The long-term damage caused by the State Government in Victoria’s decision to close the native timber industry – prematurely or otherwise – is rapidly becoming obvious.
In fact, that government’s treatment of rural Victoria makes it even worse.
John Cameron knows what he is talking about. His forestry CV is impressive.
This week he stated the obvious, but it needed to be stated. And it needs to be stated again, and again, and again.
Industry closures in the Latrobe Valley and surrounding areas of Gippsland have increased and transitional arrangements promised by the Andrews Government have failed. Job numbers have decreased despite the Andrews government spending a huge amount of your taxes in a futile attempt to create more jobs.
The bottom line, he wrote, was that many timber workers will be forced to sell their homes at a discounted price into an oversupplied local market and move to get employment, disrupting family and community connections. Some will move to Melbourne putting pressure on Melbourne’s scarce housing and congested infrastructure. Others will be forced take fly-in fly-out jobs with adverse family consequences. Others will undertake the government retraining and still struggle to find a job.
There are already so many sad stories coming out of towns like Orbost.
Then John nails it: Many community organisations that are the lifeblood and fabric of rural society will fold (eg service clubs, sporting clubs etc.). Schools will close because of declining pupils and many towns will struggle to attract the doctors, health workers etc required.
The Government decision is a disaster for rural and regional development, Gippsland forests, global sustainability, human rights and world peace.
And he points out that, whether by design or accident, it is good news for Chinese exporters of wood products processed with coal fired power. It is also good news for Russian exporters of logs (conflict timber).
That’s a theme new Forest & Wood Communities Australia executive officer Michael Harrington has picked up on.
He points out that every time we use Australian sustainable native timber, we are also choosing not to support catastrophic illegal logging overseas. According to Interpol Illegal logging contributes between 15% and 30% of the world wood trade every year and is believed by United Nations experts to range from US$30 to US$100 Billion a year.
The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) believes illegal logging directly contributes to funding many criminal groups, including African terrorist groups like Al-Shabaab and Boko Haram.
He says that the choice is very clear when it comes to hardwood timber supply – we must choose a well-regulated sustainable industry here in Australia – with the rigorous oversights that a stable democracy and ingrained institutions afford, with the added benefit of sustaining our communities and enabling home grown manufacturing success stories.
Failing that Mick says we are choosing to support the chaotic wanderings of semi-functioning foreign governments and their resident criminal and terrorist groups where illegal logging funds some of history’s most heinous crimes against both humanity and the environment.
Unfortunately, he says, this seems not to register with Victorian State Labor government and the activist class, where votes and purported virtue are more important than environmental and humanitarian outcomes.
In fact, it probably didn’t even cross their collective minds.