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Labor missing in action at VAFI dinner

Ross Hampton

Not surprisingly no Victorian Labor politician showed his face at the Victorian Association of Forestry Industries (VAFI) awards dinner held on Friday 15 November in Melbourne. However, the number of opposition politicians was impressive including long time timber industry supporter Melina Bath, with Liberal leader Michael O’Brien, Liberals Darren Chester, Gary Blackwood, Louise Staley and Steph Ryan, and Nationals Wendy Lovell and Peter Walsh. Plenty was aired about the recent decision by Labor to stop native logging. Source: Timberbiz

“It is gut wrenching to see a government make a bad decision for the wrong reasons,” Victorian Liberal leader Michael O’Brien said. “That’s what we’ve seen this last week.

“We know it’s not about protecting old growth forests, that’s spin.

“Because they are protected anyway. It’s not often a liberal leader will agree with a union official, but Michael O’Connor said that this decision was clueless as well as heartless, I couldn’t put it any better myself.”

Mr O’Brien went on to say that it was the wrong decision economically, and it shows the attitude of a government that ‘doesn’t care’. He said it was also wrong socially and would impact a great number of people from all walks of life.

“It’s wrong environmentally, we know that this is the most sustainable, high standard logging industry not just in the country but I’d say in the world,” he said. “We know that if they don’t have sustainable native timber from Victoria, guess where they’ll be getting it from overseas … where they don’t have the same environmental standards.”

Mr O’Brien blatantly stated that if there is a change of government in 2022 if he was Premier the decision would be reversed because the industry deserved a future.

Ross Hampton, CEO Australian Forests Products Association (AFPA) arrived to speak wearing a yellow high vis vest and holding a bumper sticker which was distributed among the attendees that said ‘Dan, don’t destroy Victorian timber jobs’.

He started by discussing the longer term issues of destroying the native timber industry, bushfires in particular which are manned in a large part by timber workers as fire fighters and in the construction and maintenance of forestry tracks.

“We had an emergency meeting of the AFPA board,” he said. “All of the board members came together in unity around the fact that we have to stop this happening.

“The board members and the AFPA membership want to see, and will see, this turned around.”

He said the CFMEU, state level politicians from the Liberal and National parties, and even the Tasmanian Labor Party said they did not agree with this as did Federal Labor, Liberal and National parties.

Mr Hampton said that this push against the Victorian Labor Party decision was a marathon not a sprint.

“The campaign it’s going to be long, it’s going to be hard and it’s probably going to be expensive. But everyone around Australia understands that we need to do it,” he said.

“We all know that part of the problem of us making this argument is that we have so many good arguments.

“The point that all the research points to in Australia … is on two things and two things only – how much estate are you using and are you regrowing.

“In Victoria the number is four trees out of 10,000 is what we are accessing and by law it is regenerated regrowing.

“From 30% to 70% is where the support moves to when we start to talk about just those two things.”