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Janet Rice on Regional Forest Agreements

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Janet Rice 6 Sep 2017

It's very appropriate that, this Thursday, I and the Greens will be introducing a bill to scrap the Regional Forest Agreements Act, the act that underpins our outdated logging laws, the Regional Forest Agreements. These laws have been in place for 20 years. It is these laws that are locking in destructive clear-fell logging of our native forests. Our native forests are precious. They are home to an amazing range of animals and birds. Our outdated logging laws are sending animals and birds to extinction. I can give you a very sad list of species that live in our forests that are threatened, rare, endangered, vulnerable. They live in our forests, and over the 20 years of our outdated logging laws, which have locked in clear-fell logging, their status has certainly not improved, and for many species it has got far, far worse.

In Tasmania, where the government has just rolled over these logging laws, we have birds like swift parrots and animals like Tasmanian devils, as well as the giant freshwater crayfish and the Tasmanian wedge-tailed eagle. In Victoria there is the very well-known and critically endangered Leadbeater's possum, which lives in the critically endangered ecosystem of the Mountain Ash forests of the Central Highlands. We've got long-footed potoroos, tiger quolls, greater gliders, the masked owl and the sooty owl. We've got the large brown tree frog, the giant burrowing frog and East Gippsland galaxias—tiny little fish that live only in the forests of East Gippsland. In New South Wales, koalas are in rapid decline. And there are other species, like the Hastings River mouse. In Western Australia there are red-tailed black cockatoos; Baudin's cockatoos; the quokka, which relies on native forests; and the western ringtail possum. All these species rely on intact native forest. All these species are being threatened by the ongoing logging of our forests.

What makes our logging laws so unacceptable is that they contain exemptions from our environment protection laws—the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. So, where this logging occurs, it's deemed to be ecologically responsible, regardless of the fact that all these species are on a downward trend in terms of how healthy their populations are. Yet this government is locking that in. How will the Prime Minister tell his grandchildren that he just sat by while these precious species disappeared from Australia? The decision in early August to co-sign with the Tasmanian government a so-called variation to the Regional Forest Agreements demonstrated just how short-sighted and irresponsible state and federal governments around the country are.

So, the Greens want to scrap these logging laws, because they allow for the ongoing destruction of our native forests. We know that the wood products industry in Australia has already largely shifted out of our native forests; 85 per cent of the wood that comes from Australia is now coming from plantations. We don't need to be continuing destructive practices in our native forests. These agreements were set up last century, and the Greens contend that they should not just be rolled over onto new 20-year agreements—basically locking in this destruction in perpetuity. It's unacceptable that this outdated way of managing our forests can be rolled over with just the flick of a pen by the Prime Minister and his state counterparts.

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