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Greens Still Standing Alone on Protection of the Swift Parrot

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Tags: Threatened Species, Environment, Swift Parrot, Extinction, Native Forest Logging, Bruny Island, Forest Stewardship Council, Masked Owl

Ms WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Madam Speaker, I rise tonight to draw the attention of the House to a campaign that has just been launched in Tasmania which reflects the level of concern, indeed desperation, in parts of the community over this Government's inaction on endangered species.

In 2015, the International Union for Conservation of Nature declared the swift parrot, the world's fastest parrot, to be critically endangered.  this is the most serious warning that can be sounded about a species.  The next step is extinction. 

We know that migratory species, such as swift parrots, are vulnerable to habitat degradation even in relatively small parts of their range.  This is because the entire population of swift parrots converges on small patches of flowering Tasmanian forest where the right trees breed.  Bottlenecks, like these, magnify the effect of habitat loss and other threats of predation. 

Swift parrot nesting habitat has been deforested in Tasmania for agriculture, urban development and for logging.  Birds that have been looking for a place to nest are squeezed into remaining habitat where they are very vulnerable to other threats.

Research that has been conducted in the last year or so by Dr Dejan Stojanovic from the Australian National University, Matt Webb and others, has shown that sugar gliders are species probably introduced to Tasmania and are eating swift parrots in extraordinary numbers.  Gliders eat eggs, nestlings and adult, female swift parrots as well as several other bird species that are small enough to subdue.

Swift parrots are more likely to be killed by a glider when forest in the surrounding landscape has been disturbed.  In small patches of nesting habitat where deforestation is severe, gliders can eat up to 100 per cent of swift parrot nests. 

The results of this research reveal that swift parrot populations are on a track to population collapse within three generations as a result of sugar glider predation.  It shows that even breeding on predator-free offshore islands is not enough to buffer our swift parrot populations and they are expected to decline catastrophically.

Deforestation is very important and in swift parrot areas is still happening despite this link between forest lost and predation and is the focus of ongoing dispute in communities in Tasmania amongst people who care about this extraordinary bird and the environment that sustains it.

This Government has been constantly updated with the evolving situation because the Greens have made a point of drawing the attention of the environment and forestry ministers to this situation as it has evolved and as the research has come to light as community concerns have continued to be raised.  Sadly, this Government is doing nothing to act on this situation.  Although it has called a temporary halt to logging on Bruny Island, logging of nesting and foraging habitat which is critical to the swift parrot, is still occurring and is scheduled throughout the rest of southern and eastern Tasmania.  Furthermore that Bruny Island moratorium has not been converted into a ban.

There is a report on the Government's compliance or non-compliance with the process of forest stewardship certification sitting on the minister's desk.  That report was released publicly on 1 March this year and makes quite clear that there are nine outstanding areas of major non-conformity that this Government needs to address.  Relevant to the swift parrot is the necessity of the Government to refine how it manages threatened species and habitat, especially for the swift parrot as well as the masked owl, to address alternatives to clear-felling coupes that contain old-growth forest.

Unless the Government directs Forestry Tasmania to act to correct these major non-conformities, we know this bird will not be able to survive and we will not be able to sustain the value of our high conservation forest as they are at the moment.

This campaign has two foci. 

Mr Llewellyn - Foci?

Ms WOODRUFF - Yes, it is a technical term.  It is the standard plural - one focus, two foci.  The first prong of the campaign, if you like, is to alert the Prime Minister and the Premier to the need to secure permanent protection across swift parrot habitat in Australia - on Bruny Island and in the Southern Forest and the east coast forests.

The second part is directed to timber buyers throughout the world of the timber sold by the Malaysian timber giant Ta Ann.  This timber is going to markets where people are not aware of the destruction that is being caused in the production of this veneer. 

Mr Llewellyn - So you take over from Peg Putt?

Ms WOODRUFF - Someone has to speak up for the planet and the environment because we are getting rid of it as fast as possible.  What we can be very sure about is that this Government is doing nothing to sustain the viability of our forest industry or the environment.

Time expired.