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Friday analysis: Vic timber shortage could be left for other states to fix

The timber shortage situation is not getting any better. In fact, indications are that it’s getting worse. There are reports from the Frame and Truss Manufacturers Association of Australia that some timber companies are leapfrogging fabricators and are dealing directly with builders. The FTMA also reports that fabricators are also being approached by new upstart businesses selling timber at ridiculously inflated prices.

The FTMA has quite rightly urged fabricators to ensure whatever timber they purchase meets the Australian Standards.

The one constant seems to be that no one knows when it is going to end.

Victorian Forest Products Association CEO Deb Kerr quite rightly points out that current shortage for shows just how short-sighted the Victorian Government’s plan to exit native forestry really is.

Robert Gottliebsen writing in The Australian gave a distinctly sombre view of the situation.

He argues that the shortage is not a one-off event and is going to get a lot worse unless governments and policies change.

Gottliebsen says that in the longer-term Victoria’s anti-timber policies may cause NSW and South Australia to block their hardwood timber from going into Victoria to relieve Victorian-created shortages, which will test the constitution.

Test it, it certainly would. Section 92 of the Australian Constitution says, in essence, that trade between the states must be free.

He says the Victorian government believes it has a right to take hardwood timber from NSW and South Australia while at the same time shutting down its own hardwood industry to retain inner city seats with strong green votes.

“But politicians in NSW and South Australia will have to explain to their voters that their timber shortages are set to be even more severe because their timber goes off to Victoria to appease green voters.”

Gottliebsen says that eventually ordinary Australians will realise that they are paying through the nose for timber because “their politicians want green votes and don’t understand that timber growing is a fantastic way of reducing carbon in the air while houses and other buildings can store it”.

It can only be hoped that message gets through to Gottliebsen’s “ordinary Australians” – especially in Victoria – sooner rather than later.

Meanwhile, the Federal Government is to be applauded for its changes to the charities laws and regulations, namely that charities that engage in or promote serious unlawful acts of trespass, vandalism, theft or assault and threatening behaviour can be investigated.

“What our government does not support is activist organisations masquerading as charities,” Assistant Minister for Forestry and Fisheries Jonno Duniam said.

The announcement was quietly made without fanfare, and it is strongly suggested that everyone who read about it probably had no doubt about the sort of “activist organisations masquerading as charities” that Senator Duniam was talking about.

We now need to see those regulations enforced.