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Christine Milne thanks World Heritage forest campaigners

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Christine Milne 25 Jun 2013

Senator MILNE (Tasmania-Leader of the Australian Greens) (15:36): I move:

That the Senate take note of the answer given by Senator Conroy to a question without notice asked by Senator Milne today relating to an extension to the Tasmanian World Heritage Area.

I stand today delighted that the World Heritage Committee, meeting in Phnom Penh in Cambodia, has today agreed to the extension of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area so that 170,000 hectares will be added to the area. This is an exciting day not only for Tasmania but for the world, because the world has recognised that these forests are of outstanding universal value to humankind. That is an extraordinary decision and something Tasmania can be really proud of. It further highlights Tasmania as clean, green and clever; our brand for Tasmania is enhanced by recognising the value of these fantastic forests that we have.

I am standing here today celebrating this extension of our World Heritage area which means that these forests will be protected for all time. That is an amazing tribute to the people who have worked for that. I go back to when this campaign started in the early 1980s. No-one will forget the Helsham inquiry and Farmhouse Creek. Then, in 1989, when we moved to put these forests into the World Heritage area, it was resisted by the then Premier of Tasmania, Michael Field, and by David Llewellyn, who fought against it.

Graham Richardson, who was then federal Minister for the Environment, would have included those areas had they been agreed to but, as I said, Michael Field and David Llewellyn held out against it. Over the years Senator Bob Brown, Peg Putt and my colleagues in the Tasmanian parliament fought for the protection of these areas together with so many people in the community, such as the Wilderness Society and the ACF. Names such as Alec Marr and Geoff Law come to mind, not to mention the people in the Huon Valley Environment Centre, Still Wild Still Threatened, all the direct action groups, the wilderness photographers, and the artists in Tasmania who worked so hard; and people like the late Helen Gee whose book For the Forests documents really well the campaign for the protection of forests. I pay tribute to people like Helen and to people like Ben Morrow. Ben, who lost his battle with cancer, was one of the people who worked hard. Now we are seeing the forests of the Styx, the Weld Valley, the Florentine, the Great Western Tiers and the glaciated landscapes of Mount Field all going into the extension of the Tasmanian Wilderness WorldHeritage Area.

In looking at this, I also look at the people who resisted and opposed it for so long. No-one will forget the resource security legislation where the logging industry, supported by both the Liberal and Labor parties in Tasmania, worked to try to keep the forests out of protection. When he was Premier, Ray Groom brought in the most draconian anti-forest protest laws,

which Paul Lennon was later forced to withdraw because they gave unfair competitive advantage to Tasmanian loggers over mainland loggers. There was also the campaign that Jim Bacon and Paul Lennon, former premiers of Tasmania, ran to oppose forest protection. In the end, it was a minority government, both in Tasmania and federally, which worked with the Greens-and I pay tribute to Nick McKim, my Tasmanian colleague, who worked at the Tasmanian level on the boundaries for this Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area extension, and to my colleague, former Senator Bob Brown; I worked with him last year, and with Minister Burke-to get this nomination up and ready to be submitted by 8 February this year. I am delighted that Minister Burke submitted that extension to the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area and that it has been accepted and protected.

I also welcome the fact that the World Heritage Committee has called on the Tasmanian and Australian governments to assess the cultural heritage of the area, and I would include in that assessment areas beyond the area that has currently been listed with a view to looking at Tasmanian Aboriginal heritage for the longer term. I look forward to those assessments. I note that the coalition has opposed this extension to the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area and remains opposed. It is now protected for all time. I would urge the coalition to get behind this nomination and recognise what a fantastic thing it is for Tasmania and Australia to now be able to proudly say that those forests, so long campaigned for, are to be protected, will be protected and will be looked after for the future.

I congratulate everyone concerned. There will be great celebration in Tasmania.


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