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Andrews Labor Government abandons forest workers

The Andrews Government has completely abandoned forest workers and managers, and even their own commercial entity VicForests.

Forest workers are being hung out to dry with the inclusion of a “strict liability” clause in a Bill even before the changes to the Code that regulates their operation are known.

“Strict liability" will mean that whether an honest mistake has been made or not, the accused will have to prove their innocence.

This is totally out of line with accepted practice and means penalties of more than $20,000 to an individual worker or more than $100,000 for a contractor or VicForests.

In the Legislative Council yesterday, the Forests Legislation Amendment (Compliance and Enforcement) Bill 2019 was narrowly passed. The Bill was ratified in the legislative assembly this morning when it was hastily brought forward, without any notice or procedural fairness.

During debate, the Resources Minister Jaala Pulford replied with inconsistencies and misinformation when questioned by Coalition council members.

This Bill is being rushed through despite the impending substantial changes to the Code of Practice for Timber Production not being released.

The Australian Law Reform Commission has issued a number of principles, to be considered when applying “strict liability”. This Legislation does not satisfy any of these principles.

The controversial Legislation passed with the slimmest of margins with the support of the Labor-voting independents Andy Meddick, Fiona Patten and the Greens, despite desperate approaches from the timber workers, CFMEU and the Liberals and Nationals.

They knew exactly what they were doing and deliberately thumbed their nose at the industry despite having full knowledge of the impact of their decision to support the hypocritical actions of this Labor Government.

Labor wants to rush this bill through before the release of the new code of practice for timber production, making things very ambiguous and uncertain for timber workers just trying to do their jobs.

Comments attributable to Shadow Minister for Environment and Climate Change, Cindy McLeish:

“At a time when timber workers and contractors are still coming to terms with the heartbreaking decision to shut down their industry, it is difficult to fathom how the Premier could be so heartless.

“This Labor Government will stop at nothing to burn hard working legitimate forest workers and their families, to impress their Greens buddies.

“We need to fight for the rights of forest workers and contractors before they are steamrolled.”

Comments attributable to Member for Narracan, Gary Blackwood:

“The Premier will turn his back on the Forestry Division of the CFMEU in a desperate attempt to retain power. He will stop at nothing.

“The Andrews Labor Government are turning a blind eye to the impact this will have on forest workers and contractors.

“I am very proud to say that the Liberals and Nationals and the majority of the crossbenchers stood firm and tried very hard to convince members of the Government to understand the enormous flaws in the drafting of the Bill and the dishonest and unfair nature of its intent.”


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