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Native Forests

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Wednesday, 16 August 2023

Tags: Native Forest Logging

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin - Leader of the Greens) - Mr Speaker, a vote is required.

Mr Speaker, I move -

That the House:

(1) Notes Tasmania's native forests are some of the most carbon-dense living ecosystems on Earth.

(2) Understands clearfelling and burning of state-owned native forests releases 4.65 million tonnes of carbon a year, and is the biggest polluting sector in our economy.

(3) Recognises we are in a climate heating emergency, with fires, droughts and tornados imperilling life across the planet, and every tonne of carbon that stays in the ground is precious.

(4) Condemns the Liberal Government for continuing to allow the destruction of ancient Tasmanian trees and their canopy of life that supports countless threatened species.

(5) Acknowledges that 5000 people attended forest rallies around Australia over the past weekend to call for an end to native forest logging.

(6) Celebrates the more than 60 protestors who are standing in Wentworth Hills and the Florentine to prevent centuries' old giants from being destroyed.

(7) Understands these protests are but the start of the biggest forest protests in over a decade as people defy draconian laws in defence of beauty and nature, today and for future generations.

(8) Agrees the overwhelming majority of people across Australia and Tasmania want native forest logging to end immediately.

(9) Calls on the Liberals to end native forest logging, and transition the remaining workers into restoring the forest estate and protecting our carbon stores.

We brought this motion on today because I can see a strong rift happening in Tasmanian society, with the Liberal Party and the Labor Party on one side and the majority of Tasmanians on the other. The published footage yesterday of an enormous ancient tree on the back of a log truck, filling up the whole truck caused a national outrage.

It is the most viewed article on the Guardian Australia's website and it has been widely distributed across the country. The reason is that we collectively understand that life on this planet is precious, it is fragile and it is wholly dependent on having an intact biosphere and on having flourishing biodiversity. We increasingly understand that because we see what is happening with the breakdown of the climate system around the world.

We only have to look at what has been happening in Maui. Despite the best resources a society has, one of the richest societies on the planet, the United States, is vulnerable to the volatility of the climate system, to the tornados that fan huge fires, uncontrollable by humans. All of the work of early warning systems, of firefighting capacity, of military aircraft, all the pre-fire preparation cannot withstand hurricane force winds that whip up a conflagration. That has been the story of Maui and recently the story of the Mediterranean that has suffered days of 45°C heat in cities that are not designed for that. People suffering and dying, as they did in Arizona and Texas, trying to live in 50°C, which is not habitable for anybody who is vulnerable or elderly or poor.

In the climate emergency we are waking up. Tasmanians and Australians are waking up and understanding that our native forests are some of the most carbon-dense and precious eco systems that we have on Earth. They collectively house beautiful cathedral-like wonders of life. They are moist places. They are homes to species which are so rare, far more important than precious gems, because they have a life, they have a beating heart. It is those masked owls and the swift parrots that people understand were living in or around that giant tree that was felled and put on the back of a truck and taken to be pulped. The majority of that tree will go into pulp.

This is the story of Tasmania and what we are seeing as the disconnect between the Labor and Liberal parties and the people of Australia and the people of Tasmania. The majority of people of Tasmania and Australia do not want native forest logging. They are very clear: 65 per cent in 2021 and not just Greens voters, 71 per cent of Labor voters Australia-wide want an end to native forest logging. Three in five coalition voters also want an end to native forest logging. This is an Australia-wide movement. It is a state-wide movement.

In the forests today and tomorrow and the day after protestors are going in. Like the 60 who went into Wentworth Hills on the weekend. Like the scores of people who went into the Florentine Valley today and yesterday. They are standing up, they are engaging in non-violent protest training, they are increasing in numbers and they are preparing to do everything they can. This is the last stand of habitat that is available for the swift parrot and masked owls.

The huge rally in Hobart on the weekend had a beautiful energy. Young people coming into that place get heart from going to a rally with other people like them. They are signing up to do non-violent protest action. They know that unless they show up, vote and stand in the way of bulldozers nothing else will happen.

Thank you to Colette Harmsen. She stands in jail waiting her time to come out and to re-engage. While she is there her voice is powerful. It gives us hope because she shows that she is one of the thousands of Tasmanians who are prepared to do everything they can to protect these beautiful forests. These are not just for people today, they are for future generations. People are defying the draconian anti-protest laws that are in place in this state, as they are in Labor states everywhere else in the country. Labor and Liberal have come together on this. They know that they have to stand against people and they have to protect the fossil fuel companies that they ultimately all get paid by. The Labor and Liberal Party will do everything to protect oil and gas companies, who are predatory, and who are collectively assaulting nature in Australia.

We are seeing the same thing down here, where we have a state-subsidised native forest logging industry. Forestry Tasmania - paid for by taxpayers - took that giant tree out of the Florentine Valley yesterday. Forestry Tasmania went into that coupe and felled two other giant trees. There are at least another 50 trees, according to the report this morning in the paper, of similar girth that are ready for the chop in that coupe.

There are obviously no regulations in place in Tasmania worth the paper that they are written on if this sort of carnage can occur in our forests.

We are calling on the Liberals and on the Labor Party to understand that you are alone in this. You do not have the support of Tasmanians. You do not have the support of children. You do not have the support of doctors who want us to protect the forest because they can see the climate emergency that we are in. They understand the amount of carbon that is stored in our forests. They understand that in a climate crisis, as we are in now, every amount of carbon that we can store we should - because we are still burning it. We are still emitting carbon in the cars that we drive, in the lives that we lead. We are, every day, releasing carbon.

One of the best ways we can reduce the impact on the climate that we are already seeing is to protect forests. Antonio Guterres, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, said this the other day:

Protecting forests is one of the most effective ways to address the climate crisis. They are invaluable in our climate action.

That is what we can do with the forests in Tasmania, instead of emitting - as they do through Forestry Tasmania's activities - 4.65 million tonnes of carbon every year. It is the biggest polluting sector in our economy. Bigger than cars, bigger than the whole transport sector combined - 4.65 million tonnes of carbon we could make a decision about. The Liberal Government could make a decision about, and Labor can support them - because what they are doing at the moment is holding regional Tasmanian communities in limbo. They are using them as a political plaything. They absolutely are.

You know, as in every other state, that the end of native forest logging is coming. It will come this year, or next year, or in three years' time, but it will come. You know that because you can see the writing on the wall - or if you cannot, go and look at what every other state in Australia is working towards.

Labor Party, have a look at what is coming your way at the conference this weekend. Understand that the people are going to win on this. What you are doing is purposely using regional Tasmanian communities that have unsustainable industries. Instead of working for their futures, instead of giving their children something they can look forward to being part of, something they can train for, you are keeping them locked in an old industry - a dinosaur industry that is subsidised by the public purse and has no future.

Instead, you could be going to regional communities. You could be teaching people about forestry restoration. You could be training people who already have skills in the forestry industry to transition into restoring forests, because that is what we need in a climate emergency. We need to protect the carbon stores that we have. They are vulnerable.

Everything is now vulnerable. We need to protect forest stores from fire. We need to protect them from infestations. We need to grow them and help them become more moist. They have been dried out by decades of native forest logging. We have woolly regrowth. We have plantation forests, and all the science is showing that both of those sorts of forest communities are more dangerous, more at risk of fire than an intact moist native forest.

We saw that around Geeveston. We saw the different patterns of fire burning and the gradation of risk between the regrowth forests and plantations compared to the intact native forests. They are wetter and they are more fire retardant.

We are calling on the Liberals to end native forest logging. We are calling on the Liberals to transition remaining workers out of the carbon estate - out of the sector, into restoring native forests. We are calling on them to protect the carbon stores that we have, and to grow the carbon stores.

Of course, it is not just in forests that we can grow carbon stores. We can grow them in grasslands and many other places, but we have carbon stores there already. We have trees that are hundreds and hundreds of years old - like the tree that came out yesterday from the Florentine. That tree started growing in the medieval ages. That is how old that tree would have been. And yet, we cut it down to make paper, because only 1 per cent of Tasmania's native forest estate that gets clear-felled ends up as sawn timbers. Just 1 per cent. The rest of it gets burnt. It goes up in smoke. It adds to emissions.

Meanwhile, 5000 people around the country rallied last weekend, and there will be more again this weekend. Their focus is on Labor, because Labor has seen the writing on the wall in Victoria. Labor has done the sensible thing - and, of course, that is having an impact on Tasmania.

That is why we need to end the merry go round which is damaging our children, and damaging regional communities, but especially damaging the planet that we all live on, and the opportunities for us to have a beautiful future, where it is healthy. Every single day for the rest of our lives we will be living in a heating climate. Regardless of what we do, that is going to happen - but we can make it less hot, and that is our challenge. Everything we can do to take carbon out of the atmosphere will make it less hot.

Mr Speaker, I finish by saying that our native forests are deeply spiritual places for palawa people. Tasmanian Aboriginal people have lived in our forests and around our forests for tens of thousands of years. They have shaped those forests and they have cared for those forests. With them, the Greens stand with the people of Tasmania who are fighting to protect the forest, protect our future, and the glorious wonders of beautiful plants and animals that are nowhere else on earth except in those forests. I commend this motion.