the Premier and Minister for Climate Change describe our forests as a carbon bank.  This is a break through.  For the past six years of this Government we have had to listen to various ministers and the Premier, even when he was the Treasurer, describe those exquisite carbon-rich, biodiverse-haven forests as a wood bank.  From the state and territory greenhouse gas inventories, which came out yesterday, we know that Tasmania has an extraordinary positive emissions profile that starts to flatten out in 2012-13.  What happened in 2012-13 is that the industry and the environment movement came together in the right political climate, sat around a table and tried to map out a path for the future that protected forests and gave the industry dignity.  The loggers were removed from more than half a million hectares of our beautiful, old, carbon-bank forests.  In the same data that the Premier and Minister for Climate Change was rightly applauding today, we see that it is the Tasmanian Forest Agreement forests as well as the work of conservationists over decades and the growth in our plantation sector that are making sure we are a net carbon sink.   
 
As we recover from COVID-19, and we are seeing this around the world, neo-con governments, like Scott Morrison's, cosy up to the gas fossil fuel lobby who see this as an opportunity to lock us in to climate poisoning emissions for decades to come through massive fossil fuel infrastructure.  We are lucky here because we are largely driven by beautiful hydro power and renewable energy.  But we do have a government that is flattening old growth carbon sink forests.  Tasmanians, particularly young Tasmanians, are demanding better.   
 
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