Adjournment: Forestry Industry

Australia has some of the best-managed sustainable forestry industries in the world, globally certified and operating under very strict regulations. In fact, the majority of our commercial forests are independently certified. Not only has the industry provided and supported thousands of Australian jobs, the majority of these are in regional communities. The native forest industry has ensured Australians have had access to locally produced, environmentally sound timber and timber products that are natural, sustainable, recyclable and renewable, operating almost exclusively in regrowth forests that have previously been harvested. I encourage people to visit the Wellington Discovery Forest in my electorate, which is a living example of sound silviculture and forestry management.

Trees capture the most carbon when they’re in their early- to mid-growth phase, which is why the continuous harvest and replanting cycle of Australia’s forestry operations delivers continuous carbon sequestration. Approximately half the dry mass of the wood is carbon, absorbed during the trees’ growth and stored in timber products for life when they are turned into beautiful bespoke furniture or used for timber flooring, housing or construction. In all these forms, timber is recyclable as well.

What is critically important is that the industry regenerates and regrows every harvested area. Every tree used is maximised to reduce any waste and is replaced. For every tree harvested from certified plantations, at least one is replanted. This helps to minimise the amount of timber that we import from countries with forests that are at high risk of illegal logging and deforestation. In fact, the IPCC itself says that sustainably managing our forests for timber and wood products delivers the best climate change mitigation results.

In WA, less than one per cent of WA’s total native forest area is harvested annually and is constantly replanted. We know that we have a serious and growing trade deficit of at least $2 billion in wood products. We are already a net importer of construction timber. In spite of this being the most sustainable renewable industry, the WA state Labor government made a political decision in 2021 to end sustainable hardwood harvesting. An FOI to WA’s Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions showed there was no scientific data to justify this decision. It was, unfortunately, a political decision to destroy this industry. Clearly, WA’s Labor government prefers to import timber from dodgy sources rather than use local, sustainable, recyclable and renewable timber produced by vibrant small and family businesses in regional communities just like my own.

The health of our forests is also an issue the government is ignoring in its failure to consider science or silviculture evidence. Silviculture, of course, is the science of controlling the composition, structure and dynamics of forests. It’s applied by our experienced foresters to sustain and enhance the ecological outcomes while at the same time continually improving the productivity, vitality and diversity of forestry ecosystems. Sustainable harvesting of regrowth forest is in fact crucial to deliver ecological outcomes in our native forests. In 20 years or so, when the Labor politicians who’ve made this decision are long gone, the result will be greater fuel loads in our forests, resulting in hotter bushfires closer to our communities, putting more people at greater risk. There will be no more beautiful and no more beautiful jarrah, karri, marri or wandoo in magnificent artisan furniture or construction.

This decision has destroyed livelihoods and businesses in my electorate. Local people, communities and small and family business have been and are severely distressed. Shutting down this native harvesting means we’re losing our forestry harvesters, who help with strategic firebreaks, who help protect our communities and forests and who are often first responders when bushfires happen and have the equipment and experience to do so.

As for the imported timber, do the labels on imported timber actually match the real country of origin? Has it been illegally logged and sourced? A year ago, the Labor minister was warned about imports of conflict timber from countries like Russia, which is processed in China and labelled with false details about its origins. Just prior to Christmas, the minister announced he’d awarded a contract to an entity to create a database to identify illegal timber. I’ve seen nothing on enforcement, nothing on border protection measures and nothing to deal with the dwindling domestic capacity that continues to shrink because of these decisions by Labor governments.