Australian opposition leader is conducting 'Taliban-like campaign' against Tasmania's forests, claim Australian Greens, fear he could wind back World Heritage listing of 170,000 hectares of native forests if he wins federal election

HOBART, Australia , September 5, 2013 () – Greens leader Christine Milne is accusing Tony Abbott of a Taliban-like campaign against Tasmania's forests.

The coalition has left open the option of winding back the latest World Heritage listing of the state's forests, the 170,000 hectares agreed to as part of the historic peace deal between environmentalists and the timber industry.

Moreover, Mr Abbott has reiterated his opposition to any extension of protection for Tasmania's forests from logging.

"(Tasmania) needs to be an economy as well as a national park," he told ABC radio on Thursday.

He says more than 40 per cent of the state's forests are "locked up" and forestry can be a sustainable "clean, green industry of the future".

It is unclear whether a coalition government could reverse a World Heritage listing with environmentalists adamant it has occurred only twice before, in Germany and Oman.

Senator Milne says two options would be available if logging was to return to the areas - a de-listing or legislation to allow harvesting in World Heritage forests.

"Remember when the Taliban blew up the Buddhas?" she asked reporters in Hobart on Thursday.

"Around the world people went how is that possible, that you could destroy something of outstanding universal value to humankind.

"That's exactly what Tony Abbott intends to do."

The issue of Tasmania's forests had failed to make its regular foray into the federal election campaign, Labor premier Lara Giddings claiming the peace deal had neutralised it.

It resurfaced last week when the state's upper house passed a bill enabling the agreement to enter its next phase.

In all, the federal government is injecting more than $200 million into restructuring the ailing timber sector, while a total of 500,000 hectares of forest will be reserved.

Signatories to the agreement, including timber industry representatives, have urged Mr Abbott to honour it if the coalition is elected on Saturday.

Tasmanian independent MP Andrew Wilkie said the deal was not perfect but needed to be allowed to work.

"Any move by an Abbott government to wind back protection of parts of the state would be very regrettable and I would certainly oppose it in the most vigorous way possible in the parliament," he said.

Senator Milne said new industries needed to be developed for Tasmania.

"The native forest logging business model is dead," she said.

The Greens, meanwhile, announced a $1 million per year plan for research into marine debris.

AAP dpb/jk

(c) 2013 Australian Associated Press

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