Gippsland’s forestry industry will benefit from new laws aimed to increase protection from politically motivated protest disruption.
The Nationals Member for Gippsland South Danny O’Brien said he was happy to join his Nationals colleagues in supporting the Sustainable Forests Timber Amendment (Timber Harvesting Safety Zones) Bill 2022, which aims to protect timber workers from dangerous workplace incursions.
Mr O’Brien said the legislation was crucial to protect the rights of lawful workers who have been unfairly subjected to attacks as the result of a concerted campaign by green groups to damage the industry.
“The forestry industry is a massive employer in Gippsland including in my electorate of Gippsland South in places like Yarram and Sale and its workers deserve to feel the same security as anyone else,” Mr O’Brien said.
“This legislation will help ensure forestry workers can get up and go to work each day without being blocked by protestors or facing the added risk of having their health and safety compromised by the dangerous actions of extremists.
“I can think of no other workplace where workers are regularly physically prevented from doing their jobs.”
Mr O’Brien said the new laws will increase penalties for those found to be illegal entering and protesting within Timber Harvesting Safety Zones. Protestors who enter these zones and dangerously interfere with workers or their machinery, will now be subject to fines of more than $21,000 or 12-months imprisonment.
Authorised Officers will be provided the power to search containers, bags and vehicles for prohibited items, of which PVC and metal pipes will now be considered. These items are often used for “lock-on” protests which disrupt harvesting operations.
“Our forestry workers have been stopped from working for years with little-to-no support from the Andrews Labor Government – this legislation is very late but no less welcome.
“Despite ridiculous claims to the contrary from green groups, no-one will be denied their rights to protest – they just won’t be able to block operations within a timber coupe without suffering the consequences.
Mr O’Brien said The Nationals and Liberals had committed to overturning Labor’s plan to end the native hardwood industry.
“This is a sustainable, carbon-sequestering industry that harvests just 4 in 10,000 trees in Victoria each year and we will continue to support it.”