Minister for Forestry Dave Kelly must listen to the concerns of the forestry industry and drastically improve his attempt at a recently announced compensation package which has been labelled offensive by the sector.
Labor Government’s shock announcement last year that banned hardwood harvesting in Western Australia has been followed up by a lack of engagement with the industry by the Minister to discuss compensation.
Shadow Minister for Forestry, the Hon Steve Martin MLC said, “the initial announcement came as a complete shock to the forestry industry without any consultation with the sector.
“Now Minister Kelly has handed down a package that is too narrow in its scope and will not compensate the many small businesses affected by the Government’s unscientific decision to ban hardwood harvesting,” said Mr Martin.
After a shambolic process filled with repeatedly cancelled meetings and a complete void of information, the resulting package has been described as “offensive” and “deplorable” by representatives of the industry.
“Minister Kelly made the announcement via an online meeting after cancelling an in-person meeting in the South West. He needs to immediately jump in the car and get to Manjimup and deliver the news in person.
“He needs to hear from the affected businesses and not make this decision based on the findings of a handful of meetings stacked with Department staff and union officials.
“This arrogant Minister initially offered the industry only a week to offer feedback on the poorly designed package.
“He has since realised that timeframe is hopelessly inadequate and now needs to listen to the genuine concerns of the industry.
The package has been based upon the Forest Products Commission’s indicative supply volume figures for 2022. These figures fall well short of the base contracted volume and have been “plucked from the air,” says Forest Industries Federation WA (FIFWA) Chief Executive Officer Adele Farina.
Due to the nature of the eligibility criteria, very few businesses will be able to access the packages. Those who do manage to check all the boxes will still require final approval from the Minister.
“Despite starving the forestry industry of material, the Labor Government are demanding the industry continue operating until July 2023 in order to claim compensation,” said Mr Martin.
“Businesses are now faced with heavy job losses, a stark shortage of material and a steep increase in operational costs.
“It is impossible to expect that businesses will be able survive long enough in these conditions to claim any compensation.
“The Labor Government have proven that they do not care about small business.
“By starving the forestry industry of materials and compensation, the Government’s decision doesn’t just impact loggers and sawmills. It also ensures the end of secondary industries who rely on hardwood materials,” said Mr Martin.
“Furniture manufacturers, construction companies, heritage builders and firewood suppliers are just some examples of the many secondary industries who are facing a very uncertain future due to Labor’s short-sighted and poorly planned decision.
“The Minister refuses to acknowledge that this decision has already had far-reaching effects across not only the primary forestry industry, but other industries who rely on hardwood as well.
“Industries like furniture manufacturers and firewood suppliers are already seeing the negative impact this decision has had on their business.
“The Minister continues to ignore their cries for help, saying that it’s business as usual.
“Anyone who works in these industries knows that this isn’t the case,” said Mr Martin.