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Farcical illegal logging Bill reaches the Senate

Environmental non-government organisations have had the forestry industry in their sights for as long as one has existed. Most recently, consultations with these groups has led to the introduction of the Illegal Logging Prohibition Bill 2012, which is currently being considered by Commonwealth lawmakers:

The Illegal Logging Prohibition Bill has passed the House of Representatives and is currently before the Senate. It prohibits the importation of anything containing illegally logged timber (including paper) and the processing of illegally harvested, domestically grown raw logs. It also requires importers of regulated timber products and processors of raw logs to meet due diligence requirements as to their legality.

The proposed law is a farce.

The most glaring problem with the Bill is the way it defines “illegal logging” by reference to the laws of jurisdictions outside Australia. The new law would require Australian timber importers and saw millers to ensure that timber products were all compliant with a huge range of foreign and international laws relating to illegal logging. Compliance must be proved by importers, which reverses the onus of proof – importers are presumed to be guilty until they prove themselves to be innocent. Penalties can even apply in cases where an importer has no knowledge of a contravention committed by another party further up the supply chain.

And the Bill captures much more than illegal logging in any direct sense. Any importer of “timber products” is caught. The definition of timber products is so broad as to capture anything containing timber. This includes plywood, furniture, picture frames and even paper and cardboard.

In negotiating the content of this Bill, the government appears to have treated NGOs as impartial stakeholders. The timber industry and timber importers on the other hand have been viewed with great suspicion.

The result is a Bill that pays scant regard to the rule of law. The government seems blind to the devastating effect this law will have. Let’s hope this nonsense stops with the Senate.

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