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Native Land Forestry

I rise to present a defence of the Australian bush. The Australian bush, with all its incredible creatures, is for so many of us the embodiment of Australia. The sites, the sounds, the smells, the animals and the insects it houses are uniquely Australian, to be found nowhere else on this planet. The Australian bush is as iconic as our coastlines and our beaches. It is a source of national pride, of comfort and of immense beauty, and, of course, it is home to so many threatened and endangered species of animals and plants, but we are destroying it. The State of the environment 2022 report made for utterly devastating reading for even the most hardened of political heads. It was an indictment of the efforts of previous governments to enact even basic measures to protect our environment and ecosystems from broad and deep destruction. The worsening breakdown of our climate means that our native bushlands will continue to come under ever-increasing threats.

We all lived through horror of the Black Summer bushfires of 2019 and 2020, which burned for nine months straight. Over 243,000 square kilometres were burnt and destroyed and an estimated three billion terrestrial vertebrates were lost. The scale of the destruction was something that even the most experienced of firefighters, such as Greg Mullins, former head of Fire and Rescue New South Wales, had not imagined was ever possible. We have another El Nino looming, and megafires will continue to become more frequent and more terrible.

Add to this immense threat from bushfires the constant bulldozing of large swathes of our national forests year in, year out, deployed without constraint from our national environmental laws. In 2020 logging destroyed or degraded 40,000 hectares of Australian public native forests, 40,000 hectares of what were thriving ecosystems. Logging also contributes to climate change. Each year, logging releases greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to around six per cent of Australia's annual emissions. Trees are our most effective carbon capture and storage units. Logging also destroys critical habitat for threatened species. We are facing an extinction crisis here and the continued logging of our native forests is one of the major threats facing species like koalas, greater gliders and the Leadbeater's possum. Logging dries out forests, leading to increased risk of bushfires, and younger trees are also far more flammable than decades-old trees. Logging also reduces water quality in rivers and dams and undermines regional tourism. Perhaps one could understand the persistence of the native forest logging industry if it made good financial sense, but it doesn't. The forestry industry must be propped up with federal subsidies to survive.

In the face of all these risks and with plantation forestry and alternative wood products available, the ongoing logging of our native forests makes no sense. The Albanese government must not stand by and allow this to continue. There is a simple solution. Currently, state based regional forestry agreements are exempt from the national environmental law—what is known as the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, the EPBC Act. This means that the usual environmental laws that apply to other large projects do not apply to these forestry agreements. The effect of the exemption is that logging companies, some of which are state owned, do not have to seek approval or comply with the environmental protections set out in the EPBC Act. This exemption must end. While I welcome the Albanese Government's commitment to reforming the EPBC Act, we cannot wait until 2024 to act on native forest logging. Importantly, I am not calling for an end to the logging industry as a whole. I am calling only for an end to the logging of our native forests. My motion also calls on the government to fund the transition to a plantation based forestry industry, recognising the importance of forestry jobs in regional Australia and the need for sustainable wood products into the future. Ending native forest logging would align with the Glasgow Leaders' Declaration on Forests and Land Use, the Paris Agreement and Global Biodiversity Framework.