Michael O’Connor has resigned from the Victorian Forestry Advisory Committee, branding the group ‘a shame’ following the decision to fast-track the end of native harvesting.
O’Connor’s resignation comes amidst growing dissatisfaction with the accelerated end of native logging. The timeline for ending commercial harvesting of native timber in Victoria has been brought forward six years ahead of the state government’s original timeline – to January 1, 2024.
As the National Secretary for Manufacturing for the Construction, Forestry, Mining, and Energy Union (CFMEU), O’Connor resigned from the Victorian Forestry Plan Advisory Committee before the decision went public on Tuesday.
Michael O’Connor is vice-chair of the new Strategic Forests and Renewable Partnership Group, which the Federal Government announced on Monday.
In addition, he is the current director of Responsible Wood (the Australian Forestry Standard) which manages the Australian Standard for Sustainable Forest Management.
The standard is used by 90% of Australia’s commercial forests to meet environmental and social requirements – including VicForests.
In an interview with AAP, O’Connor called into question the committee’s credibility – with the decision to end native harvesting without prior consultation with the committee.
“The advisory committee was, quite frankly, a sham,” he said.
“The union is not interested in being a prop for the state’s media unit.”
He said members were devastated to hear about the accelerated shutdown, and it was completely disrespectful and inappropriate that they found out about it through news outlets.
The announcement was made in a way that maximised stress and strain on those in the industry and increased the risk of mental health issues, Mr. O’Connor said.
The union has promised to fight for a better worker and community support package for timber workers.
Mr. O’Connor blasted a transition plan as “government rhetoric.”
“Last time I looked, training wasn’t a job,” he said.
“The government has rushed this announcement (and) hasn’t consulted anybody.”
Premier Daniel Andrews rebutted Mr. O’Connor’s claim that the government had no interest in the union’s views or those of employers.
“That’s his view, and quite frankly, he’s wrong,” Mr Andrews said.
He cited legal action for the decision to bring forward the end of native logging, calling it a lawyers’ picnic and echoing Treasurer Tim Pallas, who laid out a $200 million support plan in Tuesday’s budget.
“We had a plan for 2030 – the courts have essentially brought that forward,” Mr Andrews said.