Members of the Tasmanian Aboriginal community looking over forests in the Florentine Valley in southern Tasmania.
Members of the Tasmanian Aboriginal community looking over forests in the Florentine Valley in southern Tasmania. Photo: Peter Mathew

World Heritage Committee has summarily dismissed the Abbott
government's bid to wind back protection of Tasmanian forests.
committee meeting in Doha took just seven minutes to consider the bid,
which member nation Portugal called "feeble", and setting an
unacceptable precedent for the future.
country spoke in favour of the bid to de-list 74,00 hectares of
old-growth forest, which official cultural and natural values advisers
told the meeting would weaken the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage

Bob Brown: "Global diplomatic humiliation for Abetz and Abbott."
Bob Brown: "Global diplomatic humiliation for Abetz and Abbott." Photo: Peter Mathew

and Germany supported the recommendation to reject the de-listing, but
only Portugal spoke at length to the meeting in a passionate defence of
the World Heritage system.
"The justifications presented to the reduction are to say the least feeble," the Portuguese delegation said.
this de-listing today would be setting an unacceptable precedent
impossible to deny in similar circumstances in the future.
this committee cares for conservation according to responsible
engagement of states parties to the convention when they submit their
nominations, we cannot accept these requests to de-list."
Jubilant environmentalist Bob Brown tweeted that the committee rejected an "embarrassing" government bid.
"Global diplomatic humiliation for (senior Tasmanian Liberal Eric) Abetz, and (Prime Minister Tony) Abbott."
a statement issued on Monday morning in response to the decision,
Environment Minister Greg Hunt and the Parliamentary Secretary to the
Minister for Agriculture, Tasmanian Senator Richard Colbeck, said the
government had honoured an election commitment by seeking the boundary
Committee has not approved the Australian government’s request.
Australia accepts and will consider the decision of the World Heritage
Committee,'' the statement said.
Greens Leader Christine Milne said on Monday that she was ''absolutely thrilled" by the decision.
is another case of the Abbott government humiliating Australia on the
global stage. It clearly was a humiliation for Australia, and so it
should have been, because it would have been a shocking precedent if
governments can just fiddle with the boundaries of their world heritage
areas, destroy outstanding universal values, just for cheap politics,''
Senator Milne told ABC TV.
Labor’s environment spokesman Mark Butler said the proposal should never have gone to the committee.
‘‘Australians do not support Tony Abbott’s ‘dig it up, chop it down’ attitude,’’ he said.
lobbyist Alec Marr, who was in Doha, said:  “The World Heritage
Committee saw through the deception of the Australian Government’s
efforts here, and the high quality science and professionalism of the
advisory bodies was exemplary.”
is vindication for every Australian, and people around the world, who
love Tasmania’s forests and want to see them protected,” Mr Marr said.
in Doha, Environment Tasmania spokesman Dr Phill Pullinger described
the decision as ‘‘a great relief for the wild forests of the Great
Western Tiers, Weld Valley, Butlers Gorge and the Upper Florentine
‘‘much of Tasmania’s natural heritage remains at risk, with the
Tasmanian Government aiming to turn vast areas of protected forest into
logging zones’’, Dr Pullinger said.
World Heritage Committee’s decision sends a clear message that the
international community holds Tasmania’s forests in the highest
regard,’’ he said.
part of the Doha delegation, Australian Conservation Foundation
campaigner Jess Abrahams said the finding underlined the fact Tasmania’s
forests were some of the most spectacular on earth and ‘‘the Southern
Hemisphere’s equivalent of the Californian Redwoods’’.
de-listing bid, one of few in UNESCO history, arose of out a 2013
election promise by the Abbott government to roll back a 170,000 hectare
extension to the 1.5 million hectare Tasmanian Wilderness World
Heritage Area.
extension fulfilled a key plank of the peace deal struck by industry
and green groups to end the generation-old Tasmanian forest conflict,
and was guided through by former Labor Environment Minister Tony Burke.
Liberal landslide wins in three of the five Tasmanian seats in the
election, the government claimed a strong mandate to wind back the
need to ensure that the great state of Tasmania is a strong economy as a
well as a beautiful national park," Mr Abbott repeated as recently as
last week.
Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture, Richard Colbeck, launched a
campaign arguing that the listing of 74,000 hectares of forests made a
mockery of World Heritage values because of previous logging.
the federal Environment Department told a Senate inquiry into the
de-listing bid that only four per cent of the 74,000 hectares had been
heavily disturbed.
International Union for the Conservation of Nature advised the World
Heritage committee that the wind back would be "clearly inappropriate",
and diminished the wilderness' outstanding universal values.
Among areas targeted for de-listing was the bitterly disputed Upper Florentine Valley in central Tasmania.
total of 150 hectares of its 7,000 hectares tall old growth forest was
logged, and in its heart lies an ice age cave with ancient Aboriginal
remains, part of the Tasmanian Wilderness' rare status as a combined
cultural and natural World Heritage site.
International Council on Monuments and Sites said the government had
failed to make a convincing case to exclude areas with significant
cultural attributes.
at the meeting said there appeared to be little evidence of Australian
government lobbying for the wind-back, in contrast to concentrated
effort last week to avoid the listing of the Great Barrier Reef as in
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