Yesterday, Crikey unfortunately gave space to Frank Campbell, who did the Crikey readership (of which I am one) a huge disservice by writing a factually incorrect article on the Victorian Government’s “Timber Industry Strategy” (TIS), our first industry strategy since 1986.

Before I respond to some of his more ridiculous assertions, he first claims the Victorian Government released the TIS in April this year “but nobody noticed”. Nobody noticed because it did not happen. The Government did release a draft document as you can see from my timeline below, but the real McCoy is yet to see daylight.

For the record, the timeline of events with the TIS is as follows:

  • March 19, 2008 — Announced by Joe Helper, Minister for Agriculture
  • April/May 2008 — First stakeholder round-table meetings (hosted by the Department of Primary Industries)
  • May 16, 2008 — Draft submissions closed
  • April 8, 2009 — Draft TIS released for comment (67 pages long)
  • June 8, 2009 — Public consultation closed
  • Late June 2009 — Second stakeholder round-table meetings

Now either Campbell went to the Godwin Grech School of information dissemination or he hasn’t yet learnt to use Google, because if he had done a simple search with those three words “Timber Industry Strategy”, the very first search item returned is the Victorian Government department’s web page, which has all of this information available. Interestingly, there is a submission on the same web page from a Frank Campbell.  Links to other submissions, including our own, are also available including the departmental comment that the TIS is to be released “later in 2009”.

Believe me, the industry would have happily welcomed the TIS’s release in April this year and we would have been delighted if it had been released last year. Instead it been somewhat drawn out for the best part of 18 months and is still going. That along with the many opportunities for stakeholder feedback and submissions should demonstrate the absurdity of Campbell’s claims that the “democratic process was masquerading as public consultation”. The ancient Greeks would have been proud that this process had held true to the real definition of “demos” and “kratos” in decision making at every turn.

However, Campbell does the industry and Crikey’s readership a significant disservice by his assertion that Victoria’s native forests are about to be carved up and also given to woodchippers.

Less than 0.1% of our state forests are harvested annually and the primary reason for harvesting is, was and always will be, the production of high-value wood products. But just as cows produce various grades and cuts of meat, timber harvesting produces several different bi-products including woodchips, which Campbell attempts to demonise. Lets debunk the old woodchips-are-bad myth once and for all; woodchips produce pulp, which in turn produces products that are part of everyday life, such as high-quality printing paper, magazines, text books, paper plates, toilet paper and even nappies.

These are consumer goods, and I for one feel a lot better knowing we are contributing bi-product from our own sustainably managed forests rather than wondering what would happen to overseas forests if Campbell got his way and locked up our own forests forever (I won’t even touch upon the negative impact his policy would have on our fuel loads and increased threat of wild fire to local communities and our flora and fauna).

The TIS is not about providing more forest area for harvesting but how we can adapt to a carbon-constrained future, encourage new investment in innovation and technology and attempt to reduce our significant reliance on imported timber product (some of which is illegally sourced). Far from being concerned, the Victorian public should take solace in the Victorian Government’s attempt to finalise a strategy of which all sections of the community will hopefully be proud.

Peter Fray

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