Hats off to the Wellington Shire Council for uncovering that Premier Daniel Andrews went to the last election and did not disclose the state government’s intention to shut down the native timber industry.
The FOI documents, finally released to the Council after years of requests and appeals, clearly show Premier Daniel Andrews signed off Labor’s 2030 ban on native timber in April 2018 – nearly two years before the government’s announcement in November 2019.
What is chilling is the handwritten note saying that “negotiations should be expedited, not delayed”.
Then, to delay the announcement smacks of arrogance and brutal manipulation.
There are many claims by forest workers that during those 12 months they were told by the State Government that their futures were secure.
Some contractors even have letters from the State Government confirming they were safe.
Many, on the strength of such letters, went out and purchased new machinery in the belief that their futures were secure.
Clearly those futures were not secure.
One such recipient of a letter was Corryong sawmill operator and pallet manufacturer Graham Walker.
He received a letter on 10 October 2019 from Victoria’s Minister for Regional Development, Agriculture and Resources Jaclyn Symes good enough to take to the bank. In fact, he did. The letter recommended he continue to work with VicForests to “fully utilise the available timber resources” to supply his mill.
It was the Victorian Government’s view, the letter said, “that the careful management of Victoria’s State forest can support the sustainable supply of resources as well as protection of biodiversity”.
It’s worth noting the date of that letter – 10 October 2019. It seems the industry’s fate was already decided in April the year before.
The State Government’s announcement that the industry was to be phased out was made in November 2019, just a month later.
It appears that such assurances to Mr Walker may have been made by State Government Minister Symes when the future of the industry had already been decided.
Leader of The Nationals and Shadow Minister for Agriculture Peter Walsh believes Premier Dan Andrews knew Labor’s end goal but then spent 18 months gaslighting Victorian timber workers and contractors with lies that their future was secure.
It looks like he may be right.