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Friday analysis: Pro native forestry WA’s abrupt about-turn

WA Premier Mark McGowan

The WA Government’s decision this week to shut down the state’s native timber industry came as a rude shock to the entire industry. The decision was seemingly made with no industry consultation and was crudely delivered to say the least.

One mill operator with 60 years’ experience in the industry Noel Holdsworth learnt of the decision from a friend who read it on Facebook.

That’s simply adding inglorious insult to callous injury.

That’s just rude.

What makes it harder to fathom is that it wasn’t that long ago the WA State Government was seemingly a fan of the native timber industry.

It wasn’t that many years ago that WA’s Minister for Forests, Dave Kelly, launched a plan that set a new strategic direction for the state’s forestry industry based on local Aborigines’ spiritual outlook.

He said the ecologically sustainable approach would transform the forestry industry and create new opportunities for economic growth and jobs.

Just last year, Greens MP Diane Evers introduced a Bill that proposed banning logging in native forests, but it was not supported by the McGowan Government.

Something happened between then and now to change the government’s mind.

It could have been the huge election win the government in WA in March.

The win was so comprehensive ABC News election analyst Antony Green called the election for the Labor Party 42 minutes after the polls closed.

Labor won 53 out of 59 of the seats in the Legislative Assembly while the Liberals had a wipe-out loss and won only two seats. The Nationals claimed the four remaining seats and became the largest opposition party in the Assembly.

Sadly, Premier Mark McGowan is holding all the cards.

In Victoria where a similar native timber decision was made not that long ago, there were suggestions that it was done to appease the Greens who had helped Labor win power in that State.

Mr McGowan clearly didn’t need to appease anyone.

His decision will be well-and-truly bedded down before he has to face the voters again and, on the face of it, it would take a monumental turnaround for him to be defeated.

The future of Victoria’s native timber industry probably lies with the Liberal Party’s decision to change leaders this week.

With the Libs installing Matthew Guy at the helm again after toppling Michael O’Brien, they must think they will have a chance at the State Elections late next year.

That remains to be seen.

However, the worrying element is that the WA announcement will embolden the environmental movement, which will see the decision as a win, or worse, an endorsement.