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Victoria’s new Bill to stop illegal forest protestors

Protestors who illegally enter coupes in Victoria and dangerously interfere with workers or their machinery will be subject to stronger penalties including maximum fines of more than $21,000 or 12-months imprisonment. Source: Timberbiz

And PVC and metal pipes, which can be used in dangerous protest activities, will be added to the prohibited items list meaning they potentially attract extra fines if used to hinder or obstruct timber harvesting operations.

The new regulations were introduced into State Parliament yesterday.

Victorian Forest Products Association CEO Deb Kerr immediately welcomed the introduction of the Bill.

“Every person has the right to be safe at work,” she said.

“Protesters have ignored this right far and wide, with a detrimental effect on the physical and mental health of workers.

“The Bill is an important step towards ensuring the safety of forestry workers but also importantly, the safety of protesters,” Ms Kerr said.

“What we’re hoping is that environmental activists will think twice before entering a harvest zone. Everyone has the right to protest but not at the cost of the safety and well-being of others.”

The State Government says the Sustainable Forests Timber Amendment (Timber Harvesting Safety Zones) Bill 2022 will modernise enforcement measures to better deter dangerous protest activities within Timber Harvesting Safety Zones. These zones are small and restricted areas where forestry activities are being undertaken.

To prevent repeated safety risks across multiple Timber Harvesting Safety Zones, authorised officers will be able to issue Banning Notices. The notices will aim to stop individuals from repeatedly engaging in dangerous activities in Timber Harvesting Safety Zones and other forestry coupe areas.

Authorised officers will be given additional powers to search containers, bags and vehicles for prohibited items.

“Every Victorian has the right to be safe at work. Protests are becoming increasingly dangerous particularly for workers, which is why this legislation will support them to get on with their job and minimise disruption to the industry,” Agriculture Minister Mary-Anne Thomas said.

“We respect the right to protest safely but want to make sure workers go home to their families each day.”

The Bill will bring the Sustainable Forests (Timber) Act 2004 in line with other similar pieces of legislation such as the Wildlife Act 1975.

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