Category Archives: Sustainable Timbers Tasmania

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.

 

Could forest policy in Tasmania get any worse?

pines

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-08-04/tasmanian-forest-logging-moratorium-end-looms/11379976?sf216949275=1&fbclid=IwAR1ZNEK86E5bz4Y7Aer6JaddK3-Dl9Okh06DtRnitt50LzmO7SaZ0G10lkU

This recent news article tells us that the next battle in the 30+ year Tasmanian forestry wars is due in April 2020. Players and stakeholders are already arming themselves and lining up on both sides of the frontline.

Given the belligerent nature of the Tasmanian State Liberal Government this will be another bitter fight with plenty of casualties.

In 2014 the newly elected Liberal State Government together with the special timbers industry deliberately reignited the forestry wars. Now it seems the Crown sawmillers are rejoining the wars, citing resource losses due to recent bushfires.

You see the so-called sustainable yield for Tasmania’s public native forest is based on the maximum possible production from the current State forest. There is no allowance in the sustainable yield for losses due to fire, storm or plague. Any such losses that are incurred must be made up for by logging outside State forest such as Conservation Reserves.

That is a perverse definition of sustainable.

A plea for peace? How can there be peace when there is no dialogue? How can there be peace when the last attempt at peace was deliberately scuttled by Tasmania’s political system?

Nevermind the fact that the forest industry wants the taxpayer to continue funding this ongoing plunder of Tasmania’s public native forests. How many teachers and nurses will we do without this year?

Tasmania’s public native forests long ago ceased contributing any economic value to the State economy. For the last 20+ years they have been a burden on taxpayers as is made perfectly clear in this article:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/mar/29/tasmanian-forest-agreement-delivers-13bn-losses-in-giant-on-taxpayers

Tasmania’s public native forests are now just a political weapon to be used to embitter and divide the Tasmanian community. This article shows that perfectly!

And after 30 years Tasmanian’s just love playing the same old game!

The forestry wars will continue whilst Tasmania continues to waste scarce taxpayer’s money logging public native forest. That is the bottom line no one is prepared to acknowledge.

FSC supports illegal forestry in Australia

The following constitutes my submission to SCS Global Services as part of its assessment of Sustainable Timber Tasmania for FSC Certification.

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/2019/04/10/public-notification/

FSC2

https://au.fsc.org/en-au

https://www.sttas.com.au/

http://www.scsglobalservices.com/

The idea that public native forestry in Tasmania is “environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial and economically viable” (FSC’s very own criteria!) is complete and utter fantasy.

Just the history of the industry over the last 5 years demonstrates the hypocrisy of this idea, never mind the forestry wars of the last 40+ years!!

The above image is taken from the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) website. Unfortunately none of these three titles on the FSC website are live/linked. You can’t click to find out what the FSC means by “Environmentally Appropriate” or “Economically Viable”. So I typed “Economically Viable” into their search box and I got this result:

EcoVia

FSC “could not find any results”!!

I think the FSC has got some issues to resolve.

Luckily I have a clue as to what the FSC means by “economically viable” from the last time Forestry Tasmania attempted to gain FSC certification. The following quote comes from SCS Global Services website:

Can a company that operates at a loss achieve certification?

The FSC certification standard requires that a forest management entity have sufficient financial resources [taxpayer subsidies] to manage the defined forest area in conformance with the full scope of the standard.  The standard does not require that the certified forest is managed at a profit provided that other sources of working capital [taxpayer subsidies] are available and sufficient [$ billions] to enable management in conformance with the standard.

https://www.scsglobalservices.com/news/scs-responds-to-questions-about-the-forestry-tasmania-fsc-forest-management-assessment

So the FSC defines “economically viable” as pretty much anything, including major loss-making public native forestry.

The problem is, under Australian law that is ILLEGAL!!!!!!!

It’s called Competitive Neutrality, and I wrote a blog about it back in 2016:

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

It is Tasmania’s view that all the State’s PTEs and PFEs, together with its GBEs, are significant Government businesses for the purposes of the CPA. Accordingly, in applying the competitive neutrality principles, significant Government business enterprises are defined as those enterprises which are classified as PTEs, PFEs and/or GBEs.

https://www.economicregulator.tas.gov.au/Documents/Competitive%20Neutrality%20Principles%20Guidelines%20June%201996.pdf

This includes FT/STT.

In 1995 Australia’s governments agreed to the National Competition Policy (NCP) and Related Reforms.

http://ncp.ncc.gov.au/pages/home

The problem is many of those reforms have never been implemented, or have since been watered down.

FT/STT is a classic example!

It was corporatized according to NCP policy, but it has never been run as a commercial business. And yet it competes in the marketplace against private tree growers.

FT/STT has never publically acknowledged that it is a Government business competing in the marketplace against private forest growers both here in Tasmania and on the mainland

FT/STT has never publically acknowledged the need for it to behave in a competitively neutral manner.

FT/STT has never had any Competitive Neutrality Policies and objectives…..ever!

And every week that FT/STT gets another taxpayer handout is another breach of Australia’s Trade Practices Laws.

The fact that FT/STT has never been prosecuted illustrates the broken nature of Australia’s political system, and a conflicted forest industry.

The NCP does not discuss what should be done with Government businesses that cannot survive in a commercial world, businesses like FT/STT.

The FSC does not say where these “other sources” of money may come from or place any limits on the extent of subsidisation.

I wonder what economists think of this idea?

I wonder what private forest owners who compete in the marketplace against loss-making, forest squandering Sustainable Timber Tasmania think of this idea?

So Sustainable Timber Tasmania passes the FSC “economically viable” criteria with flying colors! What a joke!!

Never mind the long suffering Tasmanian taxpayer, or the lowly paid Tasmanian public servant!

The last 20 years

Last year this article appeared in a major Australian news media site detailing the extent of commercial losses from public native forestry in Tasmania:

JL

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/mar/29/tasmanian-forest-agreement-delivers-13bn-losses-in-giant-on-taxpayers

And that analysis was using FT’s own accounting methods!

If FT had to do its accounting like a private forest grower (ie. Competitive neutrality) the losses would be far greater. What private forest grower can value its entire land estate at $0.00??

No doubt the FSC would see this article as glowing praise for world class forest management!!

Greenpeace

The environmental organisation Greenpeace was one of the founding partners of the FSC. In March last year Greenpeace resigned from the FSC citing ongoing and significant issues with the way the FSC was being managed:

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/2018/03/30/greenpeace-leaves-the-forest-stewardship-council-fsc/

With Greenpeace gone it now seems that the FSC is moving towards becoming another forest industry rubber stamping organisation like the PEFC.

Buying FSC certified wood products does not save the world’s forests.

New Zealand

Imagine if this response on economic viability was given within a New Zealand context, where the forest industry is fully commercial and profitable?

“Yeah we just waste taxpayers money to grow trees and give them away! Who cares about farmers?”

New Zealand farmers would be marching on their Parliament House to bring down the Government!

Here in Tasmania? Not a whisper of protest!

Bunnings

Bunnings, Australia’s largest timber retailer, is threatening to stop selling public native forest products next year (2020) unless the products achieve FSC certification.

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/2018/08/04/bunnings-finally-takes-a-stand/

The marketplace is finally saying “enough is enough”!

For both Vicforests and STT this is crunch time!

Wind up

Four years ago former State politician Sue Smith called for the winding up of FT/STT. How she described the forest industry then is still the same today, but worse.

https://www.themercury.com.au/news/politics/former-mlc-sue-smith-urges-forestry-tasmania-windup/news-story/50272c2ae1798a9358999278b5563073?fbclid=IwAR2YxZMeGSksYF7eI5NxmEmnPxYe2BQ3a8vUdCmr38t1hclWC7tS3JqC-xc

How in anyone’s imagination can this agency achieve FSC certification?

Blackwood

Who is going to grow commercial blackwood when the Tasmania State government and STT waste taxpayers money giving away public native forest blackwood, supported by taxpayer subsidies and the Forest Stewardship Council?

Nothing has changed

Sustainable Timbers Tasmania does not have a business plan, nor does it have commercial objectives.

Neither does it apologise every year for its continuing waste of Tasmanian taxpayers money.

“This is the number of teachers and nurses you missed out on this year thanks to our activities. But don’t worry! We are sustainable!!”

Nothing has changed.

But from my perspective it is the failed economics of public native forestry that is the primary reason that Tasmania will never have a Tasmanian Blackwood Growers Cooperative.

If the FSC “Economic Viability” criteria are so easy to achieve, one must assume the other two criteria – “Environmentally Appropriate” and “Socially Beneficial” – are just a walk in the park!

As a forester I believe this is about the worst possible outcome for the forest industry. It is certainly the worst possible outcome for the Tasmanian community.

  1. And finally, who gets to pay for STT’s FSC assessment? That’s right! The long suffering Tasmanian taxpayer. Show me a private forest grower who has their FSC assessment paid for by the taxpayer. Answer! NONE!!

PPS. STT is just the forest manager. The State Government owns the forests! The same State Government that wants to log the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. The same State Government that IS logging ancient rainforests in Conservation Reserves. For the FSC to certify STT would be an even bigger act of hypocrisy than that of the Tasmanian State Government. The Tasmanian Government determines Forest Policy NOT Sustainable Timbers Tasmania!!

When will Tasmania get a real forest industry based on profitable private tree growers?

Public Notification

To:          Interested Parties

From:    SCS Global Services

Date:     8 April 2019

Re:         Notification of Planned FSC Certification Evaluation of Sustainable Timber Tasmania

Summary:  As part of an upcoming Forest Stewardship Council™ (FSC®) certification evaluation, SCS is currently seeking stakeholder input regarding the forest management program and practices of Sustainable Timber Tasmania.  Please comment via email or contact our offices (contact information below).

In pursuit of Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) endorsed forest management certification, Sustainable Timber Tasmania will be undergoing an audit on the full weeks of 20 and 27 May 2019.  The audit will be conducted by SCS Global Services, a FSC-accredited certification body. The Forest Stewardship Council is a non-profit organization devoted to encouraging the responsible management of the world’s forests. FSC sets standards that ensure forestry is practiced in an environmentally responsible, socially beneficial, and economically viable way.

Sustainable Timber Tasmania (STT) is a Tasmanian Government Business Enterprise responsible for sustainably managing  public production forest (Permanent Timber Production Zone land) and undertaking forest operations for the production and sale of forest products from these forests.

The 812 000 ha PTPZ land is approximately 12% of the Tasmanian land area. PTPZ land includes 375,000 ha of native forest that is available for wood production. It also includes 120,000 ha that contributes to Tasmania’s Comprehensive, Adequate and Representative Reserve system and a further 200,000 ha of non-production forest. STT manages 28,000 ha of plantation, comprising both hardwood eucalypts and softwood.

STT is seeking FSC certification for approximately 713,000 ha, the remaining PTPZ land area is managed either by third parties or is not eligible for FSC Forest Management certification due to its plantation conversion history.

Scope and Certification Evaluation Process

SCS Global Services (SCS), a FSC-accredited certification body based in California, will conduct this FSC Main Evaluation.

Performance will be evaluated against the The FSC National Forest Stewardship Standard of Australia (v1-0; 2018).  A copy of the standard is attached to this message.

The evaluation process includes the following components:

  • Public notification: distribution of the standard and solicitation of comments on the certification applicant; Audit planning and document review;
  • Field assessment: A representative sample of field sites and operations within the defined forest area are inspected by a team of auditors;
  • Stakeholder consultation is carried out prior to and during the field assessment;
  • Synthesis of findings: conformity to the standard is ascertained and the certification decision is formulated;
  • Reporting: a draft report describing the evaluation process, findings, and certification decision is produced;
  • Peer review: the draft evaluation report is peer reviewed by 2 independent natural resource professionals;
  • Finalization of the report and conveyance to the SCS Certification Committee for the final certification decision;
  • Certification decision: the final report and certification decision is conveyed to the applicant; a public summary of the certification report is released if certification is awarded.

Call for Public Participation

SCS is seeking comments on the forest management of Sustainable Timber Tasmania or other topics pertinent to their seeking FSC certification, such as whether Sustainable Timber Tasmania complies with the legal, social, technical, and environmental requirements of the standard or identification of high conservation value forests[1] within its managed lands.  Comments can be submitted via email to FSCConsultation@scsglobalservices.com, standard mail, or facsimile. All comments and sources will be kept in strict confidence at the request of the commenter.  Also, please feel welcome to forward this message on to other stakeholders that you think may have an interest in sharing their perspective on this assessment.

Date of the Evaluation

The field evaluation is scheduled to start 20 May 2019.  When possible, SCS will make arrangements to meet with interested parties during the evaluation if appropriate, but it is preferred that comments are submitted before the field evaluation commences.

Dispute Resolution Procedure

As provided by the FSC Interim Dispute Resolution Protocol and the SCS Forest Conservation Program Quality Manual, dispute resolution procedures are in place and available to interested parties at http://www.scsglobalservices.com/your-feedback.

Additional Information

More information about FSC and SCS can be obtained from www.fsc.org and www.SCSglobalServices.com. Information about Sustainable Timber Tasmania can be found athttps://www.sttas.com.au/.

Please Contact Us
Robert Hrubes Brendan Grady
FSC Lead Auditor SCS Director of Forest Management
2000 Powell St, Suite 600; Emeryville CA 94608, USA
Tel +1 (510)452-8034, Fax +1 (510) 452-6882
FSCConsultation@scsglobalservices.com

.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  

Evan Poirson | Program Associate, Forest Management Certification

The end is nigh!

Bunnings

The public native forest market is shifting quickly.

Wesfarmers, the parent company of Bunnings Hardware and Officeworks, yesterday announced they will only stock FSC certified products by 2020.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-09-17/vic-forestry-industry-at-risk-of-collapse/10255128

This means both Vicforests and Sustainable Timbers Tasmania will cease to exist.

Neither of these State Government forest agencies are likely to achieve FSC certification before then. Bunnings is a major customer for both these agencies products.

In less than a week since its launch the new National Forest Industries Plan has been dealt a mortal blow!

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/2018/09/17/national-forest-industries-plan-2018/

Six weeks ago Bunnings gave warning that it was living up to its policies and making a stand against poor forest management practices in Australia:

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/2018/08/04/bunnings-finally-takes-a-stand/

All around Australia public native forest management is in crisis.

Stand by for some serious fireworks!

Bunnings finally takes a stand

Bunnings

I wrote back in May about Bunnings, their fantastic timber policies, and how it was time for Bunnings to live up to those policies when it comes to their support for public native forestry in Australia:

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/2018/05/12/bunnings-timber-price-list-update/

Well it seems the time has come:

https://theage.com.au/politics/victoria/timber-industry-bid-to-prove-its-green-credentials-falls-flat-20180801-p4zuxv.html

Federal and State Governments refuse to resolve the disaster that is public native forestry in Australia so its time (finally) for the market to take responsibility.

Hooray for that!!

Hardware chain Bunnings has put VicForests on notice that it must reduce its impact on Victoria’s native forests or risk losing its custom, after the state-owned forestry company failed in its [third] bid to achieve green [FSC] certification.

Bunnings needs to also issue this warning to Tasmania’s State-owned forest agency Sustainable Timbers Tasmania.

https://bunnings.com.au

http://vicforests.com.au

https://sttas.com.au

Bunnings is Australia’s largest hardware chain with annual turnover of $11 billion and over 31,000 employees. It is Australia’s largest timber retailer.

Bunnings could be about to change the face of the forest industry in Australia and bring the industry into the 21st century.

So what else could Bunnings do to support a real forest industry in Australia?

The future of the forest industry in Australia is with profitable private tree growers.

Bunnings needs to start talking with farmer groups. There is a long road ahead and many years of neglect to make up, but forestry is about the long term.

Since Bunnings is also in New Zealand they should form a partnership with the New Zealand Farm Forestry Association (NZFFA), and support Kiwi tree growers.

Hooray for Bunnings!!!

Addendum

Upon further reflection one has to wonder exactly what is Bunnings hoping to achieve from its warning to Vicforests?

Vicforests has now failed to achieve FSC Certification three times!!

What possible assurances or changes in behaviour can Vicforests provide that will satisfy Bunnings but failed the Forest Stewardship Council test?

Surely a “three strikes” result from the FSC should be enough for Bunnings to stop supporting Vicforests.

Public native forestry in Australia is fundamentally compromised. It cannot achieve suitable environmental, community, political and commercial outcomes all at the same time. That is mission impossible!!

Bunnings and the rest of the timber market need to wake up to this fact.

Another blackwood timber price list

Here’s a blackwood timber price list for a timber retailer in Tasmania.

This sawmiller/retailer specialises in Tasmanian “specialty timbers”.

These timbers obviously come from Tasmanian public native forest, which as everyone should know by now, comes to market at great cost to Tasmanian taxpayers and the plundering of the last of our oldgrowth and rainforest.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/mar/29/tasmanian-forest-agreement-delivers-13bn-losses-in-giant-on-taxpayers

These prices are for individually priced boards, kiln dried and dressed, select grade (ie. Knot-free plain grain).

I’ve sorted these boards by the wood volume per metre, which seems to provide the best (but by no means perfect) explanation for the variation in price. The other curiosity besides the odd pricing structure is the diverse range of dimensions.

Note the variation in price for the boards of the same dimension eg. 310 x 32mm.

Given that timber is sold in Australia just on a price and NOT price per m or price per cubic metre, most customers would not spot this fraudulent behaviour.

Buyer beware!

ZXSJT

That this sawmiller is getting away with selling select grade blackwood for $8,000 per cubic metre should get some tongues wagging (I hope!).

The fact that getting this timber to market costs Tasmanian taxpayers is the criminal aspect of all this. Welcome to the Tasmanian forest industry!