Federal Shadow minister for Agriculture and Resources Joel Fitzgibbon has strongly backed Victoria’s native forest industries as sustainable, at odds with Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews who plans to shut it down.

Speaking at the Australian Forest Products Association dinner in Canberra last night Mr Fitzgibbon took a veiled swipe at the Andrews Government’s decision to close down the industry by 2030, and he endorsed sustainably managed native forestry and the Regional Forest Agreements framework as delivering the best environmental, climate change and bushfire mitigation outcomes.

“Australia is the seventh most forested nation in the world – we have the land and the resource to supply much of this timber from our abundant native forest estate and through an expanded plantation estate,” Mr Fitzgibbon said.

“In each of the RFA States and Queensland we’ve benefitted from native timber resource security; native forest harvesting certified as sustainable by the relevant international certifying body.”

“That’s the way it is, and the way it should be. It’s the best outcome for our natural environment. It’s also the best way to abate carbon, and the best way to manage bushfire risk.”

Mr Fitzgibbon also called out the fallacy of Premier Andrews’ claim that the hardwood timber industry in Victoria can transition to plantations by 2030.

“Australia cannot sustain a forest and forest products industry – and all the jobs and wealth it creates – without a native forest industry. Even if plantation forestry could be grown sufficiently quickly to offset the loss of our native resource – and it can’t – it is no replacement for our renewable native forest product,” Mr Fitzgibbon said.

Chief Executive of the Australian Forest Products Association Ross Hampton said, “Mr Fitzgibbon’s strong defence of Victoria’s native forest industries has further unravelled the Andrews Government’s ill-conceived plan to decimate a sustainable, renewable industry which underpins many regional communities in Victoria.

“The federal Labor Party has seen what is apparently eluding the Victorian Labor Party; closing an industry which is needed for Melbourne’s hardwood floors, stair treads, tables and other like products, and throwing thousands of blue collar workers onto the unemployment lines at the same time, should not be the Labor way.”

Assistant Minister for Forestry and Fisheries Jonathon Duniam strongly condemned the Victorian Government’s decision last night and backed his state Coalition colleagues’ pledge to reverse the decision if they win the next Victorian election.

“A broad coalition of industry, rural groups and councils is coalescing around this issue and are determined to have it reversed. It has no basis in science and will be a disaster for regional Victoria. We call on Premier Andrews to admit the plan was not thought through, put a hold on the decision and enter into a dialogue with us,” Mr Hampton concluded.