Media Releases - 25 March 2022
Illegal logging to be made legal? New powers create moving goalposts on logging laws and quash community rights to consultation
Legislation gives the power to Victorian senior bureaucrats or the Environment Minister to vary logging laws, without public consultation.
By removing community rights to public consultation, the legislation is expected to undermine the ability of community groups and citizen scientists to hold government logging agency VicForests to account.
The Victorian government intends to change an important legal principle known as the Precautionary Principle, this change is likely to impact several community court cases brought against VicForests for alleged breaches of logging laws.
Legislation passed today creates the power for a Victorian senior bureaucrat or Environment Minister to vary logging laws, without public consultation.
The Conservation Forests and Lands Amendment Bill 2022 was passed by the Victorian Legislative Council tonight.
“It is of serious concern that a minister or senior bureaucrat now has the power to change logging rules at the stroke of a pen, without requiring public consultation, scientific advice or consideration of impacts on the environment,” says Campaigner Alice Hardinge.
“These new powers of legislation and logging rule changes won’t fix the ongoing destruction of high conservation value forests, make the crisis in the Victorian wood and fibre industry go away or provide certainty for businesses wishing to remove exposure to risk of unsustainable and illegal logging within their supply chains,” says Alice Hardinge.
The legislation is also expected to undermine the ability of community groups and citizen scientists to hold government logging agency VicForests to account, where breaches to environmental laws in public forests occur that are intended to limit damage to forest health, clean water, and wildlife.
Under these new powers, the Victorian government has indicated its intention to vary the precautionary principle, which is supposed to prevent damage to the environment in situations of scientific uncertainty. This is likely to impact several court cases involving allegations of breaches to the law by VicForests. “While the Andrews government is claiming to perhaps be interpreting, or 'clarifying' the law, this appears to be a thinly veiled mechanism to doing so in a manner that takes a weak position for protecting and restoring forests and wildlife,” says Alice Hardinge.
Victorians want a wood and fibre industry they can be proud of, and forests for future generations to enjoy—yet these new powers appear to be a step in the opposite direction.