Return to Rail the Key in Regional Regeneration

Hon. Diane Evers MLC (left) with the Wheatbelt Railway Retention Alliance’s Jane Fuchsbichler.

WA Greens MLC Diane Evers will take further steps on behalf of community organisation this week when she tables a petition in Western Australian Parliament supporting the re-opening of Tier 3 rail lines in regional Western Australia.

Ms Evers, The Greens (WA) spokesperson for regional development, will table a petition supported by over a thousand signatories in the Legislative Council on Wednesday, opposed to the historic closure of Tier 3 rail infrastructure by the lessee, Arc Infrastructure.

The petition will call on the WA Labor Government to make a pre-election commitment to upgrade and re-open Tier 3 rail lines, ensure transparency in all future contracts, and explore options to return the control of Tier 3 lines to the State when Arc Infrastructure declares them to be uneconomical.

The community call has been led by the Wheatbelt Railway Retention Alliance’s Jane Fuchsbichler, as the principal petitioner. Ms Fuchsbishler is seeking to redress the cost-shifting to the WA export industry, taxpayers and ratepayers through increased transport costs and road safety and maintenance. The shift to road transport also puts additional pressure on the environment with increased carbon emissions.

Ms Evers is a long-term campaigner for the re-establishment of freight on rail in regional Western Australia and tabled an earlier petition to WA Parliament on behalf of the South West community in August 2019, when over 3,000 signatories called for lithium from the Greenbushes mine to be transported by rail.

QUOTES ATTRIBUTED TO DIANE EVERS MLC:

“Western Australians love trains and this petition is a clear request that the WA Labor Government must take further steps to recover Tier 3 rail lines.

“State and federal governments spend vast amounts on road infrastructure, while century-old rail networks that could perform much of the freight task, have been neglected.

“The southern wheatbelt region has the highest road toll in all of Australia and with intrastate regional road travel likely to reach the highest levels in history as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has never been a more important time to take action on road safety.

“Areas of the state with the highest levels of crop production also have the highest road death toll; rail transport and significant reduction of road train journeys would reduce the risks.

“Last year, Transport Minister Rita Saffioti admitted that truck movements on South West roads are set to increase sharply, and projected to quadruple beyond the year 2022.

“If WA Labor is genuine about jobs and recovery as our state transitions through this pandemic, it will exercise its power to restore the state’s rail networks, beginning with the reclamation of Tier 3 lines from appalling neglect.

GET IN TOUCH:
Hon. Diane Evers
MLC for South West
(08) 9486 8070

WA Greens Introduce Bill to End Native Forest Logging

South West Greens MLC Diane Evers will introduce legislation to WA Parliament this week to end native forest logging in Western Australia once and for all.

Ms Evers, The Greens (WA) spokesperson for forests, will table the Forest Products Amendment Bill 2020 in the Legislative Council on Thursday as part of efforts towards systemic change in the management of public forests and forest industries.

Ms Evers said she was calling on the WA Labor Government to wind up the Forests Products Commission (FPC) after two decades of total failure to manage native forests.

According to Ms Evers, reforms brought about through the Forest Products Act 2000 (WA) had failed to achieve forest goals, both for the forest industry and forest campaigners.

By removing dysfunctional legislative instruments such as the Forest Products Commission and redefining ‘forest products’, Ms Evers said the WA Labor Government could begin to reverse the damage caused to this precious public asset.

QUOTES ATTRIBUTED TO DIANE EVERS MLC:

“Native forest logging for commercial gain by the Forests Products Commission must end.

“There has been total failure to manage our native forests, with the FPC unable to protect high conservation value forests, develop the plantation industry, manage the sandalwood industry, or generate profits to the state.

“Forest campaigners have been calling for significant change for many years, as it has become ever-more apparent that old trees are being logged as a result of an illogical methodology used to define old growth.

“Not only have native forest protections been lacking, but the FPC has cheated their pine sharefarmers out of an honest return.

“The FPC has also reaped profit from the sandalwood industry, while allowing native title holders minimal harvest.

“This pattern of failure and environmental destruction has occurred all while the FPC has been returning a significant overall net loss to Western Australians —There has been little or no profit from our native forest timber for some time.

“This Bill represents a step towards a better system for all, achieved through a suite of reforms to modernise management of forests and forestry.

“Native forests are a valuable and irreplaceable source of environmental, economic and social benefits and forest management must address the urgent challenges of climate change and biodiversity loss.

“Ending native logging will deliver more to our regional communities and to Western Australia by allowing the WA Labor Government to invest in opportunities such as eco-tourism, honey and bee production, water provision, and carbon credits.

“The time has come to reform the existing system of forest management and remove the Forest Products Commission, by ending native forest logging in Western Australia.”

GET IN TOUCH:
Hon. Diane Evers
MLC for South West
(08) 9486 8070

Featured Photo: Alex Jenkins – Edith Cowan University

Winds of Change Not Strong Enough: WA Greens

South West Greens MLC Diane Evers has described today’s announcement by the McGowan Government of a feasibility study into the production of wind turbine components in Western Australia as a necessary, though limited, step forward for local manufacturing. 

Ms Evers, The Greens (WA) spokesperson for jobs & trade and regional development, has long-supported the South West Region as a potential manufacturing hub to facilitate the creation of higher-value green jobs, which would also strengthen the appeal of the region as a place to live and work. 

With Western Australia having become renowned for pulling resources out of the ground and shipping to overseas markets, Ms Evers said taking the next step to retain the value of the resources extracted in the state was long overdue.

Ms Evers said she was concerned, however, that information provided by the Government was lightweight in its current form, criticising the Government’s link between a feasibility study and ‘a pipeline of local jobs’ as speculative without a clear timeframe for action.

Ms Evers was supported in her reticence to embrace the announcement by The Greens (WA) spokesperson for Climate Change and Energy, Tim Clifford MLC, who highlighted the McGowan Government’s poor record on renewable energy investment. 

Mr Clifford said the Government’s announcement was encouraging for future energy industries in Western Australia, but called on the Government to provide business certainty in these clean industries by adopting a renewable energy target.

QUOTES ATTRIBUTED TO DIANE EVERS MLC:

“The McGowan Government is on the right path by pursuing local supply chain opportunities in the renewable energy sector, but I want to see more from this Government in taking this opportunity to invest in the regions – and our future.

“There are a number of areas I would query the Government on with regards to how this pipeline of local jobs and manufacturing will be successfully delivered.

“As yet the Government has given no indication of a timeline, environmental implications, procurement strategies or even a funding allocation for this announcement.

“Impacts that could come from this plan beyond the sphere of business must also be considered – the action group proposed by the Government is notably lacking the input of environmental stakeholders. 

“However, given that existing announcements as part of the WA Recovery Plan have focussed on initiatives such diesel car maintenance and iron ore wagon manufacturing, significant shortcomings remain when it comes to harnessing the power of green energy.

“Utilising Green Hydrogen in local steel production will futureproof Western Australian industry against future carbon pricing, stimulate local job creation and diversify our local economy.

“I am pleased progress is being made in regional job opportunity creation for Western Australia, but until the McGowan Government walks the walk by committing to environmental protections and the adoption of a renewable energy target, these announcements remain piecemeal and lightweight.”

QUOTES ATTRIBUTED TO TIM CLIFFORD MLC:

“It’s great to see the McGowan Labor Government exploring the jobs of the future – we know all too well that we must invest in renewable energy and clean technologies, and end our reliance on fossil fuels. 

“However, this feasibility study must explore options for local and government procurement, and how we can ensure the global competitiveness of these products by using our renewable resources to produce zero-carbon steel required. 

“Investing in wind turbines is not investment in industries of the future if we ignore how predicted carbon pricing will affect these products. 

“It was also disappointing to see both the Premier and the Minister for Energy spruik the potential for wind-generated energy in the State when time and time again the WA Labor Government has refused to set renewable energy targets; increase investment in large-scale renewable energy for electricity; protect the state from fracking; or hold their fossil fuel mates account for their pollution.”

GET IN TOUCH:
Hon. Diane Evers
MLC for South West
(08) 9486 8070

Green-washed Plan Pure Hypocrisy

South West MLC Diane Evers has flagged hypocrisies in the McGowan Government’s Green Jobs Plan, with taxpayer dollars earmarked for conservation while swathes of Western Australian environment is destroyed elsewhere.

Ms Evers, The Greens (WA) spokesperson for forests and jobs, said she welcomed environmental investment from the State Government but that it would continue to be soured so long as tens of thousands of hectares of native forests are logged.

Monday’s announcement of the $60.3 million Green Jobs Plan indicated over 1,000 jobs will be created in conservation, with Environment Minister Stephen Dawson highlighting the WA environment’s “precious assets”.

However, Ms Evers said it was rank hypocrisy for the State Government to spend on conservation while it propped up a dying native logging industry and allowed bauxite mining to devastate Jarrah forests.

42,500ha of native forests has been set aside for logging operations in 2020, with around 16.6 per cent to be cut for low-value timber milling enabled by the Forest Products Commission and mining expansion by Alcoa the biggest culprits.

Ms Evers also expressed concerns at the Premier’s eagerness for conservation and management of the environment to be used as a tool to accelerate development projects.

QUOTES ATTRIBUTED TO DIANE EVERS MLC:

“A government that talks ‘green’ on one hand while facilitating the environmental vandalism of our land through native forest logging and mining devastation in our backyard must be called out for its hypocrisy.

“WA Labor says supporting green jobs makes sense and advocates caring for native vegetation, so why does it continue to log native forests?

“With 7,500ha of native forest scheduled to be lost this year alone, this Plan seems like the Government wants credit for cleaning up its own mess.

“It has been demonstrated in Victoria that an immediate end to native logging would save hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars, so any genuine investment from WA Labor in environmental management must include full protection of these ‘precious assets’.

“Right now, the WA Labor Green Jobs Plan lacks substance and feels more like an example of greenwashing, particularly given the Premier’s inability to talk about conservation without bringing development into the conversation.

“I encourage WA Labor to continue taking cues from the Australian Greens, who released its Economic Recovery Plan months ago.

“But as long as Premier McGowan cosies up to corporate donors in the resource sector and is complicit in propping up a zombified native logging industry, these efforts will remain undermined by the sunk cost of environmental vandalism.

GET IN TOUCH:
Hon. Diane Evers
MLC for South West
(08) 9486 8070

Call for Helms Halt as Forest Protectors Rally

South West Greens MLC Diane Evers has issued a rallying call to South West forest protectors after the Forest Products Commission (FPC) signalled plans to begin logging Helms forest this week.

The native Jarrah forest has been defended through direct action as recently as March of this year, with threats to local fauna compounding the ongoing environmental vandalism of native forests by the FPC as it continues to log largely for smelter-use charcoal.

Ms Evers, The Greens (WA) spokesperson for forests, highlighted the importance of the federally recognised International Bird Area as habitat, as well as concerns for the spread of dieback as a result of logging operations.

The native forest supports endangered Black Cockatoos, including those rehabilitated and released into the area from the neighbouring Jamarri Rehabilitation Centre, until its closure earlier this year.

Ms Evers visited a forest blockade at the site on Sunday, July 19, which has been established in response to the logging announcement by FPC.

A significant response in support from the South West community is expected, as outrage continues to grow about a logging regime that destroys high conservation value forests.

QUOTES ATTRIBUTED TO DIANE EVERS MLC:

“Helms forest is under threat and our native forests won’t be secure until we repeal the Forest Products Act.

“I visited the Helms blockade on Sunday and remain buoyed by the fact that there is such a strong human response to the vandalism of our precious South West environment, with people activated to respond time and time again to this morally repugnant logging regime.

“Losing this beloved jarrah forest as a result of ongoing destruction by the Forest Products Commission will result in reduced habitat and will continue to aggravate our extinction crisis.

“At risk are Red-tailed, Carnaby’s and Baudin’s cockatoos, which have been rehabilitated nearby and released into Helms forest, where they live and breed.

“A further serious concern is the presence of dieback and the risk that this infestation could be spread further in the event of unnecessary logging practices.

“I’m asking the ever-growing community of South West forest protectors to call and email the Minister for Forestry and let him know that Helms must be protected.

“Native forests need to be protected so we maintain biodiversity, tackle climate change and ensure these precious forests are there for all to enjoy for generations to come. 

“We need to let the Ministers for Forestry, Environment, and Regional Development know that there is no social license for this destruction and we must demand an end to native forest logging.”

GET IN TOUCH:
Hon. Diane Evers
MLC for South West
(08) 9486 8070

Temperature Rising as Calls for a Burning Review Grow

WA Greens MLC Diane Evers has endorsed a statement by the recently established Denmark Fire Study Group (DFSG) calling on the WA Government to review its current prescribed burning practices.

Ms Evers, The Greens (WA) spokesperson for forestry, has endorsed a statement representing community and organisational stakeholders and said the DFSG will reflect concerns she has listened to for years from environmentalists in the region.

The statement backed by Ms Evers has received 18 endorsements to date, with a further 22 endorsements from the scientific community supporting a second statement. 

The DFSG plans to present the two statements to Premier Mark McGowan next month, with Ms Evers also intending to table a petition in Parliament on behalf of the group.

An online petition calling for a review into prescribed burning practices, set up by the Denmark Environment Centre, has also received nearly 2,000 signatures to date.

Ms Evers recently read a letter in State Parliament from DFSG member Bart Lebbing to the Environment Minister Stephen Dawson, which detailed the group’s concerns about the unsustainable environmental impact of current burning practices.

Those interested in supporting the DFSG’s call to the McGowan Government can get in touch by contacting the Denmark Fire Study Group on 0477 269 295 or emailing at  firestudydenmark@gmail.com.

QUOTES ATTRIBUTED TO DIANE EVERS MLC:

“As the devastating 2019/20 bushfires demonstrated, we need to know more about the cumulative impact of logging and prescribed burning in our forests.

“I have called in the past for a thorough review of bushfire mitigation practices in Western Australia and admire the commitment shown by the Denmark Fire Study Group to drive grassroots action for change.

“Recent work by the Centre for Environmental Risk Management of Bushfires’ Dr Philip Zylstra has indicated that, in Australian forests studied to date, prescribed burning increases fire risk in the medium-to-long term.

“Despite ongoing research on similar impacts in Western Australian forests, the McGowan Government is currently adhering to a broad-brush burning policy that destroys vast areas of land at high temperatures.

“We must abandon annual burning targets and instead focus on strategic planning around towns and infrastructure alongside investment in research into the implementation of early detection and rapid suppression of bushfires before they develop into wildfires.

“Indigenous custodians of the land used the practice of small mosaic-style burning at cool temperatures to manage the land for tens of thousands of years, I believe there is so much more we can learn from these methods with regard to contemporary bushfire mitigation.

“I’m encouraged that a number of community, environmental and scientific stakeholders will join me in endorsing the DFSG’s statements and I plan to table a petition in Parliament on the group’s behalf next month.” 

KEY STATEMENT POINTS:

  • Remove the prescribed burning target for the Forest Management Plan area of the South West and adopt alternative approaches for protection from wildfires that are less detrimental to our environment
  • Support research and implementation of early detection and rapid suppression of bushfires before they develop into wildfires.
  • Increase support for research and monitoring of the ecological impacts of prescribed burning and wildfires.
  • Encourage research into cost efficiency and effectiveness of broad-scale prescribed burning, comparing it to selective, risk assessed, strategic mitigation activities close to infrastructure and implement recommendations.
  • End broad-scale prescribed burning in the conservation estate distant from towns with land management focused on ecological objectives to conserve and protect the unique flora and fauna within these hotspots of biodiversity.
  • Designate non-transferable Fire Exclusion Reference Areas (FERA) of significant size in all vegetation types, to enable the study of the impact of fire on biodiversity and the health and long-term viability of flora and fauna.

GET IN TOUCH:
Hon. Diane Evers
MLC for South West
(08) 9486 8070

EversGreen: July ’20

Click here for a full web version of this newsletter.

As we embark on phase four easing of COVID-19 restrictions in Western Australia, we are cautiously approaching a new normal and I wish everybody the best during this transition. This new normal allows for a greater focus on community and environmental issues. I will continue doing all I can to represent the voices of the South West Region as we work towards a post-COVID recovery that rebuilds our future.

A major and ongoing issue in our South West forests relates to water rights, with the unfair and inequitable Southern Forests Irrigation Scheme rearing its ugly head once more in June. My thoughts remain with this already-long and painful community fight to save the Donnelly River. To stop the SFIS I need your help. You can read more about last month’s developments in this newsletter and sign up for our campaign to Stop The SFIS.

As I seek to remain connected to regional communities with upcoming regional visits and the continued fight to speak out for what matters, I’m delighted that my Regional Regeneration Facebook group continues to grow. At the time of writing, we have surpassed 300 members, coming together to discuss ideas about how to drive positive change in regional WA. If you haven’t yet joined, please feel welcome and invite your networks. This online community allows for an opportunity to share knowledge and I do hope you’ll join us as we hold important discussions about what affects us and work towards realising not just a new normal, but a better normal for our regional communities.

There are so many issues that affect us at global, national and local levels, such as environmental destruction, the need for new approaches to land management, impacts of housing stress, and the preservation of human rights. I am encouraged that so many people remain engaged with these matters and provide hopeful energy for parliamentarians like myself to represent them.

Diane

SOUTHERN FORESTS IRRIGATION SCHEME: Help Save the Donnelly

I have been painfully reminded in the past month of the inequity and unfairness motivating the community fight to stop the Southern Forests Irrigation Scheme. This battle against the SFIS has already been long and painful, with the Donnelly River at risk from an inequitable water trading scheme that is 85 percent funded by taxpayers but locks out 85 percent of farming businesses. 302ha of good forest is going to be destroyed due to the SFIS, with 160ha inundated and 142ha cleared for pipelines.

My office became aware of approved drill testing occurring for this scheme during June, with significant community concern that these works were undertaken without the required hygiene controls to prevent the spread of dieback. I brought this matter to the attention of Environment Minister Stephen Dawson and the Regional Development Minister Allanah MacTiernan during parliament sitting weeks and called for the State Government to suspend such testing until the pending Environmental Protection Authority assessment is completed later this year. These current actions are akin to the previous government moving ahead with clearing land for Roe 8: unnecessary carnage for a road that was never built.

We need to ensure the public awareness and governmental pressure is increased. The SFIS must be stopped. We must not sell water from the Donnelly and we must protect catchment farmers. I encourage you to stay updated with our campaign to support impacted local communities and to help us Stop The SFIS.

Learn More

FIGHT FOR OUR FORESTS: Email the Ministers

The current native forests logging regime is destroying our biodiversity hotspots in the middle of a climate and extinction crisis. Logging our native forests not only destroys critical ecosystems but also hampers the development of higher value, sustainable industries such as tourism and honey production, as well as ignoring the value in Noongar cultural and educational practices.

By continuing the operations of the Forest Products Commission, WA Labor and the Liberals are propping up an unprofitable and destructive native forestry industry, frustrating our transition to a truly sustainable timber industry.

This is why I am calling on the WA Labor Government to repeal the Forest Products Act and protect our native forests — and am calling on you to support me by emailing the Ministers for Forestry, Environment and Regional Development to demand an end to the destruction of our state’s remaining native forests.

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HOUSING STRESS: Stimulus Steps Not Enough

Homelessness and housing stress in regional Western Australia is in a crisis, with the waiting list close to a decade in some places. While I welcomed the McGowan Government’s Social Housing Economic Recovery package as a necessary step for regional public housing and an increase in job creation, those measures did not go far enough to address long regional waitlists for accommodation.

I spoke in Parliament last month about homelessness in regional areas, something that concerns me greatly. In regional Western Australia, one in 10 women have experienced homelessness at some time in the past five years. This is unacceptable. Currently, there are 700 women on the public housing waitlist in the South West Region alone. In the Augusta-Margaret River area, there are 78 public housing dwellings, but, unfortunately, this is not enough.

In a region where there is up to a 10-year waitlist for public housing and housing is unaffordable for 63 per cent of residents, there are much-needed South West organisations such as Just Home Margaret River providing housing advocacy to vulnerable or disadvantaged members of the community, and they need support. I ask that in this wealthy state, the government does much more to help vulnerable people experiencing homelessness, particularly in the regions where social support services are often hard to come by.

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INDIGENOUS AUSTRALIANS AND CIVIL RIGHTS: Community Rallies for First Nations Voices

Few issues are more important than the continuing racial injustice in our country. Tragically, cultural and civil rights have been entwined with environmental catastrophe as a consequence of the wanton destruction of two 46,000-year-old culturally significant caves at Juukan Gorge in late May. In response, during June I stood with our First Nations people to rally outside the Perth offices of Rio Tinto in protest against this cultural vandalism.

I also attended the Perth Black Lives Matter rally days later, which drew thousands to Langley Park to harness global energy to address issues that directly affect First Nations people here in Australia. My WA Greens colleagues and I have worked to ensure these matters are raised in State Parliament and First Nations voices are heard, as ongoing struggles with systematic abuse, incarceration, marginalisation, and disenfranchisement from their culture and histories continues.

Subsequently, in Parliament I have sought to ensure a simple truth of civil rights was placed on the record. Black and First Nations peoples’ lives matter and I support my WA Greens colleague Robin Chapple’s call for the prevention of further devastating destruction of First Nations People’s heritage in WA. Not a single Aboriginal Heritage Site has been protected since the early ’90s and the people of Western Australia have lost scores of caves, artefacts and sacred spiritual places in that time. Robin subsequently moved in Parliament during June that we debate the failure in Australia — including here in Western Australia — to protect some of the world’s oldest cultural heritage sites, despite efforts by traditional owners to prevent their loss.

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PRESCRIBED BURNING: Prescribed Burning Practice Review Needed

The way we currently manage the bush through prescribed burns is not working. Burns that are conducted outside of scientifically guided best practice are damaging our unique and fragile ecosystems. Bart Lebbing of the Denmark Fire Study Group let me in on a letter they wrote to the Minister for the Environment with deep concerns around the current burning regime. I thought it was so reflective of many people in the South West that I read it in parliament for all to hear.

I’ve invited the Members of Parliament to come down to the South West, and visit these forests toexperience the value of what we need to protect. I truly hope they take up the invitation. You can join the call for a review into the practices used for prescribed burns in Western Australia by signing this petition.

Stimulus Steps Not Enough in Social Housing Journey

South West MLC Diane Evers has described the McGowan Government’s Social Housing Economic Recovery package as a necessary step for regional public housing and for an increase in jobs creation, but said the measures do not go far enough to address long regional waitlists for accommodation.

The Greens (WA) MP said she welcomed the $80million allocated to targeted maintenance programs for regional social housing properties, but that discussions with regional stakeholders in the public housing sector consolidated her belief that the Government must do more.

In November 2019, Housing Minister Peter Tinley made comments that there would always be more demand for public housing than the supply side could deliver, but Ms Evers said the fact that only 4 per cent of housing in WA is public or social housing highlighted systemic failings.

Ms Evers said examples of housing stress in Augusta-Margaret River and issues with chronic undersupply of accessible housing meant low income earners in the South West Region were suffering.

QUOTES ATTRIBUTED TO DIANE EVERS MLC:

“Homelessness and housing stress in regional Western Australia is a crisis, with the waiting list close to a decade in some places.

“There are much-needed South West organisations such as Just Home Margaret River providing housing advocacy to vulnerable or disadvantaged members of the community, and they need more support.

“63 per cent of renters in Augusta-Margaret River alone cannot afford the median rent without suffering housing stress, with the area also suffering the ninth-highest level of demand in WA for public housing.

“The lack of affordable social housing is also resulting in people having to spend more income on rent, leading to less money being spent in their local communities and putting a dampener on job growth in the regions.

“I refuse to accept that a wealthy society can allow this demand for affordable public housing to go unfulfilled and I call on the McGowan and Federal Governments to do more.

“Lifting people out of housing stress and helping people into homes will pay great dividends for both communities and businesses during post-COVID recovery, as better conditions enable more people to enter the workforce and increase spending in their communities.

“The Greens have a plan for building 500,000 public and community homes across Australia under the ‘A Home for All’ plan.

“With regional WA suffering from among the longest waits for public housing, I believe the community would stand to benefit greatly from this plan.”

GET IN TOUCH:
Hon. Diane Evers
MLC for South West
(08) 9486 8070

Evers Supports Union on the Right Track as Engineering Assessment Announced

South West Greens MLC Diane Evers has welcomed news that an engineering assessment of the condition of Western Australia’s unused Tier 3 rail lines will be commissioned by the McGowan Government.

Ms Evers, The Greens (WA) spokesperson for regional development and long-term campaigner for the re-establishment of freight on rail in regional Western Australia, met with the Rail, Tram and Bus Union WA Branch (RBTUWA) state secretary Craig McKinley in May.

The RBTUWA recently campaigned to seek support from both state and federal governments to reopen of Tier 3 rail lines in regional Western Australia and successfully lobbied WA Labor’s state executive to call on the Government to commission an independent investigation of the economic and environmental impacts of Tier 3 line closures on the WA economy and its future development.

Transport Minister Rita Saffioti later announced the engineering assessment in response to questions from Farm Weekly and said the proposed assessment would look at the potential cost and time required to bring the grain lines back to an operational standard.

WA’s Tier 3 rail lines were placed into care and maintenance in 2013 and 2014 by the State’s freight rail network operator Arc Infrastructure and Ms Evers said she hoped the assessment would outline a clear opportunity available for WA Labor to follow through on its own commitments and put freight back on rail.

WA Labor’s 2019 party platform described the Barnett Government’s closure of regional Tier 3 rail lines as ‘ill-advised, irresponsible and unsafe’, whilst committing to the recovery of closed Tier 3 lines along with a more proactive approach to the networks’ management.

QUOTES ATTRIBUTED TO DIANE EVERS MLC:

“WA loves trains and I am pleased the McGowan Government is taking further steps to maintain its commitment to the recovery of Tier 3 rail lines.

“WA Labor’s 2019 platform committed to the recovery of Tier 3 rail lines and recent comments from Minister Saffioti acknowledge the strong community support for reinstating Tier 3 rail lines.

“The RBTUWA, along with stakeholders such as the Wheatbelt Railway Retention Alliance, have done a fantastic job in pushing the Government to match its words to action through the announcement of this assessment.

“We know that rail is good for the regions and makes roads and travel safer for tourists and residents, it decreases the costs associated with road maintenance and brings work crews into regional towns.

“As recently as last year I tabled a petition to WA Parliament in August 2019 with over 3,000 signatures calling for the reopening of Tier 3 rail lines.

“It is my hope that an engineering assessment will provide the government with ample justification to support the recovery of these lines from a negligent operator and begin a regeneration of regional rail infrastructure.

“Minister Saffioti has admitted in the past that truck movements on South West roads are set to increase sharply, and projected to quadruple beyond the year 2022.

“The time has come to restore the balance between investment in unnecessary and unsustainable road infrastructure and the longer term benefit of maximising use from existing rail networks.”

GET IN TOUCH:
Hon. Diane Evers
MLC for South West
(08) 9486 8070

EversGreen: June ’20

Click here for a full web version of this newsletter.

I write to you while wishing you all the best as we step into the new and exciting post-COVID recovery in Western Australia. As we embark on phase three easing of restrictions and the announcement that the country has entered a period of recession, I hope you and your loved ones are coping as well as can be. While so many major unprecedented factors continue to impact us on a daily basis, I will strive to continue doing all I can to represent the voices of the South West Region — beginning with an increase in my own safely managed visits through the region over the coming months.

Last month saw the fight against an unprofitable native logging regime continue, with two significant native forest flashpoints emerging throughout May. The first occurred when the Treen Brook 12 forest coupe near Pemberton was set upon by Forest Products Commission (FPC) contractors for clear-felling, with the local environment and communities facing a severe impact. The second was in Dalgarup forest, near Bridgetown, where two 11th-hour reprieves — as a result of community action — prevented a forest of recognised significance being lost to these same environmental vandals.

I entered politics because, after witnessing the ongoing destruction of our native forests, I knew I had to do something. I wanted a seat at the table to be able to drive change for the better. I can’t do this alone. I need you to join me as I call for the McGowan Government to put an end to native logging and dissolving the Forest Products Commission. The native logging industry is publicly subsidised and actively damaging our natural environment. All of this at a time when the importance of protecting our natural areas has never been more urgent.

The importance of protecting our mental health is also so important and I was proud to support the regional offices of the national youth mental health foundation, headspace, by participating in The Push-Up Challenge! Across Australia, over $5m was raised to enable headspace to continue supporting young people to deal with the negative influences on their mental health. Given the intense events affecting us as a planet right now, young people need this support more than ever and I know the offices of headspace in AlbanyBunbury and Mandurah will continue to carry out this invaluable work.

There has been much to share from the South West, Parliament and beyond during May – including my updated website to include the numerous submissions my office has made on environmental and constituent matters. This page will remain updated with more information and archives, do take a look and see how you too can contribute. Though first, take care of yourself, go for a walk, enjoy the sunshine, breathe deep and think about what you are grateful for in your life.

Diane

FIGHT FOR OUR FORESTS: Protest for Protection at Dalgarup

There was some wonderful breaking news in late May with a major breakthrough for Dalgarup Forest. The site had been one of ongoing protest throughout the month, as community vigilance and action prevented FPC contractors from leveling this jarrah forest. In a win for direct action, the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA) announced a new old-growth assessment on May 14. Sadly, we already saw trees lost in Dalgarup forest, with only 10-12ha remaining by the time of DBCA’s decision.

While the subsequent assessment found no additional areas of old-growth, a statement from Environment Minister Stephen Dawson said the area contained an unusually high number of ring-barked trees and would be partly preserved as a silvicultural reference site.

That fact remains that the methodology for determining old-growth still needs to change. WA Forest Alliance and its passionate forest defenders have shown once again that our native forests are under threat and must be protected. When a tree falls in the woods, these are the people who make a sound — and I thank them so very much. Full credit for the successful protection of sections of Dalgarup forest must go to every single person involved in raising awareness about the issue: from the WAFA and its tireless convener Jess Beckerling, to forest defenders like Nelson Gilmour who shared a live insight into the frontline, to everybody else in the community who stepped up to highlight the vandalism of our native forests by contacting Ministers and engaging in the conversation.

Thank you. It is your efforts that sustain me to pursue these issues in Parliament and apply the necessary pressure to the Forestry and Environment Ministers.

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FIGHT FOR OUR FORESTS: Family Businesses Suffer as Karri Forest Felled

The serious issue of native logging in the South West was not limited to Dalgarup Forest, after the Cernotta family, who operate a commercial beekeeping business and boutique accommodation venue, contacted my office regarding scheduled logging nearby in the Treen Brook area just outside of Pemberton. These business owners wrote to Forestry Minister Dave Kelly as far back as March to express how they would suffer first-hand due to the FPC’s logging of South West native forests.

After the Cernottas received weeks without reply from the minister’s office, I wrote to Minister Kelly in April and asked the McGowan Government questions in Parliament during May. When considering the assessment and quantification of the financial loss associated with issues raised by impacted businesses, such as the Cernotta family’s, the Government’s response to my questions included the line that it “considered the employment impact on the associated harvest contractors and log customers”.

Native forests make up a quarter of WA’s timber industry and this portion of the sector is not profitable. Instead of weighing the employment impact on contractors and customers up against the catastrophic impacts on small, local businesses, these considerations would be best served towards ending native forest logging and transitioning those affected towards sustainable alternative industries. Subsequent concessions made in operations by FPC to local businesses were little more than a facade, obscuring the full environmental and economic harm of its operations.

Our forests provide so much value standing — value for the economy, value for biodiversity and value for the planet. During a climate crisis that has been compounded by the COVID-19 crisis, tourism businesses and the small businesses that support regional centres need to be protected, all while ensuring we do more to retain what maturity we can in native forests that have seen over a century of destructive logging.

Native logging has no future in Western Australia. We need to end native logging and abolish the FPC.

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FIGHT FOR OUR FORESTS: Native Forestry a Burning Issue Nationwide

There has been some good news when it comes to forests in Australia! On May 8 I presented the short film Lifetime Guarantree live on Facebook, followed by a panel discussion with its director (and Balingup local) Sophia Armstrong. This documentary covers the protest actions to stop a train and raise the issues of South West karri forest being logged and exported to make cardboard. If you missed it, please go back and take in the broadcast for yourself!

Meanwhile, the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements began on May 25 and evidence is growing that logging native forests drastically increases their fire risk. As community and business outrage grows as examples of appalling practices in the native forest sector emerge, peer-reviewed science is now directly contradicting one of the popular counter-arguments of the logging industry: that environmental changes to the forest sector would negatively impact the safety of communities by increasing bushfire risk.

Finally, over in Victoria, for the first time in 20 years forestry operations may have to be assessed under national environmental laws after the federal court ruled VicForests had breached laws related to threatened species.

The momentum for significant and lasting change in the unprofitable native timber industry will not be overlooked. Just because this happened in Victoria, doesn’t mean it can’t happen in WA. We can do more to protect our native forests and the biodiversity within.

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FREIGHT ON RAIL: Movement Continues Along the Right Track

WA loves trains and in some late-breaking news, I am pleased the McGowan Government is taking further steps to maintain its commitment to the recovery of Tier 3 rail lines. I have been a long-term campaigner for the re-establishment of freight on rail in regional Western Australia and I met with the Rail, Tram and Bus Union WA Branch (RBTUWA) state secretary Craig McKinley in May.

The RBTUWA recently campaigned to seek support from both state and federal governments to reopen of Tier 3 rail lines in regional Western Australia and successfully lobbied WA Labor’s state executive to call on the Government to commission an independent investigation of the economic and environmental impacts of Tier 3 line closures on the WA economy and its future development. Transport Minister Rita Saffioti later announced the engineering assessment in response to questions from Farm Weekly and said the proposed assessment would look at the potential cost and time required to bring the grain lines back to an operational standard.

The RBTUWA, along with stakeholders such as the Wheatbelt Railway Retention Alliance, have done a fantastic job in pushing the Government to match its words to action through the announcement of this assessment. The time has come to restore the balance between investment in unnecessary and unsustainable road infrastructure and the longer-term benefit of maximising use from existing rail networks. The directors of CBH Group have also just announced that they, too, support the engineering assessment.

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NATURE, LIFE AND THE REGION: Regions and Rights of Nature Stay on the Agenda

The increased need to work remotely in recent months has resulted in some exciting new digital initiatives! As well as hosting the Lifetime Guarantree online film screening and panel, last month I also facilitated an online discussion panel on women in local government. Featuring five amazing women who have worked to improve their councils, this panel provided a broad range of tips and experiences for many more prospective new councillors. Having had my own personal experience as both a councillor and council employee for the City of Albany two decades ago, I enjoyed hearing about how much local government is changing.

Meanwhile, my Regional Regeneration Facebook group continues to grow! At the time of writing, we are close to reaching 200 members who are coming together to discuss ideas about how to drive positive change in regional WA. I’d really love to see this community continue to grow. If you haven’t yet joined, please feel welcome — and invite your networks!

In Rights of Nature news, I spoke with Yarnwaves on the RTRFM 92.1 ‘Understory’ program to discuss the Australian-first Rights of Nature Bill I introduced to Parliament last year and the broader environmental legislation movement that’s occurring worldwide. The Bill provides an opportunity for Western Australia’s remarkable natural environment to be given legal standing while also acknowledging our connection with, and responsibility to, future generations. At the heart of this legislation are people and the environment — the rights of nature and future generations should be held by all.

SHARK MITIGATION: Shark Trial Not So Smart

I spoke with the Augusta Margaret River Times last month about the McGowan Government’s 12-month SMART drumline trial extension. The Government believes this additional period will help determine the efficacy of the shark mitigation program, despite a two per cent success-rate costing $6million to the taxpayer so far. Spending $3million per great white shark tagged does not strike me as effective research or expenditure.

While the trial proceeded last year despite community concerns, with concessional oversights enacted as a result of public pressure, I see no evidence that extending the length of the trial will yield significant information