21 December, 2005

LETTERS: Illegal logging rolls on

Published in The Australian, 21 December 2005

FEDERAL Forestry Minister Ian Macdonald is intent on stopping the "slaughter" of rainforests in Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands and the illegal trade in timber ("Neighbours warned to act on illegal logging", 19/12). However, such a policy is doomed to failure. Most logging is conducted under the auspices of governments. While codes of practice are in place to minimise collateral damage during logging, they are seldom adhered to. It is too expensive for governments to monitor logging practices in remote locations, and in any case, bribery by large logging companies further reduces its possibility. To actually prove that illegal logging is happening is very difficult for the same reasons. Raw logs from PNG and the Solomons principally exported to China and Asian markets are more likely to be the result of illegal logging than sawn timber. A ban on sawn timber by Australia would likely leave the transgressors unaffected while hurting the legitimate operators.
Dr Colin Hunt
Holland Park West, Qld

I HAD no problem with Ian Macdonald's use of "slaughter" to describe the treatment of "some of the world's most unique and rare forests". But what got me is his concurrent tolerance of Tasmanian logging, which is flattening native forests at a rate proportionally four times as fast as PNG, for chips worth a fraction of the sawn timber being shipped out of PNG, with a similar lack of financial recompense to the hapless people living there. Worse, Tasmania is planning to increase the gargantuan harvest, almost wholly for the benefit of one company. While it's true that the slaughter is largely legal in Tasmania, this means only that the Tasmanian politicians are more brazen about their involvement. If Senator Macdonald is talking about sustainability, Tasmania belongs in the same basket with our northern and Pacific neighbours.
John Hayward
Weegena, Tas

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