Forest protectors protest outside summit

November 14, 2014
Protesters outside the federal government's Asia-Pacific Rainforest Summit on November 12.

Sixty people, including activists from Papua New Guinea (PNG) and ABC radio presenter Julie McCrossin, protested outside the federal government's Asia-Pacific Rainforest Summit on November 12.

The conference featured Liberal MPs Julie Bishop and Greg Hunt speaking to government ministers from the Asia Pacific region.

Protesters heard from speakers from Australian Forests and Climate Alliance (AFCA), the Wilderness Society, Healesville Environment Watch (HEW), SumOfUs, Nature Conservation Council and Act Now for PNG. NSW Greens MLC Mehreen Faruqi and ALP NSW forest spokesperson Luke Foley also addressed the action.

Lorraine Bower from AFCA said: "We are here to tell the [Tony] Abbott government they need to aim much higher on forest protection. Abbott opened Tarkine for business and mining and tried to delist 74,000 hectares from World Heritage.

They failed. Rainforests now cover 2% of Australia, but this tiny area is home to more than half its species. If we are serious about bringing down carbon we have to protect forests."

McCrossin told the protest about her trip to PNG organised by Oxfam, where she was taken "to an outlying community where the only infrastructure was a school with one blackboard and two books. Literally everything else came from the forest — the community was intertwined.

"But this community had an appalling infant mortality rate, lack of education and services. I think we can't talk about saving rainforest without talking about the people. We need to save the rainforest and give local indigenous communities high schools.

"When the logging company says we will give you a school if you let us log your forest, we have a problem. So how can we support local communities so they can really make decisions that gives them sustainable forests, keeps culture and gives them a future."

Kate Smolski, CEO of the Nature Conservation Council said "It is hypocritical of the NSW and federal governments to hold this summit. In NSW, the [Mike] Baird government introduced a 10/50 Clearing Code of Practice. Its pretext was bushfire hazard reduction but it is one-size-fits-all and is destroying heritage trees across NSW. Through this we are seeing the destruction of tall rainforests for the first time since 1971."

Paul Pavol from Act Now for PNG said: "We are fighting to save PNG forests from illegal land grabs and destruction. I come from an area of virgin rainforest, with clear running water, but companies have destroyed the water in only three years. It is an attempt to eliminate our land rights."

PNG activist Eddie Tanago said: "There are Australian companies involved in this. We call on the Australian government to address it."

Steve Meacher from HEW said "We are pushing for a great new national park in Victoria, which has the support of David Attenborough and Jane Goodall."

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