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Statement: reports on illegal logging are incorrect.



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The Hon. Tony Burke MP

Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry

Statement: reports on illegal logging are incorrect

25 August 2009 DAFF09/306B

Reports in today’s Fairfax papers that the Government has abandoned its election promises on illegal logging are incorrect.

There is one key obstacle which must be overcome before we can restrict the importation of illegally-logged timber into Australia: we have no way of knowing which imported timber is legal and which is illegal.

Unfortunately, illegally-logged timber doesn’t come with an identification sticker. A piece of illegally-logged kwila (merbau) timber can look exactly the same as a legally logged piece.

Without that knowledge, the only option would be a blanket ban on all imports - including the 91% of timber imports believed to be logged legally.

Clearly, this is not an option.

If the previous Coalition had taken action on this issue during its 12 years in Government, we would be much further down the track in addressing this international challenge.

The Rudd Government will continue to act now to try to overcome the challenges which the previous Government put in the too-hard-basket.

In order to restrict the importation of illegally-logged timber, we must be able to identify legally logged timber and verify its status, the whole way through the production chain.

This requires agreements with the countries in which timber is harvested and further agreements with the countries in which timber is processed.

We have already negotiated agreements with Indonesia and Papua New Guinea and are in further discussions with Malaysia and China.

A discussion paper looking at the most effective measures to take within Australia is expected to be released shortly.

Australia’s forests are well managed. Australia’s forest industries and forestry workers are right to see the importation of illegally-logged timber as unfair.

The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry document referred to in the Fairfax reports clearly stated:

“[The illegal logging policy objective] provides the basis for addressing all five components of the government’s illegal logging election commitment… The proposed timeline is to complete the Regulatory Impact Statement and provide the government with policy options for consideration…on restricting the importation of illegally logged timber.”