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Bob Brown Foundation’s Great Forest Case fails 3-0

Bob Brown has been told to accept the judgement of the Federal Court which this week dismissed his bid to halt native logging in Tasmania. The Federal Court on Wednesday ruled 3-0 against the Bob Brown Foundation’s argument that the state’s Regional Forest Agreement (RFA) contradicted federal laws and was therefore invalid. Source: Timberbiz

It had also claimed that Tasmania’s RFA did not protect endangered species, particularly the swift parrot.

The action had been brought against the Commonwealth, the State of Tasmania and Sustainable Timber Tasmania after a victory in a similar case was won last year in Victoria between the Friends of the Leadbeater’s Possums and VicForests.

VicForests is appealing that decision.

Tasmania’s Resources Minister Guy Barnett said he was thrilled by the decision, calling on the foundation to “stop the green warfare”.

“Today is an historic day,” he said.

“We won. The forest industry has won. The workers of Tasmania have won. The Bob Brown Foundation has lost.

“This is a vote of confidence in the Regional Forest Agreement and all that it stands for,’’ Mr Barnett said.

“We have always stated that we have full confidence in our comprehensive Regional Forest Agreement and will fight to protect Tasmanian businesses, jobs and communities.

“With the decision of the Full court of the Federal Court clearly backing our sustainable forest practices, I hope that the Bob Brown Foundation will accept the umpire’s decision and cease their destructive protest action that hurts Tasmanian workers and families.

“It beggars belief that during the greatest health and economic crisis in a generation, the Bob Brown Foundation have tried to use legal wrangling to kill our sustainably managed forest industry and put thousands of hard working Tasmanians out of a job.”

In its judgement, the Federal Court found that the Tasmania’s RFA is valid, rejecting the two legal arguments put forward by the Bob Brown Foundation.

In dismissing the foundation’s case, the Federal Court judges said that even though some of the provisions in the RFA were not legally binding, that did not mean the agreement itself wasn’t “in force”, and agreed with Mr Shaun McElwaine SC, acting for SST, who argued that “there is a broader suite of protective measures in force in Tasmania”.

The Federal Court’s judgement means that the BFF’s injunction to halt logging in 19 coupes in Tasmania also ended on Wednesday.

Assistant Minister for Forestry and Fisheries Jonno Duniam said Mr Brown must now accept the judgement.

“This is a victory for every hard-working man and woman in forestry across the nation,” Assistant Minister for Forestry and Fisheries Jonno Duniam said in a statement.

“Bob Brown said himself that ‘it’s time for a big winner’ when it comes to the native forestry industry, and today’s decision confirms forestry is that winner.

“Bob Brown is the loser in today’s judgment. Once again, his attempt to use lawfare to shut down forestry has failed.”

Sustainable Timber Tasmania’s Chair, Rob de Fegely AM and CEO, Steve Whiteley in a joint statement said they regarded the decision as “a strong vindication of Sustainable Timber Tasmania confidence of the Regional Forest Agreement and Tasmania’s world class Forest Practices System in providing protection for threatened species and other important forest and land values while enabling important forest production”.

Tasmanian Forest Products Association chief executive Nick Steel said the outcome was good news for Tasmanian jobs, the environment, and the Tasmanian community.

“Regional Forest Agreements were set up to provide an appropriate balance between the environment and jobs and to provide certainty to all parties, and the public can now be reassured about this balance,” he said.

AFPA CEO Ross Hampton said the Federal Court had delivered a strong endorsement of Australia’s sustainable native timber industry by rejecting the legal challenge.

“(The) decision is further proof that Australians can have confidence that our sustainably managed native forestry operations are regulated to the highest environmental standards,” Mr Hampton said.

The Bob Brown Foundation had billed the challenge as “The Great Forest Case”and claimed it would use it to mount similar legal challenges to the Victorian, NSW and WA RFAs, with a view to shutting down Australia’s native timber industries.

“The activists have been dealt a resounding defeat. It is time the anti-forestry activists ended the ‘lawfare’ against a sustainable, carbon-positive industry that supports tens of thousands of regional jobs and is the lifeblood of so many communities,” Mr Hampton said.

“Closing down Australia’s sustainably managed native timber industry won’t stop the demand for quality appearance-grade hardwood timber for floorboards, staircases and furniture. It will just increase imports from countries with weaker regulations, including those where rainforests are logged unsustainably and illegally,” he said.

Andrew Walker, who is the chief executive of Neville Smith Forest Products Group, said the decision gave the company confidence moving forward.

“A dark cloud has been lifted for our business, our employees and also customers and community stakeholders that rely on our native timber,” Mr Walker said.

“The ramifications in this case would have meant that activities that rely on native timber such as wooden boat building, furniture making, artisans relying on native timber would have been lost forever for Tasmania.

“[We’re] a major supplier of Tasmanian oak to the national market and this will give consumers and customers great confidence in the sustainability of our products.”

Dr Brown posted on the foundation’s Facebook page that “this is just a setback and doesn’t change one iota our campaign to end native forest logging”.

And he was reported as saying that protesters were on their way into the Tarkine to resume protest activity and attempt to halt the felling of trees.

Dr Brown told The Australian his legal team was examining the 30-page judgment and further legal action was possible.

“We are looking at grounds for appeal but also alternative legal action,” Dr Brown said, also flagging a ramped-up protest campaign, beginning with a rally in Hobart on Thursday.

The Bob Brown the foundation was looking closely at its grounds for appeal against the federal court decision “which was wrong”.

“However, that (legal action) is just one quiver to our bow of protecting what remains of Australia’s native forests and wildlife.”

Counsel for the foundation, Ron Merkel QC, said it reserved its position on costs and an appeal.

The Tasmanian Government said it would be making a claim for court cost compensation.