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AFPA says Bob Brown Foundation launching “lawfare”

Ross Hampton

The Bob Brown Foundation’s legal action against Tasmania’s sustainable forest industries has been labelled as “just the latest callous attack on forestry workers from the extremist activist group” threatening vital regional jobs in an essential industry at a time when Australia can least afford it. Source: Timberbiz

AFPA CEO Ross Hampton said the litigation, which he described as “vexatious”, was just one of the tactics used by the BBF and other activist groups to disrupt lawful, sustainably managed timber harvesting operations around Australia, alongside illegal protests, site invasions and intimidation of workers.

“BBF’s timing could not be more insensitive and irresponsible,” he said.

“Sustainable Timber Tasmania’s sustainably managed timber harvesting operations underpin thousands of Tasmanian jobs and the manufacturing of many essential products which are in high demand during the pandemic. Bob Brown should realise that Australians are fed up with his anti-job agenda and propagation of falsehoods about Tasmania’s forest industries.”

Mr Hampton urged the Federal and State Governments to urgently address the uncertainty around Regional Forest Agreements created by a Federal Court decision earlier this year, which has emboldened activist groups to launch more legal claims against state government-managed timber harvesting operations. VicForests has already confirmed it will appeal the judgment, but the BBF legal action is proof that governments must act sooner.

“Clearly, the activist groups are trying to exploit the situation by ramping up their lawfare tactic, which, regardless of merit, hamper harvesting operations. We urge the governments to urgently explore legislative reform to put a stop to the flood of litigation that activist groups are threatening to unleash nationally,” Mr Hampton said.

“This ‘lawfare’ puts tens of thousands of jobs across Australia that rely on the native timber industry are at risk at a time when the country can least afford such a disastrous collapse of a major industry. Also let’s not forget the indirect employment created by the forest products industries, and the families and communities which rely on those incomes to survive.”

Mr Hampton said the attacks on workers were all predicated on the untruth that Australia’s native timber industry was not sustainable.

The facts were that native forestry operations occurred on only a tiny fraction of Australia’s native forest estate, using the equivalent of just six trees out of every 10,000 annually, and every tree is replaced as the areas are regenerated and regrown by law.

“RFAs have been in place for over 20 years and are independently reviewed every five years, and those reviews have found they are meeting or exceeding all environmental objectives,” he said.

“If Bob Brown and his ilk succeed in closing native timber harvesting in Australia, we will still use appearance grade timber in our homes and offices – it will just be imported from overseas which may well not operate to the strict environmental standards that we do.

“Now, more than ever, Australia needs to support local manufacturing jobs. Our native timber industries are the backbone of many regional communities. With Australia facing years of record high unemployment, it beggar’s belief that Bob Brown is trying to put thousands of people out of work,” Mr Hampton said.

Tasmanian Resources Minister Guy Barnett said the Greens blatantly refuse to accept the demonstrated fact that Tasmania’s timber sector is the ultimate sustainable industry.

Mr Barnett said the State Government was a strong supporter of the State’s forestry industry “because we know it is well managed and sustainable and supports thousands of jobs in regional communities”.

“Unfortunately, the anti-jobs Greens want to put thousands of Tasmanians out of a job, destroying families and rural communities,” he said.

“They refuse to accept the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, that sustainable forest management has significant carbon management, social and economic benefits.

“Tasmanian forests are sustainably managed with some of the most stringent environmental protections in the world.”