Australasia's home for timber news and information

Friday analysis: Albanese back-tracks on forestry promise


Prime Minister Anthony Albanese

So, now we know for certain what it means when a politician – in this case a potential prime minister – makes a promise.

It means zip. But we all pretty much knew that anyway.

In this case it was then Opposition Leader, Anthony Albanese, who wrote to forestry workers in Tasmania in May last year that: “I promise you that if I become Prime Minister, a Government I lead will not shut down the native forestry industry.”

The very concept of a Federal Government excluding the forestry industry from a manufacturing strategy, Mr Albanese said at the time, as “shameful”.

And how has the PM been caught out? The announcement on Thursday that a deal had been struck deal between the Greens and the Federal Government to ban the National Reconstruction Fund from direct investment in native logging projects. Oil and gas, of course, also miss out.

The Bill passed the lower house after about two hours of debate and will now go to the Senate, where the Greens hold the balance of power.

The legislation would have passed the lower house even without the Greens’ support given Labor holds most of the seats in the chamber.

But it will be a different story in the upper house, where the government doesn’t hold a majority and needs to secure the backing of the Greens and at least two crossbenchers in order to pass any legislation the Coalition doesn’t support.

But the decision to exclude logging from any funding has angered reportedly Tasmanian senators Jacqui Lambie and Tammy Tyrrell, who are both crossbenchers.

“Giving in to the Greens’ demands is a smack in the face to Tasmanians,” Senator Tyrrell was reported as saying.

“The prime minister needs to come out and explain this about face.”

He does indeed, but the truth is he probably won’t.

In their original NRF plan, the Albanese Government pledged that $500 million would be reserved specifically for support across the agriculture, fisheries and forestry sectors. This was a centrepiece of their pre-election promises to the forestry industry.

It might be a bit trite to point out, but in terms of what the Greens have “achieved” in this country so far in terms of native timber do they not realise that materials like hardwood and paper will be now imported from countries many of which have far less environmental controls over logging, and on fossil fuel-burning ships and planes?

Obviously not, but political points have been scored, and it seems that’s all that matters.

Australian Forest Products Association CEO Joel Fitzgibbon quite rightly described it as “a shameful victory for politics over sensible policy”.

Mr Fitzgibbon said it was time to “start staring the Greens down”.

It is indeed, but which Federal or State government has the political will to do it?