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Friday analysis: ‘Yes Minister’ logic applied to Victorian forestry

Yes Minister BBC series

So, the Victorian Government’s transition plan for Eastern Gippsland post the end of native timber logging in 2030 is to create a new state-owned nursery growing, apparently, mountain Ash seedlings for bushfire affected areas and then blue gum for pulp. Source: Bruce Mitchell

Planning requirements are being worked on ahead of the project commencement in the “coming months”.

It will, apparently, create “up to 30 new jobs”.

That will hardly go anywhere near helping the thousands and thousands of people who rely on the native timber industry right now but face losing their livelihoods over the next 10 years.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that some people – particularly tho

se with young families – are already planning to leave the timber industry in East Gippsland for more stable work elsewhere.

They can hardly be blamed, and they will be hard to replace both in terms of work experience and community contribution.

Does the Victorian State Government even understand that it takes around 30 years for a tree to be ready for saw log harvesting, if they are planted today?

Does the Victorian State Government even understand that houses can’t be built from Blue Gums, and that apparently Blue Gums don’t even grow well in the Gippsland region?

Does the Victorian State Government even understand that “up to 30 jobs” will not – as East Gippsland MP Melina Bath points out – replace 21,000 jobs and an industry that delivers $7.32 billion through Victoria’s economy?

Apparently not.

The Government seems to be following the principle of politician’s syllogism, also known as the politician’s logic or the politician’s fallacy, as described in Yes Minister:

1 – We must do something (or be seen to be doing something).

2 – This is something.

3 – Therefore, we must do this.

This is usually carried out with little thought as to what that “something” should be or even needs to be.

Or as Nationals leader in Victoria Peter Walsh put it: “This is just another smoke and mirrors timber announcement that will not deliver long term jobs, nor will it replace our sustainable native timber industry”.

Meanwhile the CFMEU, which it must be said is a huge supporter of the timber industry and its employees, seems to have really upset Bunnings, to the point of a lawyers’ letter sent.

Bunnings, it should be remembered, organised the truck blockades of Bunnings’ Traralgon store in the early hours of 22 July this year.

This of course was in response to Bunnings decision to stop selling timber logged by VicForests after a court found the state government-owned forestry agency breached conservation laws.

VicForests has since lodged an appeal against the finding.

The CFMEU’s response to the “cease and desist’’ request was classic CFMEU.

While some industry organisations have to might need to curb their language for all the right reasons, the CFMEU has never been backward in coming very forward.

In response, the union accused Bunnings of “corporate bullying” of the state’s timber communities.

The union said it would not be silenced.

And the Australian Forest Contractors Association joined in, with general manager Stacey Gardiner saying it has been told by forest contractors, timber workers, their families and communities to “keep getting the message out there to boycott Bunnings until they end their boycott of local timber jobs”.

It’s just what the timber industry needs; organisations getting angry and putting a bit of stick about (pardon the pun).

At the other end of the State, the seemingly long running issue of OneFortyOne and domestic log supply and export lease conditions may at last have been drawn to a close.

The SA State Government announced this week that an independent audit by BDO Advisory (SA) and specialist forest sector advisory firm Indufor had found OFO was “fully compliant”.

Whether that will placate timber processors in the Green Triangle who have repeatedly complained of a lack of supply remains to be seen.

It’s unlikely, because the auditors apparently didn’t speak to them.

And that could be considered unusual, and perhaps unfortunate.