Govern­ment min­is­ters an­gered by forestry ban

Warragul & Drouin Gazette - - LOCAL LIVING - By Philip Hop­kins

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.

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