Timber workers, businesses and communities have been urged to make their voice heard, after State Parliament today delayed a vote on radical reforms to Victoria’s forests legislation.
The Forests Legislation (Compliance and Enforcement) Bill 2019 was set to become law today, but an eleventh hour backflip by the Andrews Labor Government saw the final vote adjourned.
But the controversial Bill, which has progressed with the help of the Greens, Fiona Patten’s Reason Party, the Animal Justice Party and Sustainable Australia Party, will now be up for a final vote at the next sitting.
The Bill has been heavily criticised for introducing oppressive legal implications for timber harvesters, contractors and the state-owned enterprise, VicForests.
The Nationals Member for Eastern Victoria Region, Melina Bath, who led the defence of the industry on behalf of the Liberals and Nationals labelled it a devastatingly bad Bill.
“The Andrews Labor Government’s truly appalling bill is designed to appease green activist groups and is a complete overreach of government powers,” Ms Bath said.
“These reforms represent another blatant attack on timber jobs at the hands of Daniel Andrews.”
If the Bill becomes law, it will remove timber harvesters’ and VicForests’ right for the presumption of innocence in any legal proceeding brought against them after Labor introduced a strict liability clause.
Ms Bath said a stay of execution was not enough and called for the reforms to be scrapped.
“Not content to lock up and leave our forests, Labor’s plan is to lock up our foresters too,” Ms Bath said.
“It’s scandalous Labor is seeking to establish specific laws for timber harvesters and VicForests where they will be automatically found guilty in any future legal proceeding brought against them.
“The fundamental principle of Australia’s common law is ‘innocent until proven guilty’, but under Daniel Andrews that comes with a footnote: unless you’re a timber harvester.”
Leader of The Nationals and Shadow Minister for Agriculture Peter Walsh said the reforms were disastrous for workers and the industry.
“The Forests Legislation Bill must be defeated – it’s a draconian Bill and a bad deal for timber jobs and timber supply in Victoria,” Mr Walsh said.
“The Andrews Labor Government can’t say why this change is needed which we can only assume means it’s yet another grab for greens preferences in inner city Melbourne.
“The Nationals stand with our responsible, sustainable timber industry which is why we’ve pledged to reverse Labor’s 2030 ban on native timber, if elected to government in November 2022.
“In the meantime, we’ll keep fighting for an end to Daniel Andrews’ sustained harassment of our timber workers and communities.”