Forests bill has turned into a farce

THE Legislative Council has taken plenty of criticism for not following the lead of the lower house and urgently passing the Tasmanian Forests Agreement Bill in late December.

The House of Assembly took about 14 hours to debate and pass that legislation under the threat of losing federal inducements.

Yesterday, less than a month after that bill was passed, the Legislative Council and the signatories to the agreement received 150 pages of amendments with no notice.

It included details of nearly 300 forestry zones and their future protection and uses - the sort of detail that should have been available for debate in the first place.

More concerning is that the requirement for durability of the agreement has disappeared.

This was a fundamental part of the original agreement and central to the concept that this will deliver the promised forest peace deal.

It is now likely that the Legislative Council inquiry may stretch well into March because this agreement is fundamentally different to what was originally agreed and fresh evidence will be required from all parties.

The Legislative Council stands totally vindicated by its decision not to rush through this shoddily constructed bill back in December.

The upper house is there to review bills, not to totally rewrite them.

Yesterday's farce and frustration was probably best summed up by Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers chief executive Jan Davis: "Organisations like ours have spent the last month getting legal opinions and gathering expert advice in order to meet the Legislative Council select committee's deadline for submissions.

"Suddenly today the government reveals a welter of amendments and apparently inadequate maps to identify the land that is proposed for reserves. Even signatories have yet to see any substantive detail of the proposed changes.

"It must be going through the minds of members of the Legislative Council that this is fast becoming a comic opera."

Not just through the minds of the Legislative Council Ms Davis - a comic opera for most Tasmanians.

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