We must return federal environmental protections to native forests.
"When an area of our pristine, irreplaceable forest is logged, it is cut down and bulldozed." Fairfax Media via Getty Images
Last Friday was a chance to restore balance to the way our native forests are managed -- a chance that was wasted.
Over the past 20 years, areas designated for logging have been exempted from Australia's national environment laws. Even open cut mines don't get that sort of special treatment. These logging laws, known as 'Regional Forest Agreements', were meant to protect jobs and protect the environment. They have failed on both counts.
Premier Daniel Andrews secretly extended the 20 year RFA logging deal for East Gippsland with no review, assessment or public knowledge, one day before it was due to expire. This is an astoundingly irresponsible move considering that in the week before, VicForests admitted there are not enough forests left to keep the sawlog supply going.
The East Gippsland Regional Forest Agreement (RFA) is a 20-year arrangement between state and federal governments that gives special immunity to the logging industry from Federal environment laws - laws that should protect nationally listed threatened species.
The Federal election saw both good and bad results.
The Turnbull govt was returned with a much decreased margin of one but the Senate has a larger number of small parties and independents on the cross-bench, making it more difficult to get legislation passed. The Greens went from 10 down to 9 Senators (losing one from SA’s two) with Adam Bandt elected to the House of Reps. It was extremely close in Batman and Melb Ports with Wills showing a lot of green spirit as well. Melbourne’s north is quite a hot bed of progressive voters. Not so in Gippsland though.
For nearly 20 years, Regional Forest Agreements (RFAs) have given the logging industry preferential access to around seven million hectares of publicly owned native forests in four states. Logging has been exempted from Federal environment laws for this time. AFCA together with over 30 environment groups say RFAs should be abolished and logging in native forests should end.
AFCA asked the Parties two questions. Here are their replies (at 23 June 2016):