Loggers 'ultimate conservationists': PM

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has said he will not support the creation of any more national parks in a speech lauding timber workers as "the ultimate conservationists".

Mr Abbott also told a timber industry dinner on Tuesday night that he would create a new Forestry Advisory Council to support the industry.

The council will be co-chaired by Rob de Fegely, president of the Institute of Foresters Australia. Mr de Fegely is the former Liberal Party election candidate for the seat of Eden Monaro.

"We don't support, as a government and as a Coalition, further lockouts of our forests," Mr Abbott said. "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."

Mr Abbott said the federal government was pushing to delist a world heritage listing of 74,000 hectares of forest in Tasmania. Mr Abbott said the area – which was protected under Tasmania's forest peace deal – was not pristine forest and was too degraded to be considered a sanctuary.

Tasmanians go to the polls on March 15 with jobs and the forestry industry big issues as Labor struggles to hold on to government.

"I don't buy the Green ideology, which has done so much damage to our country over the last couple of decades and I'm pleased to see that there are some sensible Labor Party people who don't buy it either," Mr Abbott said.

"When I look out tonight at an audience of people who work with timber, who work in forests, I don't see people who are environmental bandits, I see people who are the ultimate conservationists.

"I salute you as people who love the natural world, as people who love what Mother Nature gives us and who want to husband it for the long-term best interests of humanity."

Mr Abbott said Canberra would now be "friendly country" rather than "hostile territory" for the forestry industry following the change of government.

Greens leader Christine Milne said: "Who in the 21st century would say the environment is meant for man and not just the other way around?

"There is no economic future for Australia in trashing our precious native forests and national parks ... In pandering to the forestry industry the Prime Minister's statements last night reveal he's not only anti-environment and anti-conservation, he's anti-jobs."

smh.com.au

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