Member for Euroa and Nationals deputy leader Steph Ryan has accused the Andrews Government of trying to shut Victoria’s timber industry by stealth.
It comes as green activists today shut down most of Victoria’s timber industry by seeking an interim court injunction over 29 logging coupes managed by VicForests, or 80 per cent of the area available for timber harvesting.
Cameron Webb, a logging contractor from Bonnie Doon, was forced out of work today along with the eight others in his team.
“We bend over backwards to ensure we adhere to the correct harvesting practices but I and everyone I work with are now without work because the government won’t protect us,” Mr Webb said.
Ms Ryan said VicForests didn’t have the resources to keep fighting these claims, which meant harvesters and mills had no choice but to down tools.
“The conservation regulator has a responsibility to oversee the regulation of Victoria’s public land and forests. She is armed to the back teeth with powers to investigate forestry operations.
“These cases, brought by groups opposed to sustainable native timber harvesting are founded on claims that VicForests has or will breach its regulatory obligations under the Code of Practice for Timber Production 2014.
“All of these cases are based on allegations relating to obligations that are subject to the regulatory powers of DELWP and OCR and in some instances, these cases include claims about matters that have already been investigated by the regulator.”
Ms Ryan said in the past three years, not a single claim against VicForests had been upheld, but the organisation had spent $.48 million in legal costs defending itself and court injunctions continued to force people to down tools.
The Andrews Labor Government has already announced they will close the native timber industry in 2030.
“Forcing people to shut up shop early means the Andrews Government doesn’t have to pay compensation to the state’s timber workers when they close it permanently in 2030,” Ms Ryan said.
“This has ramifications not only for the local people employed in these jobs, but also for secondary industries like building and horticulture which relies on the pallets produced to get their products to market.
“The Andrews Government is actively trying to close the timber industry down while we face severe shortages of building supplies.
“Labor is pandering to activists who are unwilling to confront the basic questions of where Victoria will source the timber it needs when our industry closes. Victoria’s timber industry keeps rural people employed who harvest timber under some of the strictest controls in the world.
“When it goes, we will be forced to import timber from overseas where we can’t know how it has been harvested. Labor has betrayed blue collar workers in a desperate bid to win green votes.”