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What can an Upper House inquiry do for native forestry?

Leader of the Victorian Opposition Michael O’Brien

At the protest rally held in Melbourne on Tuesday 26 November outside Parliament House, the leader of the Victorian opposition, Michael O’Brien, stated that he would instigate an inquiry into the closing down of the native forestry industry in Victoria. The proposed Legislative Council inquiry would commence in early 2020. But what does that mean for the forestry industry? Source: Timberbiz

Peter Walsh, Leader of the Nationals, confirmed they would refer the ban to a Parliamentary Upper House Committee. He said that this would ensure we get the facts about the sustainability of the timber harvest, how many jobs will be lost as a result of Labor’s ban and what it will mean when Victoria is forced to import inferior timber to meet demand.

Only a member of Victoria’s upper house can initiate an inquiry of this kind and so it will fall upon David Davis, the leader of the opposition in the upper house, to start the ball rolling.

Once the inquiry is underway it will be held before a Select Committee who is not only tasked with reviewing the matter brought before it but it is to be a specialised committee able to understand the industry. The committee to hear the inquiry is to receive detailed instruction or terms of reference.

However, the committee is appointed by the ruling party of the day, in this case Victorian Labor but in theory it is to be a ‘balanced’ group of people from all sides of politics but only made up of members of the upper house.

The Parliament of Victoria has an extensive system of committees that hold inquiries into issues. These committees call for input from the wider community, including experts, individuals, business and government organisations, to express their views.

If this inquiry goes ahead, then this will be a time when the industry must stand together and provide a mountain of information covering all the aspects of the native forestry industry that will be impacted. This should come from not only the forestry industry associations but also from loggers, sawmillers, truckers and local shop keepers whose towns will be affected, and everyone in between.

Once the inquiry is underway, anyone with an interest in the matter is able to submit information, the committee selects those it wants to interview in more depth and then puts together a report which is tabled in parliament, putting everything on the record.

Supposedly, this in-depth investigation of issues is to assist with better legislative decisions.

The Government has six months to respond to a committee’s final report, indicating whether it supports any recommendations made in the report.

If the protest is any indication of the Labor’s intentions then it’s looking bleak as Daniel Andrews and Labor MPs refused to meet with any of the protesters at the rally on Tuesday and did not make any appearances on the steps of Parliament House.

“It’s disgraceful Daniel Andrews and his Labor MPs did not come out to talk with timber workers,” Nationals Member for Eastern Victoria Region, Melina Bath said.

“Labor’s MPs chose to stay inside their offices, instead of facing the people who stand to lose their jobs.