After extensive and ongoing criticism, the WA Government have today attempted to improve the Business Transition Program offered to hardwood timber sawmills and harvesters.
The previous business support package was rejected by the industry and was labelled as “offensive” and “deplorable” by FIFWA Chief Executive Officer, Ms Adele Farina.
However, forestry communities are still in the dark about what their future holds.
Shadow Minister for Forestry, Steve Martin MLC said, “today’s announcement is a concession by Minister Kelly that he got it wrong – his initial package wasn’t good enough.
“It shows just how little effort the government has put into the Just Transition Group and its subgroups.
“The government must now turn their focus on increasing the funding available to deliver a community support package to timber towns in the South-West,” said Mr Martin.
The original package announced in September 2021 provided $50 million to support the ‘Just Transition Plan’. However, after the announcement of worker and business support packages, union payments and Department salaries, Mr Martin worries that there won’t be much left to support the communities affected by this decision.
“$50 million does not got far when we are talking about shutting down an entire industry. It will involve paying worker redundancies, compensation for investments, winding down operations and site clean ups.
“If the government can afford to pay the Australian Workers Union $200,000 for ‘advice and support’, they can find the money to compensate the thousands of people living in timber communities,” said Mr Martin.
Today’s announcement was made in Perth without any consultation from South-West timber communities.
“Minister Kelly says that he has listened closely to the concerns of the community, but they still haven’t been told about what support they will receive,” said Mr Martin.
Manjimup Shire President, Cr Paul Omodei, said he was not surprised he did not receive any prior warning about today’s announcement, saying, “the way the meetings are run they are all preordained and preconceived.”
“When they do happen, stakeholders in the forestry industry and local Shires are told what the plan will be – they have minimal to no input.
“We haven’t had a significant part to play in these meetings,” said Cr Omodei.
This is in spite of the fact that two-thirds of the timber workers live in the Manjimup Shire, with the majority of other workers living in the Bridgetown and Nannup Shires.
“From the start, the transition group meetings have been a sham. Meetings have been few and far between – if they have been going ahead at all,” said Mr Martin.
“They have failed to take part in any meaningful consultation so far. They haven’t even undertaken any economic or social impact studies.
“The government now have the chance to engage with local communities and improve the way they conduct these meetings.
“How will the government support communities through the closure of the hardwood forestry industry? How much funding will they be given? The Minister still hasn’t answered these questions.
“The government need to drastically increase the funding available to support everyone affected by their short-sighted and spontaneous decision to close the hardwood harvesting industry.”