Environmental, legal and social justice organisations dismayed by harsh new laws against forest protectors
The Andrews government has steam-rolled dangerous changes to the Sustainable Forests (Timber) Act 2004 which could see peaceful protesters fined up to $21,000, or face 12 months in jail. The Sustainable Forests Timber Amendment (Timber Harvesting Safety Zones) Bill 2022 passed the Victorian Upper House today.
Sufficient evidence has not been provided to justify the harsh and heavy-handed new penalties that have been introduced. The laws will impact citizen scientists and whistleblowers monitoring logging and searching for endangered wildlife like the Greater Glider and Leadbeater’s Possum in forests under imminent threat from logging.
Over 4,000 people signed an online petition or emailed the Premier calling for the Bill to be scrapped, and 67 human rights, legal, environment, and climate organisations joined calls for the harsh amendments to be withdrawn.
The Maritime Union of Australia, Australian Services Union, and the United Workers Union also delivered a joint letter to Premier Andrews criticising the new laws.
Victorian Forest Alliance spokesperson, Chris Schuringa said:
“This blatant attack on community members protecting native forests is unjustified, extreme, and fails to address the real crime – the ongoing lawless destruction of forests. There have been countless breaches to environment laws, illegal logging, and alleged-corruption by state-owned VicForests. Yet the government is punishing the very people holding this rogue agency accountable.
“Peaceful forest protests have been used for decades to protect important areas of forest – many significant environmental protections were won off the back of protests. The right to protest has never been more important given the extinction and climate crisis we face – fuelled by continued logging of native forests. The Andrews government must act now to end native forest logging, not pass draconian laws that the Victorian public don’t support.” said Victorian Forest Alliance spokesperson Chris Schuringa.
Environmental Justice Australia Lawyer, Natalie Hogan said:
“The new laws are disproportionate and lack sufficient safeguards and oversight. The Andrews government says it will end native logging in Victoria this decade but, instead of enforcing existing laws against its own logging operator, it is further criminalising peaceful protest and punishing concerned citizens, whistleblowers and citizen scientists.”
“In the wake of devastating bushfires, and as we witness ecosystems collapse and the continued destruction of First Nations’ country, legitimate political expression is more important now than ever. This is essential for the protection and conservation of our incredible forests and precious wildlife.” – Environmental Justice Australia lawyer Natalie Hogan.
Tessa Fluence, EJA, 0448 448 326, [email protected]