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Friday analysis: Gotcha Bob Brown Foundation, you failed

It was a “Gotcha” moment for Bob Brown. Despite throwing almost everything it could, his Bob Brown Foundation failed in its Federal Court bid to shut down the native timber industry in Tasmania. Source: Bruce Mitchell

The court in its wisdom ruled that Tasmania’s Regional Forest Agreement did not contradict federal laws and was therefore valid.


The court also agreed that Tasmania’s RFA as well as a broader suite of protective measures (such as STT’s Swift Parrot Public Authority Management Agreement) existed in Tasmania to protect endangered species.

Gotcha again.

The foundation-labelled “Great Forest Case” was a decisive loss in what activists had hoped would be a history-making battle against Tasmania’s state government, the Federal Government and Sustainable Timber Tasmania.

Despite Dr Brown claiming the defeat was something akin to a bump in the road, the ruling will have a huge impact on the stability and legitimacy for RFA’s across Australia.

Tasmania’s Resources Minister Guy Barnett described the day as historic.

“We won. The forest industry has won. The workers of Tasmania have won. The Bob Brown Foundation has lost,” he said.

“This is a vote of confidence in the Regional Forest Agreement and all that it stands for.”

But it’s bigger than that. It’s effectively a vote of confidence in RFA’s across Australia.

Make no mistake; a foundation win could have ultimately led to the unravelling of RFAs across the country.

The foundation had been bolstered by victory in a similar case was won last year in Victoria between the Friends of the Leadbeater’s Possums and VicForests which VicForests is appealing.

This week’s win will provide VicForests with a ray of hope in its appeal.

The same goes for other State forestry bodies.

Dr Brown’s response was as expected. He’s urging his supporters back into the bush to resume protesting.

And here’s where the Forest & Wood Communities Australia may have just one more card to play in the “gotcha” moment.

FWCA has formally requested prosecutions of the Bob Brown Foundation by the work safety regulator WorkSafe Tasmania.

The requests, made under the Work Health and Safety Act 2012 (Tas), are for the reckless and dangerous actions engaged in by the foundation during workplace invasions in Tasmanian timber harvesting coupes in 2020.

The submissions, prepared by FWCA director Kelly Wilton, have drawn WorkSafe’s attention to incidents where there were risks of a serious injury or death, constituting the most serious breaches under the Act.

The FWCA makes a good argument.

Those who have worked in forests know the dangers. Noise, big machinery, lots big trucks abound.

It’s only through the implementation of well thought out occupational health and safety rules and regulations that severe injury and even deaths are avoided.

Those who work in forests know the rules and obey them. Their lives depend on it.

Throw in a wildcard such as a protestor who knows nothing of the OH&S rules – in fact wilfully ignores them – and someone is going to get hurt, or worse.

What is it about not accepting the umpire’s decision?

The foundation argued its case and lost. Comprehensibly.

Bob Brown needs to move on, not back.