Media Releases - 08 May 2024

Albanese government attempts to weaken international action on forests instead of addressing rampant deforestation

Deforestation in Queensland.

As rampant deforestation for beef pasture expansion, logging and mining continues across the continent, the Albanese government is asking the EU for delays and special treatment regarding its deforestation regulation.

Australia’s Agriculture Minister Murray Watt has confirmed this week at Beef2024 in Rockhampton that Australia has requested the EU delay its deforestation regulation by at least 2 years. This regulation would prevent commodities linked to deforestation from being imported into the EU,

Additionally, documents obtained by the Wilderness Society via freedom of information from DAFF (attached) reveal that the government is seeking to assure the EU, in relation to its new deforestation import regulation, that Australia ought to be considered a low risk for deforestation, because it claims Australia has a robust environmental law “that supports the protection and sustainable use of our forests”.

Yet Australia’s Environment Minister, Tanya Plibersek, has described the national environment law as broken, and recognised that under these laws, deforestation is a significant problem. The law is currently going through a supposed reform, including the promise of a future Environment Protection Agency to focus on land clearing and deforestation. After the inception of the EPBC Act, 7.7 million hectares of forests and bushlands were deforested in Australia in just 17 years.

The Australian government is also a signatory to the Glasgow Leaders Declaration to halt and reverse deforestation by 2030, yet is trying to avoid taking concrete action that will address deforestation, such as complying with the EU deforestation regulation.

Australia’s legal environment cannot inoculate Australia’s exports from deforestation risk. The Wilderness Society says that if Australia is to retain access to EU markets, the Albanese government must take this opportunity to curtail its out-of-date deforestation practices instead of concealing and enabling the deforestation crisis that continues to unfold right now.

Adele Chasson, corporate campaigner for the Wilderness Society, said, “The government can’t seem to keep its story straight on Australia’s deforestation problem. The Australian government is telling the world Australia is a global leader on environment issues, all while asking for delays and exemptions to the EU’s flagship deforestation regulation. At the same time, they are undertaking a tumultuous environment reform process to, at least in part, tackle a serious and admitted deforestation problem.

“Delaying action and minimising the problem won’t create the change Australia’s forests sorely need. Australia is home to world class forests and bushlands and this is a real chance for Australian industries to go deforestation-free. Taking action on deforestation is urgent and possible to solidify access to foreign markets, and both governments and industries have a role to play in protecting vulnerable forests and wildlife.”

Analysis conducted in 2023 revealed that more than 90% of the Australian companies assessed as part of a cross-industry analysis provide no public assurances that they are not involved in the destruction of native forest and bushland. Potentially unlawful land clearing, that ought to have been assessed under national environment law, has recently been reported to the Federal department, and numerous cases concerning the legality of logging are currently before the courts in Lutruwita / Tasmania.

For interviews with Adele Chasson, Corporate Campaigner for the Wilderness Society, please contact Rhiannon Cunningham, media adviser for the Wilderness Society on [email protected] or 0419 992 760