The Weekend Australian Magazine recently ran a 4-page assault on Victoria’s native timber industry focusing on the recent Federal Court decision.
We understand that some industry leaders were interviewed for an hour or more by the journalist Ricky French who then ignored their information and persisted with the activist perspective.
Forest & Wood Communities Australia wrote the letter below to the editor of the magazine for publication in response to the article. We also provided directly to the editor a detailed critique of the articlein which we point serious omission of fact, misinformation and misleading statements.
We urge you to read the critique as within it are the tools to help you articulate our concerns about how the timber industry is reported by some sectors of mainstream media.
The letter below is an example of how to write to media outlets to explain the minimal impact of sustainable native timber harvesting.
Four trees in 10,000
If you were to measure the percentage of the forest estate harvested for timber in Victoria each year on a one-metre ruler, you wouldn’t even get to halfway of the first millimetre. 0.04% or four trees in 10,000 is the figure.
Yet even this tiny fraction of the forest provides direct and indirect employment for 15,000 Victorians in the timber industry and provides a multitude of products which store carbon and provide a natural and renewable alternative to plastic and concrete.
But if the anti-forestry activists who drove The Weekend Australian’s article “Possum magic…” are to be believed, this miniscule amount of carefully monitored and managed forest harbours so much of the Leadbeater’s Possum population, that timber harvesting has caused its decline by 50% in 22 years.
Even the most environmentally conflicted observer might perhaps question the sheer improbability of this claim and consider the subsequent studies conducted outside this tiny area which have found the possum in abundance.
Instead, the Andrews Government caved into this Greens-focused anti-forestry rhetoric by announcing the end of the native timber industry by 2030.
Along with the bewildering Federal Court decision (which we hope will be overturned on appeal), the impact on the wellbeing of people in the timber industry and their communities is devastating. These are people who contribute to society by providing sustainable and renewable timber products and are on the front line to save Leadbeater’s Possum from bushfires while activists are missing in action.
Yet multi-million-dollar conflict-based corporate activists such as The Wilderness Society and Bob Brown Foundation have made an industry out of attacking forestry so it is not in their interest to stop kicking us while we’re down. Nor is it in the interests of anti-forestry community protest groups who use the conflict model to peddle outrage like hemp shirts at a community market.
They are not saving Leadbeaters’ Possum from logging because timber harvesting in the 0.04% of Victorian forests has so little impact on them.
When you look at the business model behind anti-forestry activism which needs conflict to survive and targets our sustainable, renewable, world-certified timber industry without care or thought for the regional jobs and communities they are destroying, you will find the real corporate criminals.
Forest & Wood Communities Australia
Forest & Wood Communities Australia added its voice the Victorian Government's Inquiry into Ecosystem Decline in Victoria. The inquiry was the result of a motion by The Greens in October 2019 which was backed by the Labor Government. .
“We see this as yet another cynical move by The Greens and Labor’s green faction to increase the pressure on the government to lock up even more forest,” said FWCA managing director Justin Law.
“We also became aware of a campaign by activist groups to flood the inquiry with anti-forestry propaganda and that could not be left unchallenged”.
“However, it is also an opportunity for us to point out the many benefits of sustainable forest management and why the Andrews Government should reverse its decision to end native forest harvesting in Victoria.”
Not since the Tasmanian ‘forest wars’ have timber workers and their communities felt more besieged by malicious and carefully co-ordinated attacks on forestry and their jobs. Corporate activist organisations have ramped up their efforts to close down the industry in Western Australia, NSW, Victoria and Tasmania, which comes on the back of rural communities already hit by drought, bushfire and short-sighted government policy. Piling on are the minnow groups, who peddle outrage like hemp shirts at a community market, as they fund vexatious litigation against forestry operations.
- In WA, protesters are damaging machinery in Nannup as they falsely claim “old-growth” forest is being harvested.
- The NSW EPA is continually looking over the shoulder of workers as it proactively responds to activists claims in northern and southern NSW amidst a ferocious anti-forestry campaign.
- Several professional protest organisations are banding together to attack forestry operations in the Styx Valley in Tasmania.
- And the ongoing legal battles in Victoria, as every crowd-funded, perpetually outraged, not-in-my-backyard group snaps at the heels of forestry.
Stuck in the middle of it all are hardworking men and women, who just want to get on with their jobs and produce the legally sourced timber products that the very people who are demonising them use every day.
It is their voice which should be heard alongside the timber industry-funded organisations who are doing a great job of arguing the case for forestry publicly and at the highest levels of government.
Forest & Wood Communities Australia is a new association which represents those grassroots workers and their communities, the small businesses that support the industry, and those who want to continue to enjoy Australian-sourced native and plantation timber.
FWCA complements the existing representative organisations to create an even stronger representation of those directly affected by anti-forestry politics. Unlike other organisations that largely represent the business or sector interests of the industry, FWCA represents the voice of the workers, their families, lovers of timber, forest users and the communities they live in.
Our mission is to build an association that will:
- Tackle corporate activism head on;
- Stand up for you against disastrous government policy; and
- Give you the tools to join us in the fight to save our industry.
We have the support of professional foresters, timber industry organisations and impartial academics who ensure that we have the best current forestry science and expertise on our side. They are helping us to fight back against the tide of overwhelming anti-forestry bias that has played out in the media, in government, in academia and in the legal system.
Our battlefront is in the public arena and we will be a proactive and loud voice in the media and in Parliament. We will use social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook to highlight the issues which affect us and inform you of the action we take.
We have already been successful in drawing the attention of the media to issues around some of the science which is used to attack the industry and we will continue to make sure there is at least balance in forestry issue reporting.
To ensure we are successful, we need to grow our membership and ask all supporters of the Australian plantation and native timber industry to join with us. We have kept our joining fee minimal to make FWCA available to everyone who for too long has not had the voice to fight back against the unfair, uninformed and hypocritical attacks on those who provide world-class timber products.
The decision by hardware retailer Bunnings to refuse to stock Victorian timber sourced from VicForests is a hypocritical knee-jerk reaction, said Forest & Wood Communities Australia Managing Director, Justin Law.
Last month, Bunnings bowed to activist pressure by refusing stock timber from native hardwood harvested in Victoria following the Federal Court’s findings in a case brought against VicForests by activist donation collection group, Friends of Leadbeater’s Possum.
Federal Court Judge Debra Mortimer, who was formerly a barrister who had represented environmental groups in similar cases, ruled that VicForests had not complied with Federal environmental laws. However, VicForests is fighting the decision and FWCA believes they will be successful.
"We believe the ruling is flawed and will be overturned, but that has not stopped Bunnings from making a decision which threatens the livelihoods of hundreds of regional Victorians before looking at all the facts an implications," Mr Law said.
“This company, which apparently wants to promote itself as being ethically superior, stocks timber from South East Asian rainforests which are listed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature as critically endangered, endangered or vulnerable.
“Instead of cosying up to environmental activists in Australia, Bunnings should take a good hard look at achieving environmental outcomes in countries where there are genuine concerns.”
Mr Law added that the ongoing campaign against native timber harvesting in Australia was disingenuous.
“Corporate environmental groups meet their financial targets by using a conflict-based business model which scares the public into giving them money,” Mr Law said. “They invest heavily in teams of communications specialists, lawyers and academics to create and promote issues to attack the industry and this short-sighted decision by Bunnings is just one example of the damage it causes.
“Native timber harvesting in Australia is sustainable and ethically managed, reduces fuel for fires and helps to sequester carbon from the atmosphere. It also provides many essential products such as surgical masks which are assisting in combating the current COVID-19 crisis.
"It employs thousands of regional Australians and supports the communities in which they live".
"These are people who contribute to society and in recent times they have suffered through drought, fire and these relentless attacks based on lies and exaggeration".
"Bunnings has just kicked them while they are down."
Forest & Wood Communities Australia has demanded Leadbeater’s Possum’s status as “critically endangered” be reviewed following a landmark Federal Court ruling last week. Justice Debra Mortimer upheld the case brought by activist group Friends of Leadbeater’s Possum Inc which claimed Victorian forestry agency VicForests had contravened federal law by allowing timber harvesting in some areas of the Victorian Central Highlands.
In the case summary, Justice Mortimer, who represented environmental activist groups as a barrister prior to her elevation to the bench, said in her judgement, “The Leadbeater’s Possum is listed as “critically endangered”, which means it is facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild in the immediate future.”
FWCA Managing Director Justin Law said the possum should never have been listed as critically endangered and that the ruling was a win for spurious science which has been used as a lever by corporate anti-forestry activists to destroy the industry.
“The classification of Leadbeater’s Possum as critically endangered was predicated on research limited to just .04% of the forest estate where timber harvesting is permitted,” Mr Law said.
“Dishonest science was allowed to influence this ruling thanks to a sympathetic government which accepted its findings unchallenged. .
“Astonishingly the true numbers, which estimate as many as 200,000 possums exist in the Central Highlands, were dismissed rather than celebrated as the relief they should have been to all of us concerned with the possum’s welfare.
“Now its erroneous status is being used as a lever to ruin the livelihoods of thousands of timber workers and the communities in which they live.
“This is activism at its most dishonest played out at the highest level and we demand that the Threatened Species Scientific Committee immediately review Leadbeater’s Possum’s status on the list of endangered species.”
Forest & Wood Communities Australia supports the call for the Bob Brown Foundation (BBF) to be stripped of its charity status after encouraging its members to engage in unlawful activism. Tasmanian forestry advocate Kelly Wilton has demanded action against the BBF after a number of trees due for harvest had metal spikes driven into them resulting in near-death incidents at two saw mills.
“The BBF Facebook page had comments which directly implicates the organisation’s members in this incident,” Ms Wilton said.
“Spike logs were detected at two mills with one destroying a saw and causing metal fragments to fly out. It was sheer luck that prevented serious injury to the mill worker. “It is time authorities took the Bob Brown Foundation to task and stripped them of their charity status.”
FWCA Managing Director Justin Law said that all activist organisations which encouraged illegal behaviour should be examined. “It’s bad enough that these activist groups dishonestly draw public donations through mistruths and exaggerations, but to actively engage in deadly behaviour such as this is outrageous,” he said.
“The timber industry does its best to adhere to the ever-tightening restrictions placed on it, but is still subject to the relentless anti-forestry campaigning.
“Forestry is a renewable and sustainable industry which provides essential, carbon-storing products used by these misguided activists. “When will there be an inquiry into damage these groups have caused to the industry, worker mental health and the communities in which they live?”
“It appears the only winners in this fight are these “charitable” organisations which profit from poisoning public opinion to attract public donations.”