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 Albany, Bunbury 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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