The departure of Joel Fitzgibbon from the Australian Forests Products Association this week will leave a huge hole in the field of forestry advocacy.
Mr Fitzgibbon served as Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry in 2013 and was the co-chair of the Federal Parliament’s Friends of Forest Industries Group, a position he held for seven years.
“During that time, I observed an industry which is passionate about the role it can play in climate mitigation, building our regional communities by providing meaningful and secure jobs and delivering the millions of fibre-based products we often take for granted,” he said.
He joined the AFPA Board in 2022 as an independent non-executive director.
He went on to chair the AFPA board and serve a term as acting CEO after the departure of Ross Hampton.
His connections with governments of both persuasions were vital in his negotiations on behalf of the timber industry.
But he didn’t play favourites, regularly taking aim at both sides of politics in defence of the timber industry.
Only late last year he was blasting former Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews and those he saw as green ideologues for their opposition to the native forestry sector and denying the role the sector makes in fighting climate change.
“Those who push fiction over facts. Those who misrepresent science and physics to achieve their jobs and value-destroying objectives,” he told a recent Australian and New Zealand Institute of Foresters conference.
Mr Fitzgibbon was a true friend of the forestry industry, and it is to be hoped his passion and advocacy will not be lost.
Meanwhile, the current situation in Tasmania, where the future of the State’s minority Liberal government is on a knife-edge, after a key independent warned he would move a no-confidence motion unless his key demands were met, will be watched closely by the timber industry.
Premier Jeremy Rockliff is sticking by the ultimatum rejected by two independent MPs – John Tucker and Lara Alexander – to support his government or face an election.
But Mr Tucker has indicated a willingness to negotiate a new deal to prop-up the Rockliff government.
However, he warned Mr Rockliff, Australia’s only Liberal Premier, he would need to drop demands the two ex-Liberal independents agree not to vote for non-government amendments and motions.
Ms Alexander has already indicated she will not tolerate being bound to only support government-backed motions and amendments.
Talks are expected to continue today.
While Labor in Tasmania has been able to hold the Greens and their demand for an end to native timber logging in that State at bay, the promise of electoral success may see the two draw closer.
And in timber terms, that cannot be a good thing.