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Mining and Minerals

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Wednesday, 6 September 2023

Tags: Mining, takayna / Tarkine

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin - Leader of the Greens) - Mr Deputy Speaker, I was listening to Dr Broad's contribution and reflecting on what a dark place you inhabit, Dr Broad, with the views that you seem to have about our natural wonders, the ancient Tarkine rainforest which is the largest rainforest in Australia. It is the largest area of rainforest in wilderness in Australia. It is a place which is extraordinary and like nowhere else on earth.

We stand with those people from the Bob Brown Foundation and Environmental Defenders who have been putting their lives on the line, their emotional and physical bodies in the way of a Chinese state-owned company, MMG, that is seeking to utterly trash that beautiful ancient rainforest. There is another way. Of course, there is always another way, and MMG wants expand its tailings dam to make this globally-important rainforest area into a toxic tailings dump - that is what they want to do. There is another way and the company itself has shown that, instead of taking 285 hectares of pristine wilderness that was recognised as such by the Australian Heritage Register and it ought to be a national park and it ought to be part of the World Heritage Area.

It is an obvious truism in a world with diminishing places of beauty and wonder like the Tarkine which is 190 000 hectares in total and this is but a small part of that and an incredibly important part of that which MMG would have as its tailings dump. There is no reason for that because the company has shown that there is another way to deal with their waste and that is what they do. They have done it in Queensland. They have done it already. They have options and they are choosing not to take them up. There are alternative sites and they are choosing not to investigate them so it is quite clear that when you have a Chinese state-owned company, they will be looking to screw the price down to the cheapest possible and they do not have the concerns possibly in China about their natural environment that we do in Tasmania.

It is up to us. It is up to the Bob Brown Foundation and the people who care about those wild places to defend them, and they are defending them and successfully have been holding the line against ministers like Guy Barnett who has got form. He is a law breaker. Guy Barnett was responsible for breaking the law giving access along Helilog Rd to MMG when he had no power to do so. He was taken to court and the case was successfully prosecuted and found against the Government by the Bob Brown Foundation and what a coincidence that Guy Barnett who loved his portfolio - he really loved to beat up the Bob Brown Foundation, he took it as his personal pleasure he lost the portfolio of resources and mining just shortly before that court case was about to commence when he would have been required to provide evidence. He would have had to provide evidence and sit there in court and explain why he had broken the law because the case was found against him.

This is the sort of form that the Liberals in Government have. They will do anything. They will bend over backwards because they cannot stand up for the things that Tasmanians value. I want to put on the record again, because Dr Broad, the minister and other members concocted an idea that the Greens do not support mining, we do support sustainable mining. We are on the record for that. We are on the record of supporting the existing mines in north western Tasmania. As Ms O'Connor said when she was here before, she is a daughter of a sand miner in Queensland.

We have no problem with mining because it is what we need to have the life that we have but we have choices about where we do these things, and the clock is ticking. The clock is ticking for our biodiversity and it is ticking big time with the climate heating. We know that it is more important than ever to save the places like the Tarkine which is where the masked owl lives - the threatened and critically endangered masked owl.

The recordings that Dr Broad talked about - I have heard them, myself. There are a lot of them and it is some exciting research that was done by the Bob Brown Foundation and the citizen scientists where they have now, through the digital information that is available, been able to separate out the different owls. There was not just one owl hoot, Dr Broad, there were scores of different bird recordings and a whole variety of different sounds from different birds including baby chicks in the nest and their conversations with the parent owl. It was also an opportunity for one of Tasmania's greatest photographers, Rob Blakers, to go into the forest where he spent months of his time in that forest at night, painstakingly, photographing the masked owl and his pictures are some of the most glorious and precious examples of masked owls that we have here with us today.

The Tarkine is one of the world's last great wilderness areas and it is threatened by this Government's policies. Obviously, the Labor Party would be in lock step if they were in government. The success of the campaign to defend the Tarkine against the expansion of MMG into world heritage-quality area has been from peaceful protesters and it was the 71 people who were arrested over a period of seven weeks a couple of years ago who went and stood in that beautiful place, in the freezing cold and the rain, taking it in turns to stand in front of bulldozers and to defend those giant trees and the rainforest canopy, and the plants and animals that depend on them.

Those people, through the images that they released, have correctly, as you say, Dr Broad, wakened people up, not just in Tasmania but in Australia to the beauties of Tasmania. There is another generation of people understanding, as a generation before them did with Peter Dombrovskis and Olegas Truchanas before him that we have something which is unbelievably rare in this world and especially unbelievably rare in Australia. There is no other rainforest like the great north west Tasmanian rainforest.

When the tourism operators, the pensioners and the young people who care about our future, the Tasmanian Aboriginal people, the everyday Tasmanians and the farmers who got arrested in the Tarkine and the MMG lease area for defending that spectacular place, those people took great pride and comfort in the fact that they were making a significant contribution to keeping that beautiful place there for children in the future. That is the positive message that they are sending out to people in Australia and people who support the Bob Brown Foundation for what they do for Tasmania.

Cheers to Bob and everyone else at the foundation. We are waiting to hear the outcome of Tanya Plibersek's decision with great concern. It is an incredibly serious decision. I find it intriguing that Dr Broad is attacking the EPBC Act, attacking the law of Australia and criticising it for being ineffective because it gives an opportunity for people to prosecute the law and win a case. I have not heard a legislator make that point before.

The law is the law and it is about whether you have upheld the law or broken the law. The fact that Dr Broad might not like the outcomes of the court case because they do not match his ideological views, does not mean that there is something wrong with the law. We argue that the EPBC is too weak. That is what Graeme Samuel concluded in his assessment of the EPBC Act, it was woefully inadequate and it is still woefully inadequate.

When Dr Graeme Samuel noted at least seven and up to 15 major changes that needed to occur to the EPBC assessment process to strengthen them in order that we have, as Tanya Plibersek likes to say, no new extinctions. One of the animals on that extinction list is the masked owl. That has the MMG lease area as its home. We know from the evidence of the recordings from Bob Brown Foundation and citizen scientists that there are adults and chicks that live in that area. We also know it is an area that has Huon Pines and other endangered communities and animals.

We will continue to speak for the Bob Brown Foundation and for peaceful protest. We will continue to speak against our anti protest laws which seek to take away the right of every Australian citizen to speak out when there is injustice and instead give the power to companies, international companies, Chinese state owned companies and to businesses, Tasmanian or otherwise, that have personal business interests that collide with protecting the natural world.

In a world that has fewer and fewer places like the Tarkine, we are proud to continue to work every single day with the Tasmanian Aboriginal community to protect their cultural heritage and with Tasmanian defenders of ancient wilderness and beautiful threatened species.

We very much hope that Tanya Plibersek makes the right decision. We are confident that if she does not make a decision to support the natural world, there will be enormous passion in the community to continue to defend the Tarkine wilderness and to persevere, because we who care about a habitable planet are playing the long game. Everything we can do today to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide that goes into the atmosphere or to protect forests that are being destroyed is an opportunity to increase the survivability of the planet and to allow the children of the future to experience some of the wonders that we experience today and to live in intact ecosystems on a planet with a climate that is hopefully one that people can survive in.