Government ministers angered by forestry ban
Gippslanders will not be able to buy many Gippsland forestry products from Bunnings or Officeworks within 18 months, provoking anger from a senior Andrews Government minister and the federal forestry minister.
This follows announcements from Bunnings and Officeworks that they will only sell forest products certified by FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) from 2020.
VicForests’ timber, which includes Gippsland products such as Reflex copy paper, as well as flooring and furniture, is certified only by PEFC through the Responsible Wood/Australian Forestry Standard.
In response, Philip Dalidakis, the Minister for Small Business, Innovation and Trade in the Victorian Government, vowed that he would boycott Bunnings and Officeworks if they refused to sell Victorian forestry products.
“As far as I am aware, I’m the only MP in Australia who has said ‘I will not go to Officeworks and I will not go to Bunnings if they stop selling Victorian timber in either of their premises’,” he told the annual dinner of the Victorian Association of Forest Industries in Melbourne last week. Mr Dalidakis is a former chief executive of VAFI.
“No one else has done that. I challenge my parliamentary colleagues regardless of their politics, that they will not even go to Bunnings to buy a sausage sizzle if they refuse to sell VicForest-supplied timber. It’s not on – certainly not today or tomorrow.”
The Federal Government has also foreshadowed a tough approach towards the retailers. The Assistant Minister for Agriculture, Senator Richard Colbeck, said he was frustrated with some of the major retailers “who seem to think they can pick and choose between forestry standards”.
Senator Colbeck, who is responsible for forestry, was speaking at a forestry conference in Launceston earlier this month.
“The Australian Government accepts the Australian Forestry Standard (now Responsible Wood, Australia) – we obviously had a part in the development of the AFS,” he said.
“I find it hard to accept that the Australian Government won’t be able to buy products that are certified under AFS with the attitude of some of the retailers.
“If they have that attitude, I might have a different attitude to them, so we are going to have to play the game pretty hard.”
Senator Colbeck, who did not mention Bunnings and Officeworks by name, said there was strong acceptance of certification systems. Also, “work needs to be done in that space given the role of some environmental groups in relation to AFS”, he said.
“I’ll have conversations with them and FSC to ensure the market continues to accept AFS. That will be extremely important in the growth of the industry and role of the Australian sector.”
Certification shows the consumer that the forest product comes from sustainably and ethically harvested forests.
PEFC (Program for the Endorsement of Forest Certification) is the dominant system, particularly in Europe, with 307 million hectares of forest certified worldwide. FSC, which is favoured by Green groups, has 200.7 million ha of forest certified.
VicForests is seeking FSC certification. All commercial native timber harvesting in Australia is certified by PEFC/Responsible Wood, including Queensland, New South Wales, Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia.
Of Victoria’s 7.1 million hectares of public forest, about 94 per cent is protected in parks, reserves or is unsuitable for harvesting. VicForests harvest about 3000 hectares per year, or 0.04 per cent – the equivalent of four in every 10,000 trees.