Australasia's home for timber news and information

Friday analysis: Victoria’s forestry has its hands tied behind its back

Australians, in general, have always been happy – more or less – to be involved in a fair and equal fight.

But it needs to be fair. Having one, or both, hands tied behind the back is simply not fair.

What makes it even more unpalatable is when that handicap has the appearance of being, for want of a better phrase, officially sanctioned.

Take the matter of anti-logging campaigners Environment East Gippsland and VicForests currently before the Supreme Court in Victoria.

During cross-examination in the Supreme Court last week EEG co-ordinator Jill Redwood admitted that the organisation had diverted $336,000 into a trust fund just three weeks before commencing legal action against VicForests, which will stop the money being used to cover any court-awarded costs if it lost the case.

Once locked in the sub-fund, the money can apparently only be released back to EEG on the approval of its trustees and “limited to one grant per annum”.

The trustees of the sub-fund are EEG co-ordinator Jill Redwood, the group’s treasurer Trevor Coon and Victorian Greens Party founder Linda Parlane.

It is a fair bet that the trustees would be unwilling to allow such funds to be released to cover court costs, but of course that’s up to the trustees.

But Ms Redwood was prepared to admit that by placing the money into the trust fund she was aware of the consequences regarding the money should EEG lose the current court action.

Is that legal? It would seem so.

Is that fair? Well …

Given that VicForests is already owed around $2m in awarded court costs from cases involving environmental groups, probably not.

Given suggestions, which have been vigorously denied by the Victorian State Government, that pressure has been applied to encourage VicForests to drop the matter, again probably not.

Having two hands tied behind the back is one thing, being blindfolded is another.

Just before Christmas last year EEG and Kinglake Friends of the Forests were granted injunctions blocking VicForests and its contractors from harvesting any East Gippsland and the Central Highlands native forest coupes that are within 240m of greater glider sightings.

“I was stood down from a coupe recently because of a sighting that was made five years ago,” Taggerty-based contractor Mick Johnston told The Weekly Times.

Mick has spent more than 50 years of service in the industry
“I’m sick of going backwards,” he said.

He’s quitting the business. He’s sick of having his hands tied behind his back.

And he’s not alone.

All anyone in the timber industry wants is a level playing field.

Surely that’s not too much to ask.