This speech was delivered on 7/05/2014 in the NSW Upper House. You can read the full debate online here.
Mr DAVID SHOEBRIDGE [12.40 p.m.]: I support this disallowance motion, and in doing so support the biodiversity, the natural beauty and the ongoing sustainability of our forests in New South Wales. This amended regulation has a number of significant, statewide impacts, all of which are negative. First, it creates a new demand for native forest woodchips, which we know will result in increased logging activity and prop up a failing and unsustainable industry in this State. Secondly, it will deplete and degrade the State’s remaining native forests, which will inevitably result in further considerable loss of the ecological diversity and important animal and plant habitats. Thirdly, it will increase the State’s greenhouse gas emissions and cause significant localised air pollution at these so-called green energy sites. Fourthly, it will undermine the emergence and competitiveness of genuine renewable energy sources by creating an unsustainable and bizarrely subsidised market for the sake of a carbon-intensive and destructive native forest biomass industry.When we look at what is driving these regulations and the proposed biomass industry in New South Wales we see that it is the comprehensive market failure of the woodchipping industry in this State. This regulation throws a lifeline to a failing industry. It is failing because there is no market for the mixed native woodchips that are supplied from our forests. There is no demand for those woodchips because they cannot be certified. Producers failed to get their forestry stewardship certification last year and as a result of that we saw the woodchip mill on the North Coast finally closed after years of campaigning. It was closed because there is no market for unsustainable, environmentally damaging mixed native woodchips. Despite receiving massive government subsidies, the Eden woodchip mill continues to operate while incurring multimillion-dollar losses each year. When that is coupled with the closure of Boral’s woodchip export facilities at the Port of Newcastle and Tea Gardens, one realises that this regulation is a lifeline to a drowning industry.There are cheaper, and in many cases more sustainable, sources of woodchips around the planet that undermine our exports to countries such as Japan and China. Because of that, the woodchip industry in this State is looking for new ways to make money out of degrading our native forest vegetation. This regulation creates the opportunity for the industry to return to its grossly damaging peak levels of production of approximately one million tonnes of woodchip from the south and two million tonnes from the north of the State. It does so by propping up the economic viability of woodchipping. If the Government can provide a subsidised market for so-called waste with this biomass proposal, it makes the ecologically damaging and economically unviable woodchip industry more attractive than it otherwise would be.We know that the taxpayers of this State already subsidise the woodchip industry to the tune of millions of dollars every year. However, we also lose millions of dollars by woodchipping our native forests and destroying the natural values of our native forest. We are losing that money by spending it on an industry that is in inevitable, terminal decline. If this regulation remains on the statute books—that is, if this disallowance motion fails—all that will be achieved, at best, is a few more years of the taxpayers propping up an unsustainable, dying industry. In the long run, it is a market for an ecologically damaging product that the great bulk of people in this State oppose. Consumers and major buyers around the world are shutting their doors and their wallets to this product. At best, this regulation represents a temporary stay of execution for an industry in terminal decline.
We know that the burning of native forests for biomass will not produce green energy. That is greenwash at its worst. While exact figures are very difficult to obtain and there is a complete failure on the Government’s part to invest in scientific research that would in any way justify the so-called green energy credentials of native forest biomass, simple calculations indicate that on a per megawatt hour basis emissions from native forest biomass will be substantially greater even than those produced by extremely dirty coal-fired power stations in this State. That is particularly true when one includes the methane and the carbon dioxide released while felling the trees and disturbing, and in many cases entirely destroying, the forest understorey. Greenhouse gases are released not only when the biomass is burnt in a power station but also when the forests are logged and the sequestered carbon escapes into the atmosphere.
Greenhouse gas emissions from logging of native forests to supply the Eden chip mill have been conservatively estimated to be more than 18 million tonnes a year, and that is just one part of this damaging industry. One calculation indicates that greenhouse gas emissions generated by burning native forests are 6.4 times more than those generated by equivalent dirty coal-fired powers. The prospect that consumers in this State could be subsidising not only the destruction of our forests and the flora and fauna in them but also a greenwashed product of some of the dirtiest and most carbon-intensive energy production under the label of “green energy” should disturb any decent government that is interested in the public good and ongoing public interest. I commend the motion and condemn the regulation. Future generations will condemn any government that is willing to see our beautiful native forests chopped down and burnt and the animals that live in them and their unique flora destroyed for short-term power.