Category Archives: Commentary

ACCC suing Government Business Enterprise (GBE) over alleged anti-competitive conduct

ACCC

At long last the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is taking action against anti-competitive State Government businesses.

Hooray for that!!

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-12-09/accc-suing-tasports-over-alleged-misuse-of-market-power/11781852

And it is in Tasmania!!

Now who would EVER imagine anti-competitive GBE behaviour in Tasmania?

https://www.accc.gov.au/

I’ve written about this issue previously as it relates to the forest industry in Tasmania, particularly public native forestry:

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/2016/10/17/competitive-neutrality-in-forestry/

and

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/2019/05/13/fsc-supports-illegal-forestry-in-australia/

ACCC Chairman Mr Rod Sims said the case against Tasports was the first of its kind under the amended misuse of market power provision, an “important law reform designed to protect the competitive process and help us address the harm that anti-competitive conduct does to consumers and the Australian economy“.

Does handing out $100 millions of taxpayer dollars over decades to a failed State-owned forest enterprise, which is in direct competition with private forest growers, amount to anti-competitive behaviour?

It sure does!

Does selling 99% of your forest produce “off-market” in long-term secret sales contracts, with absolutely no competition or price transparency, amount to anti-competitive behaviour?

It sure does?

Now is the ACCC prepared to take on any more anti-competitive Government Buisness Enterprises?

I sure hope so!

Wouldn’t it be a laugh for Sustainable Timbers Tasmania to gain FSC Certification, only to then be prosecuted by the ACCC for anti-competitive behaviour?

Only in Tasmania!

Tasmania will never have a proper commercial forest industry until anti-competitive welfare forestry is stopped.

 

“They should have been planting extra trees 15 years ago,” one frustrated sawmill owner said

sawmill3

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-11-09/why-the-victorian-government-is-taking-an-axe-to-timber-industry/11687952?fbclid=IwAR0J9KGJbcZCmbexgIqHsrj47aV44vpqJXPjWRmgW2KYhbnZve_hWgExAFI

This quote from a native forest sawmiller pretty much sums up for me why the forest industry in Australia is in such a crisis!

Sure, it’s historical.

It comes from having a forest industry that up until 20 years ago was almost 100% Government run.

Why would anyone other than Government, take responsibility for growing the industry?

That is what the sawmiller meant when he said “they”. Politicians plant trees! Sawmillers cut them down! A complete absence of personal responsibility!!

And that attitude is still the dominant attitude within the forest industry in Australia, even when most timber now grown and harvested in Australia is privately owned.

Here we are in the 21st century and no one in the forest industry in Australia takes any responsibility for ensuring the industry’s future.

And when I say forest industry here I mean anyone whose business relies on wood, from retailers, craftspeople and manufacturers all the way back to loggers and sawmillers.

It is the job of the marketplace to ensure the forest industry has a future, not politicians or taxpayers.

This means an end to Welfare Forestry and a focus on profitable tree growing.

It also means a complete change of attitude and thinking within the industry.

And it means building strong enduring relationships with rural communities.

So when do we begin?

The End of Welfare Forestry

Native forest

Last week the Victorian State Government announced that public native forestry would cease in 2030.

https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2019/nov/07/native-forest-logging-to-be-phased-out-by-2030-as-victoria-plans-timber-transition

https://www.theage.com.au/politics/victoria/immediate-end-to-old-growth-logging-as-thousands-of-jobs-set-to-go-20191107-p5388w.html

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-11-07/regional-forestry-reax-to-end-of-native-logging-victoria-by-2030/11680544

https://www.theage.com.au/national/victoria/feds-fellers-furious-over-andrews-plan-to-halt-native-forest-logging-20191107-p538e8.html?fbclid=IwAR2AKHO9rL9su9gXOQQoDmx2dklqEKri37rV13oYROEGV90Qq8KKQotGkA4

Victoria, being a relatively progressive State, has been wrestling with the “forestry” issue for decades, with numerous Plans, Strategies, Reports, industry and community consultations, promises and backflips. This was just the latest manifestation:

https://www2.delwp.vic.gov.au/futureforests

The public native forest industry has been in decline for decades, but the industry wants to ensure that the end, when it comes, is as slow, painful and costly as possible.

Forest industry apologists bleat about how vital public native forestry is to the future of humanity!! Apparently the world will end if we stop chopping down public native forest.

Industry apologists also love talking about “balance”; that there is a balance between conservation and exploitation of our native forests. The industry has in the past attempted to impose a “balance” on our forests but without success.

Why?

Because public native forestry is 100% politics. To say there is a “balance” in public native forestry is to say there is a “balance” in politics! There is no such thing!

Does anyone believe 2030 will be the year welfare forestry ends?

Not likely. There are plenty of elections between now and then with plenty of changes of Government.

But this is definitely another nail in the coffin of the industry.

The only reason Victoria logs public native forest is to subsidise a few jobs. It is a very expensive wasteful employment program. That is all!

Private tree growers do NOT grow trees to subsidise jobs.

Public native (Welfare) forestry prevents a real forest industry from becoming established in Australia.

As a forester I look forward to the day Australia finally has a real forest industry.

The burning of Notre Dame and Tasmanian Special Timbers

NotreDameFire

The burning of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris on 15/4/2019 provides the perfect metaphor for the continuing destruction of Tasmania’s natural heritage.

The world was horrified that the 800 year old World Heritage Listed cathedral was on fire. How could humanity lose such a treasure?

But here in Tasmania 800+ year old heritage is destroyed every single day!

Here in Tasmania 800+ year old trees are cut down every day, at taxpayer expense, to provide a lowly subsistence for the rent seekers in the Tasmanian special timbers industry; sawmillers, furniture makers, luthiers, craftsmen, shop keepers, etc..

Trees such as Celery Top Pine (Phyllocladus aspleniifolius) and Myrtle (Nothofagus cunninghamii) live within Tasmania’s cool temperate rainforest and can live for 800-1000 years, germinating long before Bishop Maurice de Sully commenced the construction of Notre Dame in 1160.

Some of these trees are even in designated Conservation Reserves that were specifically established to protect these very same ancient trees and forests.

Such is the perverse corrupt nature of public native forestry and politics in the island State of Tasmania.

https://www.stategrowth.tas.gov.au/energy_and_resources/forestry/special_species_timber_management_plan

The public response to the damage at Notre Dame has been nothing but extraordinary. €100s millions have been pledged by individuals to rebuild Notre Dame and restore this international treasure.

Meanwhile in Tasmania these 800+ year old trees are destroyed with no process transparency, no FSC certification, at considerable public expense and no thought for the heritage that is being destroyed.

These people are the Notre Dame arsonists of Tasmania:

http://livingwoodtasmania.org.au/

https://www.facebook.com/TasmanianSpecialTimbersAlliance/

and many, many more. They number in the thousands in Tasmania!

Landowner opinion on trees

PFT2

This message arrived in my email recently:

Private Forests Tasmania, Institute of Foresters of Australia, Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association and the Forest Practices Authority seek your opinion on growing trees on your property, the benefits and barriers that you face.

Could you please assist us by participating in this 5 minute survey.  If you would like to know more, please consider attending a field day.  Please complete by 7th March 2019.

https://www.pft.tas.gov.au

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/MCVC72B

I’m heartened by the presence of the TFGA in the above list, but disheartened by the absence of FIAT/TFFPN.

I’ve copied the survey questions here:

Question Title

  1. Do you currently, or have you in the past, had a tree plantation or native forest growing on your property? Y/N
  2. Do you know that trees can benefit your overall farm production? Y/N/Some
  • Livestock – welfare, weight gain, survival rates, milk yields, shelter.
  • Crops and pasture – pasture production, drought protection, water evaporation, wind.
  • Biodiversity – soil erosion, wildlife habitat, climate change.
  • Financial – trees are money in the bank.
  1. If any, what do you consider are the barriers to planting and growing trees on your property?

(You may select more than one answer).

  • No barriers
  • Time poor
  • Establishment costs
  • Not enough benefits
  • Lack of incentives
  • Management costs
  • Harvesting costs
  • Lack of information
  • Loss of agricultural land
  • Risk
  • Time it takes trees to grow
  • Market uncertainty and low returns
  • Other (please specify)
  1. Do you plan on adding trees to your property in the future? Y/N/Maybe
  2. Would you consider planting trees if you had any of the following?

(You may select more than one option).

  • Financial assistance
  • A Joint Venture with a forest company
  • A better understanding of how trees can contribute to your overall farm profitability
  • A better understanding of how trees can benefit your livestock, crops and pasture
  • You could receive carbon credits
  • You had access to good tree planting advice and assistance
  • Other (please specify)
  1. What are your overall thoughts on tree growing?
  2. Would you consider attending field days to learn more about planting trees on your property and the benefits to you? Y/N/Maybe
  3. What would you specifically like to learn about at field days?
  • (You may select more than one option).
  • Livestock benefits
  • Crop & pasture benefits
  • Shelter and windbreaks
  • Financial benefits
  • Carbon credits
  • Plantation establishment
  • Management
  • Design
  • Other (please specify)
  1. Please provide any additional comments or feedback.
  2. Would you like to join our mailing list to receive up to date information on private forest matters in Tasmania? Y/N
  3. Your details
  • Name
  • Company
  • Address
  • Address 2
  • City/Town
  • State
  • Postal Code
  • Email Address
  • Phone Number

 

As a forester I read this survey and think – NOTHING HAS CHANGED! The forest industry thinks exactly the same way today as it did 50 years ago!!

How is that humanly possible?

Given what has happened in Tasmania over the last 50 years how can people NOT change?

This is just extraordinary.

The forest industry has spent the last 50 years lurching from crisis to failure to crisis. The forest industry today is a mere shadow of yesteryear, but still the attitude and thinking remains unchanged.

I could just as easily write a survey for members of the forest industry to respond too, because for me the weight of inertia and lack of vision lies not with Tasmanian farmers, but with members of the forest industry (most broadly defined).

Firstly let me state plainly:

Tasmania will never have a proper forest industry while we continue to log public native forest! The past 50 years proves that beyond any doubt whatsoever!

Secondly:

Growing trees for wood production is business. Not politics! Not community service! Not ideology! Not subsidy!

Many/most people in the Tasmanian forest industry choke on either or both of these statements.

And therein lies the problem.

Progress with Tasmanian farmers in building a new forest industry is not possible whilst the old mindset remains.

And I see no indication of such change.

Private Forests Tasmania, and its predecessor the Private Forestry Division within the old Forestry Commission, has been around for almost 50 years!!

PFT should have been doing these surveys every 2-5 years since it formed. I know there have been farmer surveys in the past but obviously nothing came of the results.

Here are two examples of how the New Zealand forest industry engages with farmers:

https://nz.pfolsen.com/market-info-news/

http://www.laurieforestry.co.nz/Monthly-Newsletter

I don’t know ANY company in Australia that behaves like this.

And does this survey mean that no one in the forest industry including retailers, manufacturers as well as sawmillers, has any ideas on how to engage with farmers? No ideas at all on how to motivate, recognise, reward and encourage Tasmanian farmers to grow quality timber?

If that is the case then it is little wonder that the forest industry is in such dire straits. There is no mental capacity there whatsoever!

If the forest industry wants to genuinely engage with Tasmanian farmers it doesn’t need an opinion survey. Let’s see some real honest genuine engagement!!!

When will Tasmania get a fully commercial profitable forest industry?

I wonder if that’s a Tasmanian record?

blackheart

At the recent January 2019 IST log tender a single black hearted sassafras log sold for $10,100!!

I wonder if that is a record price for a native forest log in Tasmania?

https://www.islandspecialtytimbers.com.au/

The log had the following measurements:

Length: 5.2 metres

Small end diameter: 71 cm

Large end diameter: 85 cm

Volume: 2.48 cubic metres

Unit Price: $4,075 per cubic metre

Black hearted sassafras is a slow growing rainforest tree native to Tasmania and Victoria.

Most black heart sassafras timber comes from unsustainable, taxpayer funded, public native forest logging in Tasmania, including the Government approved logging of Conservation Reserves.

Most Tasmanians and Australians don’t seem to care about Tasmanian forests!

Anyway it is an extraordinary price for a log.

The Wooden Boat Festival and the Tasmanian Forestry Wars

AWBF

As I’ve written previously on this website, to have a wood craft festival in the 21st century that ignores the issue of where the wood comes from, who grows it, fails to express concern for the future of the world’s forests, or demonstrate support for private tree growers, seems to me to be the equivalent to denying climate change.

But such is the situation with the Australian Wooden Boat Festival (AWBF) which is on this weekend in Hobart, Tasmania.

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/2018/10/08/the-australian-wooden-boat-festival/

The fact that most wood craft festivals in Australia behave in a similar manner is no excuse.

To date the AWBF has managed to avoid being caught up in the long running Tasmanian Forestry Wars, but the events of the last 5 years have changed that.

In 2014 the Tasmanian State election was waged yet again on a battle for the forests. The new Liberal Government scrapped the Tasmanian Forestry Agreement that had been negotiated between the forest industry and the community.

Forest areas that had been earmarked for reservation were opened up for future logging against the advice of the forest industry and the market.

The new Liberal Government then sought, with the support of the wooden boat community, to open up the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (TWWHA) for logging. This move was blocked by UNESCO.

The TWWHA can still be logged, but UNESCO would remove the area from the World Heritage Register.

In 2017 the Tasmanian State Government released the Tasmanian Special Species Management Plan. This Plan allows for the logging of special species timbers, including so called boat timbers, within Tasmania’s Conservation Areas. This logging is to happen at taxpayers expense, with no accountability and no transparency.

These Conservation Reserves were established under the 1996 Tasmanian Regional Forest Agreement explicitly to protect rainforest and oldgrowth from logging, even although Tasmanian legislation allows for logging with Conservation Reserves (this IS Tasmania after all).

The new Special Species Management Plan explicitly uses “market demand” and events such as the Deloraine Craft Fair and the Australian Wooden Boat Festival as justification for opening up Tasmania’s Conservation Reserves for rainforest and old growth logging.

That Management Plan has now been in effect for 18 months with zero transparency or accountability. We have no idea what areas have been logged or how much taxpayers money has been wasted.

You can read my critique of this travesty of a Management Plan here:

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/2017/10/23/tasmanian-rainforest-plunder/

The fact that some people within the wooden boat community are in full support of this appalling situation needs to be highlighted.

The AWBF is a large successful festival which could be a force for change and for good.

Instead the Australian Wooden Boat Festival is now in line to become another battleground in the long running destructive Forestry Wars.

And the toxic Tasmanian political system will guarantee that the AWBF is used as a weapon to achieve short term political gain. We have seen it all before!

The Future

In the 21st century the AWBF needs to explicitly state its policy on forests, wood sourcing away from public native forests.

Currently the AWBF has no policies on these issues.

Instead the AWBF sits in silence working to ensure that Tasmanian rainforests and oldgrowth remain available for logging.

The State Government will of course threaten that to stop rainforest logging will endanger the AWBF.

The State Government will of course assert that rainforest logging is sustainable (whilst providing zero evidence/transparency/accountability).

In what perverted universe is the harvesting 500 to 1,000 year-old trees sustainable? Based on this very same logic Tasmania will resume logging Huon pine at some point!

It’s time to bring the Australian Wooden Boat Festival into the 21st century. Otherwise pressure must be brought upon the AWBF sponsors to review their support for the event.

Here’s a list of the major sponsors:

https://www.australianwoodenboatfestival.com.au/about-us/partners/

People attending or participating in the AWBF need to realise they are supporting the Tasmanian Forestry Wars and the continuing plunder of our rainforests and Tasmanian taxpayers.

It’s time to stop!!