18 November, 2006

THE AGE: Walking the line on forests

Liz Minchin
The Age, November 18, 2006

No matter what Labor announced in its forestry policy yesterday, someone was bound to complain.

Protect too much and risk the ire of industry, and accusations of selling out jobs. Protect too little and face the fury of conservationists and accusations of selling out Victoria's natural heritage.

Either way, politicians can expect to cop it from all sides.

So the forestry package was a classic case of compromise to minimise the inevitable barbs.

Fearing major new cuts in land available for logging, this week the timber industry and its supporters stepped up pressure on the Government.

Yesterday their response was more muted, having won concessions that there would be no net job losses, no net loss of timber despite some old-growth forests being protected — although where the replacement timber will come from is yet to be decided — and a promise not to turn any more forests in East Gippsland into national parks.

By pre-empting its own inquiry and immediately protecting the long disputed old-growth forests of East Gippsland's Goolengook valley, as well as creating the new Cobboboonee National Park near Portland, the Government won some restrained applause from environment groups.

But the ongoing logging in parts of Melbourne's water catchments remains a sore point. As Labor knows all too well, if it does get back into office, this policy will do little to end the fighting over Victoria's forests.

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