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The Government is now facing fresh pressure from the industry to change its forestry law after a report found the legislation does not go far enough.
Key points:The Government’s timber bill will not go beyond the existing legal framework for a timber harvestThe Government says it will look at a new legal framework to make sure it meets the requirements of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)Timber harvest is currently governed by a different set of rules than what’s used for forestry and agricultureThe report found a number of other rules and regulations that were not required under the Forestry Act were not in the forestry bill, which covers the harvesting of timber.
Timber harvesting requires permits, which are issued by a forest department, and timber is typically harvested on private land.
The government’s timber law was first passed in December 2016, and it contains several rules that are in conflict with the CBD, which requires a range of environmental impacts to be considered in the decision-making process.
“There are a number rules that the Forestry Amendment (Forest Rights) Bill 2016 [is] not quite clear on,” Environment Minister Greg Hunt told the ABC.
“We are in the process of doing an independent review of what the laws and regulations are, so that we can come up with the right balance between the two.”
Mr Hunt said the Government was “open to looking at a different forestry law” in the interim.
“The key thing is that we’ve got a legal framework that is appropriate to the current circumstances of this situation,” he said.
“That means that the Government has to be very clear about what that framework is.”‘
There is no good reason’ to require a permitTimber has been harvested on about 30 per cent of Australian property since 1872, when a royal commission found there was a problem with the logging industry.
The Commission recommended the Government ban logging in most of the country.
A few years later, the federal government adopted a series of laws to stop logging and, in the late 1990s, a new forestry law was introduced.
The new laws allowed for the use of a limited number of permits, but not for timber harvesting.
The Federal Government said it was still working out how it will implement the laws, but a new law introduced by the Labor Government would only apply to the harvesting and processing of timber, which it described as “further evidence” of the need for a new legislation.
The Government said its forestry bill was a “comprehensive and rigorous approach to forest management”, and it will review the laws to make them more compliant.
“If we’re going to change our laws, then we have to look at what other people are doing,” Environment Secretary Greg Hunt said.”[This is] something that we have a lot of interest in and we’re looking at it.”
The Government is expected to release a report in the coming months into the impacts of the changes, including a look at the impacts on the environment and on local communities.
The report, to be released by the end of the year, will also look at whether the current forestry laws could be modified to give a greater flexibility to the timber industry, and whether the changes should be brought forward to allow for more timber harvesting in some areas.
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