WA Forest Industries Federation CEO Adele Farina says comments in parliament by Forestry Minister Jackie Jarvis “were wrong, misleading, ill-informed and ignorant of the facts”.
Speaking in state parliament during a parliamentary debate in the Legislative Council, Ms Jarvis responded to a motion by Opposition Forestry Minister Steve Martin in relation to the closure of timber businesses.
Ms Jarvis also criticised Parkside Timber for sending timber it processed to Queensland. Parkside recently shut down its WA operations and Whiteland Timber closed last week.
The closure of the mills is as a direct result of the state government’s decision to ban hardwood harvesting in Western Australia by next year.
The minister criticised timber businesses Whiteland Milling for sending timber out of Western Australia for value-adding.
“For a local south west member and minister to speak in such a way of her constituents and an industry which she represents is appalling,” Ms Farina said.
“Such comments are hypocritical for a former Forest Products Commission board member who presided during the current Forest Management Plan (FMP), including allocating industry contracts, which she now criticises.”
During her speech, Ms Jarvis referred to a list of documents tabled in parliament as providing evidence that native forestry was not sustainable.
Ms Farina said the documents acknowledged a drying climate, but they did not conclude that native forestry is unsustainable, nor did they make a definitive statement about the growth rates of jarrah forests over the next 50 years.
“The minister conveniently ignored the fact that the sustainable yield modelling undertaken by the expert panel of scientists for the current FMP assumed zero growth rate of two-tiered jarrah forests beyond 2023, and still managed to deliver sustainable yields for the next 70 years,” Ms Farina said.
“FIFWA believes in the real science, as detailed by the expert panel, not the hocus pocus science cobbled together to support a political narrative.”
Ms Farina said the criticism by Ms Jarvis of timber companies Parkside and Whiteland Milling was deplorable.
She said ministers and MPs should not use parliamentary privilege to publicly criticise WA businesses, in particular businesses with whom they have contracted, as these businesses were not in parliament and therefore unable to defend themselves during the debate.
Jackie Jarvis criticised Whiteland Milling for exporting some of its timber overseas for value-adding, which Ms Farina said ignored the value-adding undertaken by the business in milling the sawlogs and, secondly, was hypocritical given how many other highly-valued products from WA went on to be exported without any local value-adding, such as those produced by the mining and agricultural sectors.
“The minister slammed Parkside for sending timber it processed to Queensland,” Ms Farina said.
“If this was an issue for the McGowan government, then why did they enter into an agreement with Parkside just two years ago?
“What the minister didn’t say about the timber exported by Whiteland Milling is that it actually comes back to Australia into products that are affordable for most working people who are struggling to get by due to increasing household costs the government has failed to rein in.
“If there is any criticism to be attributed, it rests with the government’s failures.”
Ms Farina also urged Ms Jarvis to stop making promises when it came to timber being available to local furniture manufacturers, firewood suppliers and pizzerias, without any security of resource.
“These businesses have waited long enough; the minister needs to back her assurances with contracts. Businesses shouldn’t be required to endure another 10 months, or longer, of uncertainty,” she said.
Ms Farina urged the minister to reflect on her comments which displayed a lack of compassion or understanding towards the workers, businesses and communities that have been impacted by the government’s decision.
“The minister’s words compounded the hurt already inflicted on impacted workers, business owners and their families. They deserve better.”