Business as usual for government’s illegal logging policy
Today marked the launch of the Federal Government’s policy to eliminate trade in illegally sourced timber products. While hopes were high that this policy would showcase the Government’s commitment to ending the flow of illegally sourced timber into the Australian market through innovative and decisive action, it is instead centred on voluntary procedures that have formed the basis of Government policy in the past and have repeatedly failed.
“The Australian Government’s policy focuses on developing a range of voluntary protocols to ascertain the legality of imported forest products, as well as voluntary certification and product chain-of-custody schemes,” said Rebecca Keeble, Humane Society International (HSI) Program Manager. “Such voluntary schemes have been in place for a number of years, and yet illegally sourced timber and timber products are still flooding the Australian market, to the detriment of both the domestic timber industry and the ecological, social and economic sustainability of the industry in the supply country.”
International trade in illegally logged timber has far-reaching global consequences. The resulting environmental degradation further imperils threatened species such as the endangered Bornean Orangutan and the critically endangered Sumatran Orangutan. Populations of both these species have plummeted dramatically in line with escalating deforestation in recent years. The effects of illegal logging operations stretch even further with the destruction of forest habitat contributing between 18 – 25% of greenhouse gas emissions, making it the second biggest global source of greenhouse gases.
In contrast to the Government’s meagre approach, the Australian Labor Party has taken the progressive step of declaring that a Rudd Labor Government will implement a ban on the importation of illegally logged timber, by far the most effective way to restrict the movement of this timber into Australia.
“Australia has a responsibility to develop national policies that will ensure imported tropical timbers are sourced from legal and sustainable operations,” said Ms Keeble. “This could be achieved by establishing a mandatory independent certification system for all domestically and internationally sourced timber and timber products, enabling the product’s legality to be traced through the entire chain of custody from initial harvest through to the eventual point of sale. Nothing short of mandatory measures is going to solve this problem in the foreseeable future.”
HSI is calling on the Federal Government to assist developing countries to halt the ubiquitous clearing and trade in illegal timber, by enacting legislation which links overseas financial aid with tropical forest protection, and to consider utilising international mechanisms such as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) to regulate the trade in endangered timber species.