Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott was yesterday accused of mounting “a massive assault on the environment” after he warned that too much Australian forestry was closed to logging and there were enough national parks.
In an address to a timber industry dinner, the center-right leader said he would establish a new advisory council for the industry, calling it a sector that had been “frowned upon” for too long.
“For three years you were officially frowned upon here in Canberra because we had — I regret to say — a government that was over-influenced by the Greens,” he told the gathering, referring to the previous Labor administration.
“I am so pleased that for the first time in many years, you can come into Abbott said forest workers were not “environmental bandits” and loggers had a friend in Canberra.
He also defended the government’s decision to remove World Heritage listing for 74,000 hectares of Tasmanian forest earlier this year, claiming it was not pristine.
“We don’t support, as a government and as a coalition, further lockouts of our forests. We just don’t support it,” he told the function on Tuesday night.
“We have quite enough national parks, we have quite enough locked up forests already. In fact, in an important respect, we have too much locked up forest,” he said.
Australia’s timber industry contributes more than A$22 billion (US$19.7 billion) of economic turnover each year and employs more than 66,000 people.
The Greens have labelled Abbott the “dig it up, cut it down prime minister,” with party leader Christine Milne yesterday saying his words sent a clear message to the world “that Australia does not value its World Heritage areas or its national parks.”
“People are going to be pretty upset that Tony Abbott is mounting this massive assault on the environment,” she told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.