Minister’s ‘investigation’ two weeks too late for Gippsland timber family

Labor’s Minister for Agriculture Jaclyn Symes has refused to explain the Andrews Government’s decision not to intervene in illegal protests at a Gippsland timber coupe which cost a local family $150,000.

Protestors locked up equipment and performed a tree sit in a timber harvesting coupe at Ballantynes Saddle near Noojee but, despite pleas from the contractor, family-run business Robin Logging, for help, Premier Daniel Andrews refused to act.

In State Parliament today, Member for Eastern Victoria Melina Bath asked Ms Symes to explain the Government’s decision, but Ms Symes would only say it was “currently being investigated” and wouldn’t say if the Government will compensate.

“The Minister says they’re now investigating, but she’s two weeks too late – the Robin family needed the Government’s help to get back into their coupe – not to be told why they were locked out in the first place,” Ms Bath said.

Ms Bath said the illegal protest, which lasted for two weeks, had cost the Robin family $150,000 paying staff who could not work and to meet their contractual obligations.

“The Robin family pleaded with the Andrews Government for assistance, but were given excuse after excuse as to why authorised officers couldn’t attend, including that they were understaffed because somebody had called in sick,” Ms Bath said.

Member for Narracan Gary Blackwood said the department had blamed a lack of action on staffing problems, despite reportedly refusing to accept assistance offered by other agencies, including VicForests and DELWP.

“The only reason the Robin family have been able to get back to work is because the protestors eventually decided to leave – it’s a disgraceful lack of action from the Andrews Government,” Mr Blackwood said.

Ms Bath said Daniel Andrews and his Agriculture Minister Jaclyn Symes are beholden to city greens voters at the expense of our communities in Gippsland.

“It’s time the Andrews Labor Government stopped putting their green agenda above the rights of our timber industry workers,” Ms Bath said.