GUEST POST: The Fatal Conceit of the Illegal Logging Regulations

The Regulations to the Illegal Logging Prohibition Act come into force this November. Importers of wooden furniture, timber, cardboard and paper products will be required to demonstrate and document that their imports are of low risk of containing illegally logged timber.

These Regulations are based on an illusion – that people can know and control things far beyond their understanding and sphere of available information.

Wood-products have usually come through long supply- and manufacturing-chains, are often made of multiple components and may have been manufactured in third countries. Illegal timber looks the same as legal. The origins and identity of each component of an import would generally lost in the complexity of time and space.

Even if you could somehow magically go back in time, and identify and track all components from the original forests, you would have to know relevant foreign laws and the behaviour of unknown third parties in relation to these laws.

It is bad enough that governments fall into the trap of believing that they can obtain all the necessary and current information, from their own countries, to successfully plan society. When they start to hold their citizens liable to obtain and process large amounts of complex and unknowable information, and from foreign countries, there’s a problem.

The matter needs to be seen in perspective. There are no cases of illegal timber proven to have entered Australia. If the government believes that reducing illegal logging in other countries is something they should get involved in, they need to take effective action focused at the source of the problem.

For all its green feel-gooderism, the “action at a distance” model of these Regulations will not work. It will generally not be sensitive enough (low probability of distinguishing illegal timber from legal), and runs the risk of being non-specific, creating false positives and blocking trade of legal products.

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43 Responses to GUEST POST: The Fatal Conceit of the Illegal Logging Regulations

  1. Rabz

    If this is a Federal regulation (and I’m assuming it is) then it needs to be repealed ASAP.

    FFS, what a load of crap. The compliance costs would be unjustifiable and the potential for unintended consequences (see what happened to Gibson in the US) completely unacceptable.

  2. Tom

    If it hasn’t been already, I’d be astonished if this hasn’t been put on the Abbott Regime’s deregulation bonfire. The Greenfilth vermin infecting the bureaucracy don’t run the country and need to be reminded of that fact.

  3. Anthony S Adams

    This is like Labor attempting to control how Australian live cattle and sheep exported to other lands are slaughtered. Lumber as with cattle are impossible to track to their ultimate ends.

  4. Lawrie Ayres

    What should be remembered is that the accreditation process is carried out by green groups such as WWF. They have effectively blackmailed timber companies into accepting their stamp of approval or having their products banned. That is how the green thugs raise millions of dollars each year. Of course if we were allowed to harvest our own timber, some of which is beautiful furniture timber, much of this stand over money would not need to be paid. Do you see the connection? stop timber harvesting here so timber must be imported and that timber ahs to be accredited.

  5. Elizabeth (Lizzie) B.

    And that foreign accreditation is just so much purchased hot air blown into green pockets. Or else it is counterfeited paperwork with the costs of that just added to our price. Axe this regulatory foolishness.

    A much better environmental regulation to assist poorer countries would be to stop using ‘green’ biofuels (although now that cat is out of the bag, growers there will suffer if we interfere too much on that – unintended regulatory consequences again).

    As noted above, there are some lovely furniture woods in Tasmania and elsewhere in Australia that can be sustainably grown. Release them.

  6. CameronH

    Lawrie, I find it amazing that these extremist groups get away with this. This is really no more than the type of protection racket run by gangsters. The WWF is currently moving on the cattle industry with their Sustainable Beef Round table. Most of the Graziers feel totally unprotected by the law from this type of extortion and really have nowhere to go to stop this criminal behaviour. I imagine that it the same for the logging and wood production companies.

  7. Rabz

    Of course if we were allowed to harvest our own timber, some of which is beautiful furniture timber, much of this stand over money would not need to be paid

    The so called “forestry agreement” ‘negotiated’ by unelected greenfilth dirtbags in Tasmania is a classic case in point.

    I know of wood product manufacturers in Tasmania who now have to source their wood from the mainland instead of from sources right on their doorstep.

    Madness.

  8. entropy

    The WWF is currently moving on the cattle industry with their Sustainable Beef Round table.

    Yes. WTF is MLA thinking?

  9. Sir Fred Lenin

    Deprive All green/ alp fascist groups of Taxpayer funds,Tax donations to them and make them non deductable. Punish secret donorsand the communist groups getting them.dismiss PS activites who propose these job destroying foolish “regulations” Lizzie ,I was very involved with the Timber. industry at one stage ,I worked with Australian timbers,we are fortuate ,we have some most fine timbers for furniture,the company I was involved with ,exported to the U S and Europe where it is much in demand for fine furniture. As you say itis an renewable resource ,if we defund stupid greens and let them struggle to survive?

  10. Cato the Elder

    The Greenfilth vermin infecting the bureaucracy don’t run the country and need to be reminded of that fact.

    Unfortunately incorrect. They do run the country and the LNP is yet to retake control. The counter-revolution is still in progress and the result is still in doubt.

  11. .

    Abbott is clueless. Of course he won’t repeal this. Forestry is usually in safe electorates but otherwise in areas that get shifted around between electorates (sometimes to marginals) but they are too far away to matter or ritually vote conservative. Ergo, not even the Nats care (please prove me wrong).

    I am fairly sure only libertarians really give a shit about this. I hope David Lleyonhjelm can bring attention tot his.

  12. nerblnob

    Lumber as with cattle are impossible to track to their ultimate ends

    Or from their beginnings in the case of timber to Australia.

    Look at it like this:
    Australia has one of the most tightly-regulated internal supply chains in the world .

    It is also very high on transparency index.

    So it is highly likely that a supplier country of raw materials will be below Australia, some way down the index.

    In such places, regulations are just opportunities for corruption. Indeed, even in transparent countries like Australia, over-regulation results in bureaucrats being the gatekeepers of many transactions they have no reason to be involved in. They may not take direct bribes but there is surely moral hazard in such unearned power to obstruct and delay.

    Anyway, what will result (and surely has already) will be a trade in provenance certificates.

  13. Chris M

    Importers of wooden furniture, timber, cardboard and paper products will be required to demonstrate and document that their imports are of low risk of containing illegally logged timber.

    The environment is so much more important than humans to these cranks. As an example Australia has very stringent regulations on formaldehyde emissions of locally manufactured board like MDF and chipboard. Yet no-one is checking the imported product for formaldehyde, you can bring in what you like.

    An up-market hotel chain recently had all their furniture manufactured in Asia (cheaper of course) & it turns out the formaldehyde level is 9 times the Australian regulations. No problem though.

    If you buy some cheap furniture from the discount dollar stores you will often notice it smells strongly for quite some time, that is no problem as long as the material wasn’t sourced illegally from some forest apparently.

  14. Baldrick

    To get timber certified you’ll need to join an organisation like the Forest Stewardship,Council. Once you’ve paid your fee to the Forest Stewardship Council, which is a … well I’ll let them explain it:

    In the era where climate change is a significant problem, it is recognised that responsible management of the world’s forests is essential to ensuring that they are present for future generations to enjoy. Procurement of FSC certified products is one way of ensuring that they are sourced from responsibly managed forests, as they recognise address Environmental, Social and Economic issues.
    FSC is an international, non-profit organisation founded in 1993 by environmentalists, social interest groups, responsible retailers and leading forest companies to develop standards based on the ‘10 Principles for Forest Stewardship’ by which responsible forest practice can be measured.

    After you’ve joined you’ll need to then contact one of the FSC approved Certification Bodies who will audit your company’s qualifications for certification. Any costs are borne by the company.

    If approved, FSC certificates are valid for five years. The FSC accredited certification body will conduct annual surveillance audits to verify your continued compliance with FSC certification requirements.

    The word scam springs to mind!

  15. Robert O.

    Difficult to tell the difference between legal and illegal timbers. In Indonesia, for example, illegal logs are generally shorter than legal ones, but once they are in plywood you cannot tell. Incidentally illegal logging supports the local community and officials turn a blind eye; they are all in it. Since forests are renewable I would be more concerned with good forest management based on the ecology of the species being exploited rather than costly prohibition type schemes which don’t work very well. Saving the Old Growth Forests in Tasmania is a classic oxymoron promulgated by the Greens which will eventually result in their demise.

  16. Pyrmonter

    Meh – nothing new. Just another rule of origin protection device, raising the same issues that bedevil trade agreements generally. Anne Krueger was warning of these decades ago:

    http://www.nber.org/papers/w4352

  17. rebel with cause

    LOL. This law ain’t going anywhere. Don’t ya know that if you are not in favour of an unwiedly and ineffective law to stop illegal logging then you are in favour of illegal logging and ‘raping the earth’ etc?

  18. Baldrick

    Forgot to mention about the … Forest Stewardship Council

    The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development – the Earth Summit – was held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. The Earth Summit produced no legally binding commitments on forest management, but it did result in Agenda 21 and the non-legally binding Forest Principles. And crucially it provided a forum for many non-governmental organizations to come together and gather support for the innovative idea of a non-governmental, independent and international forest certification scheme.

    Take from that what you will.

  19. The Illegal Logging Prohibition Act was supported in principle by both sides when it went through the parliament. It is an unmitigated disaster, as I described here in October 2012.

    The cattle industry is now falling for the same claptrap. I have an article on that today here. It will be equally disastrous.

  20. Petros

    This reminds me of the Australian certified organic logos on foods from overseas. How do they know? Do they send inspectors to the farms overseas?

  21. nerblnob

    This reminds me of the Australian certified organic logos on foods from overseas. How do they know? Do they send inspectors to the farms overseas?

    Most likely, somewhere in the supply chain bureaucracy there’ll be a list of accepted accreditation agencies.
    These will keep changing in order to wrong-foot suppliers and keep the bureaucrats in work .

    Never mind that “organic” is tosh, that’s how it works in most businesses.

  22. Sally Moore

    Division 2 Section 14 of the Illegal Logging Prohibition Act expands the definition of illegal logging to include compliance with “rules or processes established or accredited by an industry or certifying body”. The Regulations state that FSC certification is accepted as a way to show legality. Australian law has been corrupted by the importation of the rules of private non-accountable NGO’s such as FSC. This begs the question, where was the parliamentary debate on this matter and why didn’t it come up in the Senate Inquiries into the law?

  23. David Leyonhjelm, when you finally sit in the Senate, I do hope you’ll try to boot seditious, blackmailing organisations such as WWF-Australia and Greenpeace out of the country—or, at least, out of lists of registered charities.

  24. Baldrick

    Website FSC Watch has more on the infallibility of FSC certification.

  25. Gab

    Other Topic but I blame Deadman … Senator-Elect Leyonhjelm, here’s a To-Do List for you to get through over the next six years. Some items have been crossed off and some are in the process of getting there but there’s still plenty on that list for you to tackle. Thank you.

  26. tomix

    Didn’t socialism capture the cattle industry in the days of Fraser, and it’s gone downhill ever since? The producers are just dumb cattle themselves, being prodded up the race.

  27. Squirrel

    “These Regulations are based on an illusion – that people can know and control things far beyond their understanding and sphere of available information. ”

    Dispel that illusion and the world would be a much better place. Government, at all levels, in Australia could be shrunk back to a manageable and affordable size, and could get on with just doing the things which really need to be done – and all those individuals currently (and prospectively) “employed” on such activities could turn their talents and energies to truly worthwhile enterprises.

  28. Empire Strikes Back

    Dispel that illusion and the world would be a much better place. Government, at all levels, in Australia could be shrunk back to a manageable and affordable size, and could get on with just doing the things which really need to be done – and all those individuals currently (and prospectively) “employed” on such activities could turn their talents and energies to truly worthwhile enterprises.

    Here, here. CIS TARGET30 is woefully unambitious. I say HANG10. Who better to command an orderly retreat from the economy than General Cosgrove?

  29. srr

    Trees, cows, cats and dogs, art, crafts and letters….can’t buy, sell or trade without the rubber stamping of that beastly United Nations’ legions of ‘protection’ money tax collectors.

    Yeah, we have been warned about this, quite a bit longer than mere decades ago.

  30. thefrollickingmole

    Lawrie Ayres

    i was going to post on this, but you already made my point.

    Its a racket for greenpeace and co to go “Nice logging operation you have here, shame if anything were to happen to it”… “Oh by the way I have this “nothing bad will happen to it” ticket for sale in my hands….”

  31. Walter Plinge

    Sounds like a more expensive and intrusive version of the Fair Trade scam.

  32. stackja

    Liberty Quotes
    Whenever we depart from voluntary cooperation and try to do good by using force, the bad moral value of force triumphs over good intentions.
    — Milton Friedman

  33. Rohan

    It does get better. Vic Forests last year informed our business group which includes a sawmill and hardwood plantations, that we will need to be certified with their soon to be implemented stewardship program. I can’t remember all the details off hand but it’s a cradle to grave scenario. Every sawlog we buy will have an ID tag that includes where it was logged, who harvested it and who it was supplied to. As a saw miller, we will have to track it through the mill to the end product. Essentially every stick of timber needs from every log needs to be accounted for.

    The data capture alone is a massive headache, but our biggest concern is tracking the timber after it leaves the “green mill”. Our product is uniquely cut so there are about 5-6 sizes of product coming from each log. It’s then graded on size so a racked pack for air/kiln drying will contain product from up to 20 possibly 30 saw logs.

    If you don’t comply, you can’t buy logs.

  34. .

    It does get better. Vic Forests last year informed our business group which includes a sawmill and hardwood plantations, that we will need to be certified with their soon to be implemented stewardship program.

    What is the point of this? It is not as though illegal logging in Australia would be easy…or detrimental anyway.

    I reckon it is a precursor to a new raft of excise taxes.

    If land was privatised or public lands were adequately fenced and patrolled, this wouldn’t be a problem.

    Wild hardwood may not grow in the correct manner – straight enough and too knotted. Sure, there are big forests of tall, straight trees around Glenn Innes, Clyde River and Cabramurra, but good luck harvesting them – and they could be simply fenced off, in part of a road safety/barrier initiative too.

  35. Rohan

    Whoops, that should read:

    Essentially every stick of timber from every log needs to be accounted for.

  36. Rabz

    Vic Forests last year informed our business group which includes a sawmill and hardwood plantations, that we will need to be certified with their soon to be implemented stewardship program.

    And the fantastic thing about that utter garbage is that you can rely on the Victorian liberals not to do a bloody thing to stop it.

  37. Rohan

    What is the point of this? It is not as though illegal logging in Australia would be easy…or detrimental anyway.

    Dot, it’s another compliance cost imposed on an industry that’s already struggling. It’s also a furphy in that there is no illegal foresting in this country. All saw logs from native forests in all states and territories are supplied by that’s state or territories regulatory body like Vic Forests.

    It’s simply the greens attempting to shut down all foresting in native forests.

    Tasmania is an extreme example of this. Ta Ann (I think) had plantation forests that they planted on private property but the greens banned them from thinning. You periodically thin the plantation to remove the saplings not likely to be viable or make decent sawlogs. The green filth have truly wrecked Tasmanian forestry. There’s nothing viable left. If we’re not careful, the same will happen on the mainland.

  38. .

    Well that makes sense. They do want to shut it down, but their reasons are nonsense – just religious.

    I would have thought if most land was privatised, or public lands were better looked after, that illegal logging would basically end. It seems really like a third world problem. Why we are becoming part of a system to save the rainforests in Borneo – the mind boggles.

  39. Rohan

    And the fantastic thing about that utter garbage is that you can rely on the Victorian liberals not to do a bloody thing to stop it.

    It wouldn’t surprise me.

    Forestry is politically a dirty word. CSIRO had a decent and world renowned forestry products division which my boss originated from. But it’s been gone for over 3 years. The only department that retains a forestry products research division is DPI Qld, but most of the old school have retired. DPI only get involved in industry projects if they can make a buck out of it. It doesn’t matter if industry has come up with an idea or concept that needs the expertise and resources DPI have to develop it, they want a large cut of the pie. No risk, all the glory. So nearly no one in the industry uses them. They’re on limited time too.

    The idiotic part is growing timber isn’t hard. The economics of growing sawlogs is far superior of growing pulp logs or biofuels. A sawlog is worth about $900 m3 for feature timber such as cladding, decking etc. But a pulp log is less than $100 m3. It takes 15-20 years for a pulp log to grow before it’s harvested and 18-25 years to grow a sawlog. Using our process of milling we can shave a few years off that as we get high to vary high yields from smaller sawlogs. That is if we are able to harvest them when we intend to…

  40. JohnA

    CameronH #1246053, posted on March 31, 2014 at 8:52 am

    Lawrie, I find it amazing that these extremist groups get away with this. This is really no more than the type of protection racket run by gangsters. The WWF is currently moving on the cattle industry with their Sustainable Beef Round table.

    I hope it only applies to round steak, and not to ground beef!

    :-)

  41. Rohan

    I would have thought if most land was privatised, or public lands were better looked after, that illegal logging would basically end. It seems really like a third world problem. Why we are becoming part of a system to save the rainforests in Borneo – the mind boggles.

    And that Dot is the infuriating part. Up till about 3-4 years ago 90% of Merbau timber came from illegal foresting. Today that has been clamped down but it’s estimated at 10%.

    In Scandinavia, they only log natural forests. But the way thy do it is truly brilliant. So one walks through the forests and paints the trees to be harvested. The harvester looks like a giant spider walks through the forest, harvesting the log, strips the log of branches and bark, then another picks up the logs and caries it out. They’ve increased the number of trees in the forest by 11%. If you do it right it’s a win win scenario.

    When you don’t it looks like Indonesia.

  42. Rohan

    I need to proof read my posts a little better.

  43. .

    I don’t get why Greenies don’t want the Scandinavian model.

    Then I realise they literally want to shut industry down.

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