‘It’s the Vibe of the Thing’

On the back of the findings of the Auditor General’s Report into the Administration of the Tasmanian Forests Intergovernmental Agreement Contractors Voluntary Exit Grants Program ( TT here ), conservation groups call for an end to native forest logging with forced redundancies for logging contractors on the south coast and a complete investigation into the forestry side of the Obeid McDonald scandal by ICAC.

Tasmanian loggers who had been logging and living in NSW since January 2010 received exit packages to exit native forest logging in Tasmania (Kasun) in 2011, (Wilson Logging Pty Ltd in 2012). It is likely that their relocation of machines, utes and accommodation was paid for by the Forestry Corporation. The grant conditions or guidelines are silent on prior contractual arrangements.

In criminal law many prosecutions have proceeded on the principle of inference. A classic analogy is drawn to where there is a missing canary and a cat beside the cage. Here, in native forest woodchipping and logging, there is a long history of empty bird cages and very fat cats.

The original process of approving the tender of the woodchip factory in 1967 was conducted by the Askin Government’s Jack Gordon Beale MP who it was rumoured was closely related to the co-owner/Managing Director Ron Harris, and granted the joint venture between Daishowa Paper Manufacturing Co (49%) and Harris Holdings Pty Ltd (51%) a 20 year wood supply agreement.

The original Integrated Forestry Operations Approvals (‘IFOA’) which contain the licence conditions are signed by Eddie Obeid, and six contracts (wood supply agreements) are signed by Ian McDonald. These contracts enabled the logging of native forests. Logs are being sold for $6.90 per tonne to the wholly Japanese owned SEFE (ex Harris Diashowa). The native forest sector of Forestry Corporation has been making million dollar losses since the signing of these contracts. For example in 2010 – $14M, 2011- $16M, 2012- $14M.

Those who thought that the conversion of Forests NSW into the statutory corporation Forestry Corporation (NSW) would create a higher bar are stunned that the new Commissioner for the Forestry Corporation is Richard Sheldrake, who is directly implicated in the latest Obeid scandal: ABC News online: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-03-14/mps-to-investigate-if-obeid-documents-withheld/4574096 .

To appoint Richard Sheldrake would seem a thumb in the direction of the law. However this thumbing is not a new policy. The O’Farrell government enacted s 69ZA of the new Forestry Act 2012 in January against the advice of their legislative committee, which provides no citizen can take the Forestry Corp or logging contractors to court for a breach of any Act or any law – but only if logging is in an IFOA area. All logging on the south coast is in an IFOA area. Thus the Forestry Corp and native forest logging contractors are above the law. That much of this logging is unlawful is confirmed by the government itself.

There are at most 70 workers on-ground in the forest. We over-estimate that there are a total of 275 people directly involved in the woodchipping and logging sector on the south coast. Groups such as South East Forest Rescue have called for these redundancies but been ignored by the O’Farrell government.

Not only should there be a thorough investigation but it is clear that it is time to put an end to an industry that is not only exacerbating climate change, destroying the environment, operating unlawfully, morally and ethically wrong, but has been corrupt from the very beginning.
Lisa Stone, South East Forest Rescue