ILLEGAL WOOD BILL ‘PASSED’
The good news for Australia’s already carbon tax-terrified timber industry is that the Gillard government’s Illegal Logging Prohibition Bill 2011 is unlikely to see fresh light of day before the end of this year.
Nobody denies the need to tighten borders against the trade in illegally sourced wood, but this Bill remains too much of a suck-it-and-see solution to be let loose without further tightening. Having just been referred to Parliament for a third inquiry – this time to the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade – it is now unlikely to resurface until the end of the year. By which time, given current events, there could even have been a change of government.
New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Malaysia, Canada and the US are among those who have complained that the Bill has not been adequately discussed with relevant trading partners. Some timber exporters feel similarly shortchanged.
A recent submission from the American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC) said trade-related objections to the Bill could be dealt with through outreach activities making clear that:
• it doesn’t impose a requirement to demonstrate proof of legality, or full traceability, on timber products imported into Australia
• the burden of proof for a criminal conviction under the prohibition articles of the Bill lies with the Australian Government that would have to demonstrate wood is illegally sourced in order to prosecute
• the Bill is founded on a risk-based approach to avoid imposition of additional and unnecessary controls on timber which are negligible risk with respect to illegal logging
• the government intends to recognise a wide range of credible procedures for demonstrating negligible risk which are adapted to the particular circumstances prevailing in individual supply countries
• there is no intent by the government to impose mandatory requirements for forest certification or other evidence of “forest sustainability” on imported wood products in the absence of an internationally-recognised and WTO-compliant framework for verification of sustainability.
The Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA) is working with forestry minister Ludwig’s office and the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry on guidelines for processors and importers on compliance obligations under the Act.