Tassie Labor Factions Split on FSC ‘Gold Standard’ for Forests

FSC has responded to a push by a right-wing aligned Labor faction claiming that a document circulated by the group is "inaccurate" and full of "misunderstandings".

Mon 04 Mar 24


The Australian Labor Party (“the ALP”) is fighting its own “forest war” with rival groups clashing over the social licence of Australia’s native forestry industry – with left and right factions escalating a feud that has simmered since the ALP National Conference last year.

Now, an industry-linked group known as Labor for the Wise Use of Resouces has circulated a new two-page attack on FSC, claiming that the forest certification scheme is too closely aligned with conservationist interests.

FSC – along with PEFC (branded as Responsible Wood in the Australian marketplace), is one of two private certification systems used by forest companies to demonstrate the sustainability of forest products – and is critical for forest companies when selling products into global markets.

However, powerbrokers in the Tasmanian Labor Party want the government-controlled Sustainable Timber Tasmania – which is in the process of applying for FSC – “to adopt a policy that, if elected to government, we will conduct a review of the business case for obtaining FSC certification.”

In 2019, FSC Australia and New Zealand’s current chair Jon Dee, a vocal critic of native forestry, visited the Central Highlands, Victoria to show you why the FSC symbol is so important. Footage courtesy of @dosomethingnearyou

According to the document, obtained exclusively by The Australian’s Tasmanian Correspondent, Matthew Denholm, “the review needs to consider whether the demands being placed on Sustainable Timbers Tasmania by FSC are worth the benefits of access to markets, and to what extent we can convince these markets to recognise and accept the merits of (existing) ­Responsible Wood certification.”

Responsible Wood, like FSC, is recognised by the Green Building Council of Australia’s Responsible Products Framework and is carried by more than 90% of Australia’s commercial forests (hardwood and softwood).

However, unlike Responsible Wood, FSC (at least in Australia) has not provided full certification to any of Australia’s state forests responsible for native forestry. 

That is, despite Sustainable Timber Tasmania and the now defunct VicForests bothj applying for full certification – whilst Forest Products Commission, Western Australia’s native forest manager, successfully achieved FSC “Controlled Wood” certification in 2019 (which is subject for renewal later this year).

Wood Central understands that Sustainable Timber Tasmania has sought FSC for years and, so far, has failed to address issues such as the protection of swift parrot habitat and old growth sufficiently.

According to Tasmanian Labor resources spokesman Shane Broad, the party would continue to pursue FSC but did not view the stamp of approval as “essential”.

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LEAN took “Climate Clearing Logging and Cows,” a powerful manifesto to the ALP National Convention in Brisbane in August 2023.

Meanwhile, the powerful environmental lobby Labor Environment Action Network (known as LEAN) has attacked stakeholders in the party for the push to drop FSC.

“It’s not clear why our Labor comrades are pushing for this when the industry itself is not,” network national co-covener Felicity Wade said.

Ms Wade, who spearheaded a push for the ALP National Conference (and the subsequent Albanese Government, QLD and NSW Labor State Governments), told the Australian that “Tasmania’s timber industry has enormous reputational challenges that impact its market access.”

Before adding that “FSC is a globally recognised arbiter of sustainable practice (so) it is in everyone’s interest to build a timber industry that meets this standard.”

“Sustainable Timber Tasmania’s practices do not meet market expectations. Clear-felling swift parrot habitat does not cut the mustard in international markets these days. Dumping FSC is not the answer.”

The attack is signed by Wise Use of Resouces secretary and Australian Workers Union official Robert Flanagan and its president, specialty timber champion George Harris – the past chair of Fine Timber Tasmania, which ran a specialty “chain of custody” scheme using the Responsible Wood certification scheme.

However both declined to comment when contracted by the Australian with a spokesperson for FSC ANZ saying that document contained “inaccuracies” and “misunderstandings”.

Sustainable Timbers, previously known as Forestry Tasmania, is committed to obtaining FSC certification, with its website declaring: “FSC certification is important to us; it will give us access to key markets; it will also increase stakeholder confidence that we manage the forests well.”

Tasmanian Resources Minister Felix Ellis did not engage with the Mona Economics Congress. (Photo Credit: Supplied by Felix Ellis Office)
Tasmanian Resources Minister Felix Ellis is a strong supporter of Sustainable Timber Tasmania (Photo Credit: Supplied by Felix Ellis Office)

It comes as Tasmanian Premier Jeremy Rockliff announced the ­extension of native timber sawlog contracts from 2027 to 2040 on Friday, which Wood Central understands will only be made possible by logging 40,000 hectares of forests protected under a “peace deal” signed in 2012 – also announced on Wednesday.

On Friday, Wood Central revealed that both decisions had left the industry blindsided, with the CFMEU National Secretary for Manufacturing accusing the Premier of “using the Tasmanian native forestry industry as a political football” to wedge Tasmanian Labor ahead of the March 23 poll.

Whilst Tasmanian Labor remains divided over “the native forestry issue”, Liberal Resources Minister Felix Ellis, a long-time supporter of the industry, said the Tasmanian Liberal Party was “open to industry’s views on FSC.”


  • Jason Ross

    Jason Ross, publisher, is a 15-year professional in building and construction, connecting with more than 400 specifiers. A Gottstein Fellowship recipient, he is passionate about growing the market for wood-based information. Jason is Wood Central's in-house emcee and is available for corporate host and MC services.


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