Federal and state governments have legal and political concerns about extending Regional Forest Agreements (RFAs) based on badly outdated science, now over 20 years old, according to reports in the Guardian’s excellent series on neglected environmental issues: ‘Our Wide Brown Land’.
The Guardian’s reports have exposed divisions between Labor and the Coalition with Labor’s Tony Burke and Joel Fitzgibbon committing to ‘proper, independent and full scientific assessments’ of RFA outcomes while Assistant Minister for Agriculture, Senator Anne Ruston is refusing to undertake or fund new assessments, claiming that existing information is more than adequate.
The reports also reveal:
- Victorian sawmillers are running out of timber and calling for parks and water catchments to be logged;
- Tasmania lost a whopping $1.3 billion as a result of native forest logging under the RFA;
- Senator Ruston is accusing environment groups of misleading the public when they make submissions to a public process;
- she is also attacking scientists, accusing them of “trying to come up with inconveniently ill-informed and unfactually based misinformation because it suits their purposes”.
The chaos surrounding the expiry of Victoria’s Central Highlands and East Gippsland RFAs on 27 March and their two-minutes-to-midnight extension underscores that the whole system is spiralling out of control.
Under the extension, logging can continue unabated with minimal protection for threatened species and no moratorium to protect most forests of high value for communities, water, wildlife and climate.
Meanwhile the Possums case continues in the Federal Court and the Greens will move for an inquiry into destructive native forest logging and clearing when the Senate resumes in May.