Union calls on Government to withdraw Forestry Bill and hold an inquiry

CFMEU Manufacturing

The union representing timber workers, CFMEU Manufacturing, has called on Government MPs to urgently remove a Bill which targets forest contractors and their crews from the Notice Paper.

The union said there has been inadequate consideration of the impacts of the Forests Legislation Amendment (Compliance and Enforcement) Bill on timber workers and forest contractors, and the state’s timber supply. The outrageous approach was reminiscent of a Kennett-style attack on workers and communities, according to the union.

The Bill is due to be debated in the Legislative Council tomorrow however the union has serious concerns the new laws will embolden the behaviour of forestry workplace invaders compromising health and safety of contractors and crews, prevent forest contractors from doing their jobs, and further jeopardise Victoria’s wood supply in a time of shortage.

The union is calling for the Government to withdraw the Bill from the notice paper and hold an inquiry.

“There is no reason why this Bill needs to be debated before proper consultation and serious concerns are addressed,” the CFMEU Manufacturing Division’s National Secretary Michael O’Connor said.

“As the laws would not come into effect until March next year, the Government has no excuse to try and rush this through now.

“It needs to hold appropriate consultation and give an opportunity to have the impacts on timber workers and forestry contractors, as well as the ability for the Government to deliver its wood supply commitments, properly scrutinised.”

The union was given to understand that the Bill would not proceed until amendments to the Code of Practice for Timber Production were gazetted, which is yet to occur. The Bill increases penalties for non-compliance with the Code of Practice for Timber Production for forest and makes contractors and their workers to harsh penalties.

The union is particularly concerned at the potential for the Bill to enhance the ability of third-party litigants to use the supreme court to shut down the industry by having contractors injuncted out of coupes for simply doing their job in accordance with government policy including delivering wood volumes as outlined in the government’s forestry plan.

“This only further enhances the ability of opponents of the industry to use warfare and strategic ‘SLAPP’ lawfare – which is not really about upholding the law but manipulating it.”

The union said the legislation needed to factor in the impact of the 2019/20 bushfires and a potential increase in third party litigation against VicForests on Victoria’s timber supply.

“All of these issues should have been addressed before the legislation was brought back for debate, but there has been no further consultation with the union or industry prior to this happening.

“This chaotic approach to making laws is leaving out the voices of those most impacted.

“The union is calling on the Government to remove the Bill from the notice paper and hold a Legislative Council initiated inquiry which adequately provides stakeholders including the union to have our say on the Bill ahead of it being voted on.”

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