Labor caves in to pressure, drops Bill

Reading a Newspaper

Thursday 16 September 2021

After industry and community uproar over the Andrews Labor Government’s attempts to cut down the rights of timber workers and contractors, Labor has caved in to intense pressure and stopped debate on its unfair Forests Bill in the Upper House today.

Earlier this week, the Andrews Labor Government introduced its Forests Legislation Amendment (Compliance and Enforcement) Bill 2019, which sought to remove defences available to timber workers undertaking timber harvesting and increased penalties to $21,000 for workers and $109,000 for contractors.

The proposed new laws would have introduced new criminal offences if timber workers failed to comply with requirements under the Code of Practice for Timber Production. However, Labor has yet to release its new ‘overhauled’ Code of Practice, leaving timber workers in the dark about what they can and cannot do.

The Liberal Nationals moved a motion to stop debate on the Bill in the Upper House, but crossbenchers Fiona Patten, Andy Meddick and Samantha Ratnam voted with the Labor Government defeating the motion 19 to 16.

The Liberal Nationals also moved a number of amendments to provisions in the Bill which would have otherwise required timber workers to prove they were innocent when accused of acting unlawfully and removed statutory defences from prosecution, which timber workers have had access to for many years.

In a spectacular backflip this morning, the Andrew Labor Government moved to stop further debate on the Bill, which was midway through debating various amendments, with no reason given as to why.

This follows calls from the Liberal Nationals, timber contractors, timber workers and the CFMMEU Manufacturing Division on the Andrews Labor Government to withdraw the Bill.

Comments attributable to Shadow Minister for Industry and Manufacturing, Bridget Vallence:

“In a spectacular backflip, Labor has caved in to intense pressure from the timber industry, halting the Parliamentary debate on their controversial proposed new law that would cut-down timber workers.

“This Forests Bill has been botched from the beginning and the Andrews Labor Government has been forced into an embarrassing backdown after problems were exposed by the Liberal Nationals, the timber industry and unions.

“The strict liability provisions in the Bill would have left timber workers out in the cold and completely vulnerable to unfair prosecutions for just doing their job.

“The Andrews Labor Government must now guarantee that it will withdraw this damaging legislation from any further debate and go through a proper consultation process with the timber industry and workers after the new Code of Practice has been released, and before subjecting them to these unfair and job destroying proposed laws.”