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  • Writer's pictureHannah Phillips

Victorian timber axed to secure Greens preferences

The Victorian timber industry has been axed six years earlier the original timeline, commercial harvesting of native timber will come to an end on January 1 next year.

Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union national secretary for manufacturing, Michael O'Connor resigned from the Victorian Forestry Plan Advisory Committee ahead of the decision going public in May. Calling the committee a "sham."

"The government neglected to consult the committee about the measures it announced, begging the question of what the point of the committee was.

"The union is not interested in being a prop for the state's media unit.

"The government has rushed this announcement (and) hasn't consulted anybody."

Premier Daniel Andrews rebutted the Mr O'Connors claim, "that's his view and quite frankly he's wrong," Mr Andrews said.

Timber supplies have been halted in eastern Victoria after Supreme Court injunctions stopped state-owned logger VicForests over environmental concerns.

The Victorian government is supporting redundancy payments and offering training for workers who want to reskill. A sad outcome for those who have spent their working lives at mills.

The impact on logging towns like Orbost will leave 110 forestry workers in limbo - about a fifth of the local workforce. The secondary product industries will also feel the effects of the the state government decision.

But that's just the beginning, says Forestry Consultant Gary Squires.

"The tyre service here, one of his biggest customers is the log trucks with 22, 24 tyres on them each ... he'll undoubtedly have to put off another guy.

"The local engineer, full-time repairing machinery ... he'll just about be out of business."

The Nationals for Regional Victoria are concerned that the decisions being made are about securing Greens preferences in a social media post on Thursday.

"Labor MP's and senators know Dan's timber ban is all about securing Greens preferences in the city.

"FACT: Only 4 Vic Labor MP's won their seats without Greens preferences," the post said.

Labor Senator for Victoria Raff Ciccone has criticised the decision in a tweet, "I’m disappointed by the Vic Gov’s sudden decision to end the native timber industry as it will have a negative effect on workers and regional communities. Australia needs timber products and we need to support local forestry jobs."

The state government budget has allocated $200 million to help in transition, the state opposition leader John Pesutto slammed the decision.

The $200 million the state government has allocated for this is just a pittance for what's required," Mr Pesutto said.

"There are stranded assets all across the industry which are going to have to be written off."

A government spokesman said workers at supply chain businesses will be offered training, employment and mental health support, while highly impacted businesses would be eligible for support vouchers up to $25,000 and transition grants of up to $120,000.

A major concern for the building industry and home builders will be the availability and price of timber and whether Australia becomes a net importer of the product.

With AAP


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