Timber workers rally to save industry

By Country News

About 200 timber industry workers rallied outside State Parliament in Melbourne on Tuesday, to protest the new government policy that will ban timber harvesting in Victorian forests by 2030.

Arbuthnot Sawmills managing director Paul Madden travelled for five hours from Koondrook to attend the rally.

“The rally was very peaceful and the timber workers acted admirably,” Mr Madden said.

“It was a great contrast to other protests, we didn't disturb the public.”

A number of speakers discussed the sustainability of the timber industry, including Australian Forest Products Association chief executive officer Ross Hampton, Victorian Association of Forest Industries chief executive officer Tim Johnston, Victorian Nationals leader Peter Walsh and a logging contractor from Gippsland.

Mr Walsh said he was proud to stand with timber workers at the rally.
"Timber workers made it clear today they won’t back down, despite the disgraceful Labor no-show on the front steps,” he said.

“We know and appreciate the value of the industry to our regional communities."

The Liberal Nationals have pledged to reverse the ban if elected to government in 2022.

J. & G. Coulter director Jeanette Coulter from Kerang said she would support the decision to reverse the ban.
"We had quite a crowd of the Coalition on the steps of parliament who came and showed their support,” Mrs Coulter said.
The key message from the crowd was ‘Dan, don't destroy Victorian timber jobs’, as the change will leave many timber workers unemployed.
Victorian Environment Minister Lily D'Ambrosio said a phase-out of all logging in native forests by 2030 would reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere by 1.71 million tonnes.
“We’re taking this step to protect our precious natural gifts for generations to come, while striking the right balance between the environment and jobs,” Ms D'Ambrosio said.
Mr Walsh said the logging ban had brought to light another issue — that timber workers would no longer be available to use their equipment to combat fires.

“The Premier also won’t say what impact his timber ban will have on firefighting resources, or how much timber Victoria will be importing from countries that don’t have Victoria’s world-class environmental regulation,” he said.

As part of the changes, VicForests said it would no longer harvest old growth trees, however, many timber industry workers believe there is no old growth trees being harvested in Victoria at present.

“By ending the destruction of our old growth forests immediately, we’re protecting the habitat of our greater gliders, Leadbeater’s possums and many other threatened species,” Ms D'Ambrosio said.