The Tasmanian Forests Agreement bill is incomplete, unscientific and does not account for key sectors of the forestry industry, according to a report produced by a Legislative Council Committee yesterday.
But some MLCs still believe it is the only way to secure peace in the forests and ensure the forestry industry survives past the next 12 months. Committee chairman Huon MLC Paul Harriss tabled the 180-page report in the Legislative Council yesterday.
Mr Harriss said the report made 84 ``rigorous, evidence-based findings'' based on 120 hours of select-committee hearings and 136 public submissions.
It found there was an ``inherent risk'' that Forestry Tasmania would not be able to meet the minimum quota of 137,000 cubic metres of sawlogs from the areas left available to log, that evidence from scientists suggested the proposed reserves would not create the best conservation outcomes, and that Ta Ann would close its Tasmanian operations if the bill did not pass.
It also found that the specialty timber supply had not been accounted for and that detailed analysis of the socio-economic impact of the deal was not available.
Mr Harriss, who has publicly opposed the peace deal process, said delegating the substance of the legislation to signatories to the Tasmanian Forests Agreement was ``no way to make public policy'', and said the government ought to have opened it up for public debate before tabling the legislation in the House of Assembly. The report will be debated on Tuesday ahead of a planned vote on the bill on Wednesday.
Rosevears MLC Kerry Finch was the only MLC apart from President Sue Smith, not involved in the committee. He said the report showed the committee to be a ``spoiling exercise'' and vindicated his decision no to take part.
All committee members said they supported the report and the process had been beneficial.
But none said it had changed their core position on the bill.
Elwick MLC Adriana Taylor, whose support is considered necessary for the bill to pass, has still not made her position known.
``The bill as it stands I would not support, but the bill as it stands is not the bill that we are going to be voting on,'' Ms Taylor said.
``The bill does not accurately reflect the agreement.''
Ms Taylor said amendments to the bill had been suggested, in addition to 150 pages of amendments proposed by the government in January to speed up the protection order process.
The government has not formally announced further amendments.
Tasmanian Forests Agreement signatories have consistently said they would not support changes to the bill that alter the fundamental tenets of the agreement.
Ms Taylor said she believed likely amendments including accounting for sovereign risk, and changes to the forest practices code would be supported by the signatories because they were included in the agreement. Independent Rumney MLC Tony Mulder said he would propose an amendment to increase the minimum sawlog quota from 137,000 cubic metres to 155,000 cubic meters.
The signatories have said that any change to the sawlog quota or reserves would be a deal-breaker.
Wilderness Society Tasmania campaign manager Vica Bayley said such a change would mean the legislation no longer reflected the agreement, and the signatories would not be bound by it.
Forestry Minister Bryan Green said the government would also not support any amendments that altered wood supply or reserves, or were inconsistent with the agreement. Murchison MLC Ruth Forrest and Hobart MLC Rob Valentine, who support the Bill, said the committee reinforced to them the need to pass the legislation so the industry could start to recover.
``What the legislation will do is put a handbrake on the decline of the industry,'' Ms Forrest said.
``If we don't have this agreement, we will have no industry to fight over in 6 to 12 months' time.''
Windermere MLC Ivan Dean said passing the legislation would be signing a blank cheque, because the potential impact and much of the detail was still unknown.