Own goal on timber imports

In The Australian today “In the game of the round ball,” Jean-Paul Sartre ruefully observed, “everything is complicated by the presence of the opposing team.” So too, alas, in politics. But as in soccer, there are own goals as well: and the government is set to score one with its regulations on illegal timber imports. Unless it changes course, the credibility of its commitment to deregulation will be severely damaged.

Own goal on timber imports_Mon 16 Jun 2014

About Henry Ergas

Henry Ergas AO is a columnist for The Australian. From 2009 to 2015 he was Senior Economic Adviser to Deloitte Australia and from 2009 to 2017 was Professor of Infrastructure Economics at the University of Wollongong’s SMART Infrastructure Facility. He joined SMART and Deloitte after working as a consultant economist at NECG, CRA International and Concept Economics. Prior to that, he was an economist at the OECD in Paris from the late 1970s until the early 1990s. At the OECD, he headed the Secretary-General’s Task Force on Structural Adjustment (1984-1987), which concentrated on improving the efficiency of government policies in a wide range of areas, and was subsequently Counsellor for Structural Policy in the Economics Department. He has taught at a range of universities, undertaken a number of government inquiries and served as a Lay Member of the New Zealand High Court. In 2016, he was made an Officer in the Order of Australia.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Own goal on timber imports

  1. 2dogs

    Logging is an excellent form of carbon sequestration.

  2. Yohan

    This has nothing to do with the article, but if you want a laugh go into a bookstore, find Jean-Paul Sartre ‘Being and Nothingness’, and flip to any random page and read.

    Its like the Post-Modern Generator, except intellectuals on the left take it seriously.

  3. Bugme

    Don’t worry about the illegal importation of drugs, guns, etc…..lets go after wood…..priorities anyone!

  4. Sally Moore

    Yohan, there is actually a strong connection between Post Modernism and laws such as this. Drawing on the absurdities of “Alice in Wonderland”, it means “whatever officials want it to mean”. It is ambiguous and vague, not even properly defining the crime which it purports to be setting out to prevent, ie “illegal logging”. It doesn’t define or quantify what it means by “low risk”, which is the criteria by which all importers must filter their imports. It is based on an illusion, ie that someone in Australia can know about all applicable foreign laws and then be sure that an unknown person has obeyed them. Post Modernism is the perfect foundation for a coercive state that wishes to enforce law on a discretionary basis. It is the ideal tool for officials intent on expanding their power separate from the accountability of the democratic process and equal legal rights for all.

  5. MT Isa Miner

    Ergas has his eye on the big picture – creeping State takeover of everything.

    He is a good writer, tells you the facts, is clear and funny:To call the revised assessment tripe would be unfair: after all, the humble offal nourishes millions, and for many gourmets is a culinary delight.

  6. .

    Given how we have destroyed our own logging industries, is it any surprise that we need to import some?

    If we don’t like what we import, maybe we should let people back into the forestry game?

    The Greens destroyed Gunns without care and regulation has choked off most native hardwood forestry.

    Most of what is left is loss making, state owned softwood plantations.

  7. Robert O.

    There is little doubt that plantation forestry is an efficient process for producing timber; take S. Aust with its pine plantations around Mt. Gambier which provide the industrial timber for the state as well as a couple of pulpmills. In terms of carbon sequestration it means about 5 tonnes of carbon sequestrated per ha. per an. and this stays out of the atmosphere if it used for solid wood products.
    Unfortunately, the timber industry hasn’t been able to compete with the environmental lobby because it is in the arena of politics, and not fact, and its leaders have been outclassed by the greens: in army terms the industry has been out-generalled by Bob Brown and the best they could muster is a half-colonel.
    Take the current debate in Tasmania: the greens espouse the policy that you have to lock-up old growth forests to save them. Any student of Eucalyptus silviculture should know that know that Eucalypt old-growth forests do not regenerate without disturbance because eucalypt seedlings need both light and freedom from competing vegetation. Take a walk from the National Parks Office to Russel falls in S. Tasmania about 15 minutes walk in an old growth forest; you will not find one eucalypt seedling on the walk. And this is the fate of the thousand of hectares of “protected forests” which are protected to save the mature eucalypts for posterity. Remember the fires in Gippsland a few years ago, this is their fate in due course. It is little more than an oxymoron, but believed by the café latte sippers in Melbourne and Sydney, and certainly no those who live in the country. A simple plan to safeguard the native forest for perpetuity is to have protection forests, no commercial logging and removal of dead trees, an occasional low intensity burn to reduce fuel loads; Old growth forests, limited commercial logging on about a 250 year rotation and occasional thinnings and protective burns to reduce fuel loads (and reduce the risk of catastrosphic fire ); commercial forests, about a 100 year rotation for logging, periodic thinning and fuel reduction burns. This would provide protection for the forests in perpetuity, reduce the intensity of wild fires and timber for us to use instead of importing it.

  8. .


    I believe the British manage their native forests much better, they can coppice and they have very long life cycles based on far sighted management for the Royal Navy demand of masts and long beams for effective age-of-sail ship production.

    The Australian Greens and other environmental extremists would simply not allow this to happen.

  9. wreckage

    and its leaders have been outclassed by the greens: in army terms the industry has been out-generalled by Bob Brown

    Nonsense. It’s just a fact that hysterical bullshit makes a better soundbite.

  10. AP

    I’ve written to the politicians about this one. And their responses are the usual condescending crap I’ve come to expect from Lieberal politicians (it seems my views and opinions on matters are not far left enough to be in concert with our current LINO government).

    They say one thing to get elected, then quickly change their tune.

    I also got a letter from our PM recently telling me that, no, the government would not be privatizing the ABC, because he wanted to preserve freedom of the press. Astounding.

  11. Gab

    I also got a letter from our PM recently telling me that, no, the government would not be privatizing the ABC, because he wanted to preserve freedom of the press.

    Reminds me, I received a response from George Brandis after registering my dismay at his chickenhawk surrender antics regards Section 18c. No doubt it’s just the stock standard blurb anyone receives, which states:

    The Government is committed to rebalancing the human rights debate in Australia to better protect freedom of speech, which is fundamental to the health and strength of our liberal democracy. The Government has said that racial vilification will never be acceptable in Australia but that laws that are designed to prohibit racial vilification should not be used as a vehicle to attack legitimate freedom of speech. The Government considers that in a free society, people should be free to express their opinions without fear of legal sanction, even where others may find those opinions offensive or insulting.

    My bolding. What a dissembling piece of hogwash.

    to better protect freedom of speech

    Protect freedom of speech by not placing legal sanctions on it!

    laws that are designed to prohibit racial vilification should not be used as a vehicle to attack legitimate freedom of speech

    The mere fact that there are laws to prohibit racial vilification is already a restriction of free speech. These are the same laws that were used by the Nazis to restrict free speech and look how that turned out.

    The fact that Brandis is already using the adjective “legitimate” to qualify free speech is astounding. Clearly the Libs are no different to the Roxonian Laborites who also determined what is and is not acceptable as “free speech”.

    people should be free to express their opinions without fear of legal sanction

    True, in which case there is no place in a free society for the Racial Discrimination Act let alone the free speech restrictions of section 18C.

    The Libs really are a waste of a vote.

  12. Robert O.

    Although I personally do not agree with Dr. Brown’s philosophy, one must admit he has been very successful politically and he certainly has shown the leadership which has been lacking in other quarters. Look at the record: started off as a one man band opposing nuclear energy, then moved on to try and save Lake Peddar, and then stopped the second stage of the Gordon R. power scheme before moving into land management issues where most of the unoccupied crown land in Tasmania is now World Heritage listed, set-up the Wilderness Society, as well as many other issues. My point is that most of the now World Heritage listed forest, presumably for the values of its tall eucalypts, will eventually revert to rainforest-principally Nothofagus- because they will not regenerate since eucalypt seedlings do not grow under a canopy of various understorey species. In fact, there are many examples where the eucalypts are dying when the understorey species are around 120 years. Take for example the Florentine and Styx valley’s in southern Tas. These were part of a concession given to the Newsprint mill at Boyer: they used to use the wood in a groundwood process for newsprint, and as well had to supply the southern sawmillers with a quota of logs for processing. There was a realisation that regeneration after logging was not successful as per European forestry, and they provided a fellowship to Max Gilbert to undertake research into the problem. He found that successful regeneration of the eucalypts was only achieved after severe fire, due to soil sterilization, a good seed supply, an open canopy and freedom from competing vegetation. This technique was adopted and most of the regrowth from the 1960’s onwards was obtained this way. There many areas of regrowth forest regenerated this way on the floor of the Florentine valley to view, some now 40-50 years old. As I have said previously World Heritage listing per se will not “save” these forests from their eventual demise simply because eucalypts will not regenerate under an encroaching rainforest. Why don’t people take the trouble to read Dr. Gilbert’s Ph.D. thesis written about 1960 well before the birth of the greens. It’s in the University library in Hobart.

  13. nerblnob

    stopped the second stage of the Gordon R. power scheme

    You mean the Gordon River renewable energy scheme?

    Why do Greens hate renewables?

  14. .

    Robert O you should do a guest post on forestry or more specifically silviculture.

  15. Sally Moore

    Yes, agree. Robert O should definitely do something on Australian forestry/silviculture.

  16. Robert O.

    Unfortunately both representatives of forestry industry and governments failed in the fight against the greens and very badly played the politics, in my opinion, which has resulted in the current situation. There is a very good case for managing our native forests, based on silviculture, but it is just not in the public arena and not very well understood. All the public hears about is saving the forests from the loggers and supporting the green myth when, in fact, it is an oxymoron. Look at the tragedy caused in Gippsland as a result of preventing decent forest management and an enormous build-up of fuel loads due to the green political policy of no fuel reduction burns. I digress, but I will think about putting an alternative point of view of forest management, someone has to who knows a little about it.

Comments are closed.