The Howard-era Minister for Environment has joined Labor figure Peter Garrett and several former Environmental Ministers to push for a total ban on native forest harvesting across Australia.
It comes days after Wood Central revealed that the NSW Premier is willing to trade state forest harvesting for carbon credits, with the State Government now lobbying the Australian government to introduce an emissions training scheme “application for the NSW economy.”
It is not the first time the NSW Government has pushed to change the carbon rules, with the former Liberal State Government pushing for the Federal Government to consider carbon credits generated by ceasing harvesting in state forests – a proposal that was ultimately rejected.
The new push is led by the independent MP for Mackellar, Sophie Scamps, and calls on federal and state governments to work together to transition away from industrial-scale native forestry.
Former ministers backing the pledge include Robert Hill, who served under John Howard between 1996 and 2001; Garrett, who served as Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard’s Minister for Environment and Heritage Protection between 2007 and 2010; as well as former NSW and QLD Labor environment ministers Bob Debus, Rod Welford and Desley Boyle.
“Too much of Australia’s rich and often unique biodiversity has been lost,” Mr Hill, the Howard-era minister, told the Guardian overnight.
“What remains must be conserved, and ending clearing and logging of Australia’s native forests would significantly help.
“Those who suffer loss due to such a decision should be supported. It’s time to say enough is enough.”
The pledge is also supported by Geoff Gallop, the former Western Australian Labor premier, all federal teal independents, senator David Pocock, key independent MPs in the NSW parliament, most state and federal Greens politicians, and more than 30 environmental and civil society groups.
Wood Central understands that the pledge also has strong support amongst the Liberal-aligned Hilma Network – backed by Alex Schuman, CEO of Carla Zampatti Pty Ltd and brother of Allegra Spender, the MP for Wentworth and has growing support amongst the moderate faction of the Queensland-based Liberal-National Party.
The new campaign comes after the Federal ALP National Conference rejected a push by the powerful Labor Environment Action Network (LEAN) faction to push for an outright ban on the harvest of native forests.
Nonetheless, it committed to “work with states and territories to update the 1992 National Forest Policy Statement to ensure it is contemporary and fit for purpose.”
The new campaign urges state and federal governments to move towards greater use of plantations and develop support options for affected forestry workers.
According to former Queensland Minister Deebus, “The best thing we can do to protect our threatened wildlife and to take greenhouse gas out of the atmosphere is to quickly and fairly bring this failing industry to an end”.
The latest move comes as the NSW and Tasmanian governments have been pressured to act on native forest logging after WA and Victoria committed to ending native forestry.
Consultation has begun with groups and experts over planned changes to Australia’s national environmental laws – with Wood Central revealing concerns about the lack of an appeals tribunal within the new regulations.
Forestry operations covered by a regional agreement are exempt from the current national environmental laws.
The federal environment minister, Tanya Plibersek, has said regional forest agreements would have to comply with new national environmental standards as part of the reforms.
Ms Scamps said native forest logging was helping to drive some of Australia’s most loved species towards extinction.
“It’s now time for the serving politicians in the major parties to act,” she said, “Some of Australia’s most iconic species – including koalas, gliders, and countless other birds, mammals and reptiles – are found nowhere else in the world.£
“Australia’s native forests are their home, and as recent events in Tallaganda state forest show, logging can further threaten endangered wildlife like the greater glider, despite practices that supposedly protect these creatures.”