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Estimates Reply - Premier Gutwein

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Tuesday, 1 December 2020

Tags: State Budget, Native Forest Logging, Parks EOIs

Dr WOODRUFF - It is disappointing that the Premier is leaving. I make no negative comment about that, other than he might miss a few kind comments from me. Since he has to do other things, he will have to refer to Hansard.

This was a very important Budget for the Premier, who is also the Treasurer and the Minister for Climate Change. Few would argue the importance of both those portfolios. Climate Change and Treasury are both weighty portfolios to manage for the future of Tasmanians.

One thing that we are very disappointed about with the Liberal Budget is the failure to take the opportunity that should have been provided through the response to COVID-19 to really set Tasmania on a new course by looking at our future through a climate lens. We had that opportunity and this Budget has missed it. There is no doubt Tasmania is blessed by renewable energy. There is no doubt, as well, that there is so much more that Tasmania urgently must do to rectify the emissions that we produce across the state, across all the sectors - transport, waste, manufacturing and agriculture. Many of these emissions are rising, as shown by the latest greenhouse gas accounting records.

It is also obvious to anybody who reads the science and who reads and listens to what scientists are telling us, that we have to do everything we can to keep our carbon stores intact and to expand them.

What this Government does not do, and the Minister for Climate Change has not accepted, is that we must put an end to native forest logging in Tasmania. Until then, we can never say we are doing everything we can to take strong action on climate heating, bring down emissions and safeguard the future of our children against the changing climate, which is going to be the major issue in their lifetime.

The Premier is an intelligent man, and it quite clear from the conversations we had in Estimates climate change discussions, that he understands a lot about the importance of reducing our state's emissions to bring down climate heating. However, he is also blinded by a number of inconvenient truths - one of which is his inability to come up to speed and recognise the changing science about the carbon accounting for native forest logging, as well as the urgency to stop native forest logging to protect the biodiversity and the beauty of what is remaining in our native forests in Tasmania.

Although the Premier made some clear statements about the fact it is very important for Tasmania to reduce our emissions, he fell short of praising the Tasmanian Forestry Agreement for being the key reason that we have our current emissions profile. There is no doubt that the Tasmanian Forestry Agreement led to a reduction in logging. The carbon stored as a result of that, is the reason for Tasmania's current emission profile.

That is the reason that Tasmania's emissions profile is what it is at the moment. That is even more reason we should be doing everything we can to end native forest logging, to keep what remains of our forests intact and to do everything we can to grow the stores out of there.

In our alternative budget, the Greens established a safe climate commission. We spent $10 million doing that, and we focused on the things the Government has failed to prioritise in the Budget. We focused on planning for water security. We focused on funding the greening of our cities and towns for health and safety, and also for the enjoyment of people living there - but, fundamentally, to be able to deal with the heat waves of the future. We focused much more money on community emergency hubs to respond to increasing climate change disasters, and supporting SES and TFS volunteers who are on the hard end of bulldozers and chainsaws and being asked to respond to disasters at any time of the day or night.

It is clear that the Premier urgently needs to prioritise a meeting with the Doctors for the Environment. They wrote an open letter to him about a month or so ago and I am not sure whether he has ever responded. I haven't heard that he has, certainly not publicly. The core of that group originated in the north-west of Tasmania. They were people who were working day and night to protect Tasmanians and patients at the North West Regional Hospital. They are doctors. They are people who sit in surgeries every day, and talk to patients about their concerns and their fears. They are the people - the hundreds of them - who wrote to the Premier calling on him to end native forest logging to protect our health: for the health of people through the reduction in bushfire risks, through the reduction in the pollution related impacts of forestry burn offs, most of all for the importance of maintaining those carbon stores and growing the carbon stores to better buffer us and the planet from the escalating heating which we are facing.

The Premier needs to respond to those doctors. He needs to accept that there are experts in the medical community he should listen to as much as there are expert scientists in every other community. He has shown he is capable of doing that through COVID-19 and now in a time of emergency, this is what he needs to be doing as a priority this year.

I will set the record straight for the Premier. He said Treasury was going to review of emissions profiles to provide advice on the impact on a range of industry sectors under a transition to a new target before 2050. The Premier has to look at the impact of native forest logging on those emissions, and he has to look at the impact of ending native forest logging and the benefit it would have to our emissions profile. He has to sooner rather than later. I have a sector by sector reporting target, because it is clear that overall our emissions are net zero in Tasmania, we have a 10 per cent increase in emissions between 2016 17 in the agriculture sector and 5 per cent in waste, and a number of other sectors as well. All sectors should be encouraged and incentivised to bring down emissions.

I want to mention our Halls Island. The Premier, despite having the knowledge from his time as Parks minister, was incapable of answering Ms O'Connor's question about public access to Halls Island and whether it would still be available. It is clear from Mr Jaensch's response in another Estimates Committee, that Hall's Island will have 'exclusive access' to the developer, Mr Hackett, and that there will in fact be no public access unless there has been agreement by that person. That is a shame and we will continue to fight it.