Australia’s peak forest industry body says the best way to ensure forest products were legal and from sustainably managed sources was to buy Australian.
The National Association of Forest Industries (NAFI) applauded the Government’s initiative to stop the importation of illegally sourced forest that not only hurt the domestic forest industry but provide an income source for illegal forestry operations overseas.
“But until this policy is effectively in place, the most effective way to ensure the timber, wood panels, paper and other products we use are from legal and sustainable sources is to buy Australian,” said NAFI chief executive officer Allan Hansard.
“The benefit of this approach is that you are also maintaining Australian jobs and regional communities. It will assist Australian businesses compete against the deluge of imported forest products that are hitting our shores as a result of the Global Financial Crisis and high Australian dollar.
“Australia must play its role as a good global citizen on this matter,” said Hansard.
“NAFI urges that the illegal logging policy must be part of a broader strategy to address the cause of the problem and not just the symptoms.
“Australia must encourage the sustainable management practices in overseas forestry operations which emulate the high-internationally recognised standards we have in Australia.
“By promoting sustainable forest management in these countries we can stamp out illegal operations while providing a long term sustainable future for the communities that rely on these forests for their existence and livelihood.
“If not done correctly the policy could punish legally sourced timber and forest dependent communities or simply push the illegally logged products to other markets around the globe.
“We look forward to working with the Government to ensure the policy effectively stamps out the importation of illegal forest products without creating any additional cost impost on our domestic industry, workers and communities,” he said.
And, according to the AEU more than 3000 West Australian timber jobs could have been saved because of the Federal Government’s planned crackdown on illegal timber.
“The Australian Workers’ Union has campaigned to protect the jobs of West Australia’s forest workers, whose livelihoods have been hurt by the dumping of illegally logged timber products onto the Australian market,” said West Australian AWU State Secretary Stephen Price.
All logging, chipping, milling work in the forestry industry in West Australia is covered by The Australian Workers’ Union.
“We are glad to hear that Minister Joe Ludwig acknowledges that illegal logging is a major problem for many developing nations and directly threatens Australian timber jobs. Internationally, illegal logging is estimated to cost more than $60 billion each year.
“Western Australia’s logging industry operates under strict guidelines to protect our environment. The AWU is happy to work within those guidelines.
“We believe that today our members face bigger threats to job security from the dumping of illegally obtained timber from overseas than from any regulatory framework in Australia aimed at protecting our forests,” Price said.
Under the proposed new laws importers will now need to meet a due diligence test to ensure the timber they are sourcing has not been illegally logged and dumped in Australia. The new rules will apply to all timber products including sawn timber, wood panels, pulp, paper, wooden furniture and composite products. The legal origins of these products must be clearly verified according to requirements set out in the legislation.
“The legislation will encourage investment in the West Australian timber industry, provide more job security for timber workers and give consumers and businesses greater certainty about the timber products they buy,” he said.
While some positives have come from the Government’s latest announcement, this isn’t the case according to Coalition Forestry Spokesperson Senator Richard Colbeck.
He said that bereft of any new policy, Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Minister Joe Ludwig had been forced to start re-announcing Labor’s election policies.
Minister Ludwig announced:
“… the Gillard Government will introduce legislation restricting the importation and sale of illegally logged timber.”
Yet, on 12 August during the election campaign Minister Ludwig’s predecessor Minister Tony Burke announced:
“A re-elected Gillard Labor Government will introduce tough new legislation making it an offence to import any timber products into Australia that have not been legally harvested.”
“There is nothing new in Minister Ludwig’s statement except that the legislation will be introduced into Parliament in 2011,” said Senator Colbeck.
“The Labor Party didn’t even release a Forestry Policy document during the election, or Fisheries or Agriculture,” Senator Colbeck said.
“As a result of this Minister Ludwig is now being forced to re-hash policy announcements.
“The Minister can’t even properly manage the very few ‘new’ programs within his portfolio.
“For instance, the $20 million Labor announced for struggling forest contractors during the election still hasn’t seen the light of day. It may not appear until the New Year.
“There are an enormous amount of challenges facing the primary industries sector in Australia. Re-hashed policy announcements will do nothing to address these challenges,” the Senator said.