Wilderness Society Media Release February 14th 2002 re Regional Forestry Agreements

14 FEBRUARY 2002
On just the third sitting day of the new Parliament, both Labor and Liberal are risking breaking key policy commitments in allowing the passage of the Regional Forest Agreements (RFA) Bill 2002.

Support for the Bill ignores clear evidence that the controversial regional forest agreement process is deeply flawed, has frequently been breached, and in some cases overestimated timber supply by up to 50%.

RFAs have heightened forest conflict by promoting deeply unpopular old growth forest logging, which has already seen the fall of the WA Court Government.

Despite a commitment that all policies are up for review, Labor risks committing itself to an agenda which has seen the loss of hundreds of forest jobs with more job losses to come.

Both Labor and Liberal profess to be concerned about land clearing, yet RFAs have facilitated the highest proportional rate of land clearing in Australia – in Tasmania, using Commonwealth RFA money.

Both parties profess to be concerned about sustainability, yet the destruction of irreplaceable old growth forests and the overall level of unsustainable clearfelling has dramatically increased.

The Coalition made an election commitment to investigate all RFA breaches and to take appropriate action, yet breaches that are sufficient ground for the Commonwealth to terminate an RFA have been ignored.

This Bill commits both Labor and Liberal to exempting the native forest logging industry from national environment laws and the Australian public to huge industry payouts if any future government decides to increase protection for endangered forest wildlife. No other Australian industry is in this privileged position.

Both major parties should withdraw this Bill and review their respective disastrous forest policies.

Virginia Young, The Wilderness Society’s National Forest Campaign
Coordinator, 0417 223 280



1. Forest types identified under the Tasmanian RFA as requiring 100% reservation are being cleared for plantation establishment.

2. Areas in Victoria and Tasmania identified as being part of the RFA forest reserve system have not been reserved and have instead been logged. This is grounds for the Commonwealth to terminate an RFA.

3. The Tasmanian RFA is being subverted to allow the highest proportional rate of land clearing in Australia, using Commonwealth money! Up to 640.000 hectares of native forest may be permanently cleared in Tasmania under arrangements which directly subvert the intention of the RFA.

4. The RFAs have not provided the promised job security, hundreds of jobs have been lost from this unsustainable industry.

5. In Victoria and Tasmania the total hectares logged and total hectares clearfelled has increased each year following the signing of the RFAs. These increases have never been subjected to any form of environmental assessment. Europe has abandoned clearfelling on the grounds that it is unsustainable and the practice is being phased out in North America for the same reason.

6. Victoria, NSW and Tasmania continue to violate the pre-cautionary principle by logging irreplaceable old growth forests.

7. Export woodchip production has increased by 30%.

8. Post RFA projects which would further increase the amount of forest logged each year (for charcoal production and electricity generation) are exempt from environmental assessment.

9. The native forest logging industry is the only industry in Australia exempt from Commonwealth environmental requirements (the EPBC Act). This is yet another example of the anti-competitive arrangements available to this cosseted industry.

10. The RFA Bill does not provide the native forest logging industry with resource security. Victoria is poised to dramatically reduce the amount of sawlogs available to the logging industry because levels approved by the Commonwealth under five Victorian RFAs have recently been found to be unsustainable.

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