Wednesday, 10 June 2020
Tasmania: Forestry Industry
It's hard to believe that in a time of climate emergency, in the middle of a biodiversity crisis—a period in history that's been labelled as the sixth 'great extinction'—that legal loopholes exist for forestry operations right around this country which exempt those operations from federal environmental laws. For decades now in Australia, and in my home state of Tasmania, for over 20 years, forestry operations have effectively had their interests put above those of threatened species.
Now, I've often said that logging carbon-rich rainforests at this time in history is criminal—and I use that word subjectively. But we've just had a landmark court case in Victoria that says it is illegal. The Federal Court found on 4 June last week specifically that VicForests logging operations breached its code of practice for timber production and didn't apply the precautionary principle when assessing impacts on threatened species such as the greater glider or the Leadbeater's possum. These breaches of the code meant that the native forest logging exemption does not apply to the central highlands logging operation and must be assessed under the EPBC Act.
This effectively narrows exemptions that are in place under the regional forest agreements—dodgy agreements set up decades ago to support the interests of the logging industry—and it provides a significant opportunity to create stronger environmental laws around logging operations. So it sets an important legal precedent that's been celebrated as a huge win for wildlife, threatened by native forest logging right across this country. It's provided a much-needed boost of good news for thousands of forestry campaigners, protesters—those who care about the environment and about biodiversity right around this country.
I'd like to do a huge shout-out tonight for all those forestry protesters, for all those around the country who care about their forests and the future of their grandchildren. I'd especially like to thank the groups in Victoria that have campaigned for the last five years on this legal precedent—the friends of Leadbeater's Possum group, the Wilderness Society in Victoria and of course the Environmental Justice Australia legal team that have led this landmark legal action.
This decision sets an important legal precedent, meaning the exemption for native forest logging operations did not apply if they are in breach of rules that apply under the regional forestry agreements, and planned logging with a significant impact on federally listed threatened species must be assessed under the provisions of the EPBC Act.
This decision has implications for native forest logging right around the country, including, of course, in my home state of Tasmania—Tasmania, with implications for iconic species such as the Tasmanian devil, the swift parrot, the eastern quoll, the giant freshwater crayfish—which I must admit I have manhandled once, very, very carefully—the masked owl and other threatened species which are at serious threat from logging.
I note one of my fellow Tasmanian senators, Senator Chandler, has been leading a crusade in recent times against the Bob Brown Foundation, previously Senator Bob Brown who I replaced in this place. I want to ask Senator Chandler to reflect on who exactly is breaking the law because this legal precedent in Victoria strongly suggests that state based logging operations like Sus Timbers, Sustainable Timbers Tasmania, are indeed logging illegally if they ignore federal laws. And I want to applaud the Bob Brown Foundation and all those who support the Bob Brown Foundation, all those protesters, for standing up for our forests in a time of climate emergency and a time of a biodiversity crisis.