Western Australia’s Minister for Forestry Dave Kelly must listen to the concerns of the forestry industry and drastically improve his attempt at a recently announced compensation package which has been labelled offensive by the sector, according to the State Opposition.
The Labor Government’s announcement last year that banned hardwood harvesting in Western Australia has been followed up by a lack of engagement with the industry by the Mr Kelly to discuss compensation. Source: Timberbiz
Shadow Minister for Forestry, Steve Martin, said the initial announcement came as a complete shock to the forestry industry without any consultation with the sector.
“Now Mr Kelly has handed down a package that is too narrow in its scope and will not compensate the many small businesses affected by the Government’s unscientific decision to ban hardwood harvesting,” Mr Martin said.
After a shambolic process filled with repeatedly cancelled meetings and a complete void of information, the resulting package has been described as “offensive” and “deplorable” by representatives of the industry.
Forest Industries Federation WA (FIFWA) Chief Executive Officer Adele Farina said that the State Government was demanding that harvest and haulage businesses continue in the industry until at least July 2023, despite many skilled workers resigning to take more secure jobs elsewhere.
“If this wasn’t bad enough, a business that becomes unfinancial due to no fault of its own and as a direct consequence of the Government’s policy decision, will become ineligible to access any of the business funding packages,” Ms Farina said.
Ms Farina said the draft business transition program illustrates the contempt the State Government has for family run timber businesses that not only provide local jobs but support regional communities.
Mr Martin said Mr Kelly needed to hear from the affected businesses and not make this decision based on the findings of a handful of meetings “stacked with Department staff and union officials”.
“This arrogant Minister initially offered the industry only a week to offer feedback on the poorly designed package,” he said.
“He has since realised that timeframe is hopelessly inadequate and now needs to listen to the genuine concerns of the industry.”
Ms Farina said the package had been based upon the Forest Products Commission’s indicative supply volume figures for 2022.
These figures fell well short of the base contracted volume and had been “plucked from the air”.
Due to the nature of the eligibility criteria, very few businesses will be able to access the packages. Those who do manage to check all the boxes will still require final approval from the Minister.
“Despite starving the forestry industry of material, the Labor Government are demanding the industry continue operating until July 2023 in order to claim compensation,” said Mr Martin.
“Businesses are now faced with heavy job losses, a stark shortage of material and a steep increase in operational costs.
“It is impossible to expect that businesses will be able survive long enough in these conditions to claim any compensation.
“The Labor Government have proven that they do not care about small business.
“By starving the forestry industry of materials and compensation, the Government’s decision doesn’t just impact loggers and sawmills. It also ensures the end of secondary industries who rely on hardwood materials,” said Mr Martin.
Furniture manufacturers, construction companies, heritage builders and firewood suppliers were just some examples of the many secondary industries facing a very uncertain future due to the State Government’s short-sighted and poorly planned decision.
“The Minister refuses to acknowledge that this decision has already had far-reaching effects across not only the primary forestry industry, but other industries who rely on hardwood as well,” Mr Martin said.
“Industries like furniture manufacturers and firewood suppliers are already seeing the negative impact this decision has had on their business.
“The Minister continues to ignore their cries for help, saying that it’s business as usual.
“Anyone who works in these industries knows that this isn’t the case,” said Mr Martin.