The Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA) and Australian Forest Contractors Association (AFCA) welcome the Federal Government’s proposed new laws to protect farmers and primary producers, including forest industries from activists. Furthermore, the scope of the proposed Federal laws should also be broadened to include necessary protections for processors of forest products, CEO of AFPA, Ross Hampton said. However, State jurisdictions must do all they can to enforce their own existing powers so sustainable forest industry operations can operate without interference, AFCA General Manager Stacey Gardiner said.

“The Federal Government’s Criminal Code Amendment (Agricultural Protection) Bill 2019 currently covers forestry operations on private land only. Many of the activist issues occur on public land, which means the States need to play a significant role,” Mr Hampton said.

“State jurisdictions need to ensure they enforce their own existing powers to ensure forestry operations aren’t disrupted, and employees and forestry contractors are free to complete their work without hindrance from activists. We know that powers exist at the State level, but often aren’t properly or timely enforced by the relevant authorities,” Ms Gardiner said.

“Additionally, the proposed Federal laws should also cover forest product processing facilities, like timber mills, just as meat processing facilities like abattoirs are already covered,” Mr Hampton said.

“The Federal Government is now consulting on the Criminal Code Amendment (Agricultural Protection) Bill 2019 and, although the proposed laws are a welcome step, the concerns and circumstances of Australia’s forest product industries should be addressed,” Mr Hampton said.

“Our industries have borne the brunt of disruptive and unconscionable activist behaviour along with vandalism impacting on legally conducted forestry operations. It needs to stop, and these latest proposed Federal laws are both recognition and an opportunity to work towards that end,” Ms Gardiner said.

“Australia’s forest industries are among the most environmentally conscious of anywhere in the world. Of our 123 million hectares of native forests, only about half a per cent is harvested for renewable timber annually, before it’s sustainably regrown,” Mr Hampton concluded.