The Age (article), October 28, 2010
THE forestry workers' union has warned the Brumby government not to make a quick-fix election commitment on native forests to woo the green vote, saying it would kill any chance of a Tasmanian-style peace deal for Victoria.
The Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union has called for forestry peace talks for Victoria similar to those in Tasmania, where the timber industry and environment groups last week agreed to a framework deal to phase out the majority of native forest logging.
Michael O'Connor - the CFMEU forestry division national secretary who will lead the entire union from January - said Victorian timber companies had already been approached about joining talks on the industry's future.
But he said this did not mean the union supported an end to native forest logging in Victoria, and cautioned against the state government promising a ''five-minute fix'' before the November 27 poll.
It is understood Labor figures have been considering an election forestry commitment, with ending logging in Melbourne's water catchments a likely priority.
Mr O'Connor said: ''My view is, if the government wanted to play around the edges with this issue they probably would kill off instantly any chance of a similar process as Tasmania ever happening.
''People who are advocating certain positions about the forestry issue just because there is an election around the corner, shouldn't let the blood rush to their head.''
Mr O'Connor said the native forest industry was in crisis, and that peace talks were the best way to give security to forestry workers and towns. In the meantime, he called for the forest area available for logging to remain unchanged and timber contracts overhauled to protect workers' rights.
Wilderness Society forests campaigner Luke Chamberlain called on the government to commit to supporting Victorian peace talks. He said they would need to protect native forests and give the logging industry a secure future in plantations.
Victorian Association of Forest Industries chief executive Philip Dalidakis said the association would expect to be involved if talks went ahead, but they would have to be on a different basis to Tasmania's.
Environment Minister Gavin Jennings said the government would talk to all parties before any decisions.
Opposition spokesman Peter Walsh said a Coalition government would give security to the timber industry by guaranteeing ongoing access to forests. It would support peace talks if they had industry backing, but said it was ''very early days''.
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