There is something of a proverbial saying – dating back to the reign of Henry VIII – that says silence equals consent.
The principle is not accepted in modern English law, but it cost Sir Thomas More his head in 1535 when asked at his trial why he was silent on being asked to acknowledge the king’s supremacy over the church.
Sir Thomas argued that his silence equalled consent, but the court held it equalled denial. The king desperately wanted Sir Thomas’ “approval”.
What’s this history lesson got to do with anything today?
The Member for Eastern Victoria Melina Bath seems to think it’s got a lot to do with the Victorian Government’s attitude to the timber industry.
During constituency questions, she took the opportunity to raise the issue of what she described as the appalling treatment of Gippsland native timber mill workers, whose livelihoods are being destroyed by a “slack government” which has abandoned its commitment to maintain wood supply at 2019 levels.
“Third-party litigation has seen timber harvesting cease or dwindle, and wood volume is in dire shortage,” she told Parliament.
“Strangling the mills, the Andrews government is ignoring its promise to maintain the industry at 2019 levels.”
“Protections under the greater glider action statement require VicForests to retain 40% in each coupe when conditions are triggered, which it has done for the last four years. The issue sits with the ambiguities and flaws in the timber code of practice. Minister, will you gazette the 40% rule in the timber code of practice, so it gains the legislative power for the courts to recognise and stop this third-party litigation?”
Hansard did not record a response from the Minister Lily D’Ambrosio.
So, to put a halt to the roundabout of coupes being opened by VicForests, then closed by litigation time and time again, all the Minister has to do is gazette the 40% rule in the timber code of practice, so it gains the legislative power for the courts to recognise and stop this third-party litigation?
It seems so.
Then, it must be asked, does this hesitancy meet the silence is consent maxim? Does this hesitancy mean the Minister is giving silent consent for the third-party litigation to continue?
That, at the end of the day, might be for the voters in Victoria to decide on 26 November.