Government action on illegal timber imports

In what we at Softwoods see as a welcome and long overdue move, the Australian government will introduce new legislation this year to prevent the ongoing importation of illegally logged timber. As an environmentally concerned company, Softwoods make every effort to ensure that all imported timber that we buy has a verified chain of custody and is being logged from approved and sustainable areas. While chain of custody documentation is presently available on some imported timber, there is a concern that it’s authenticity is not always certain.

To add to the complexity of this issue is the fact that the market in Australia for timber decking has for a long time dictated a strong preference for imported hardwoods. In order to buy these hardwoods ethically, the above mentioned chain of custody must be sought, however the knowledge that this is not at all times authentic creates a difficult bind for both the consumer and the buyer. This is why we are very pleased that the government is going to regulate these imports and provide a framework that ensures that the product that gets to market here in Australia is coming from the area that is specified by it’s chain of custody, and that it is legally sourced and not coming at the cost of another nations natural resources.

Below is the text of a December 2010 media release on the issue, and a link to the department’s site follows that.

9 December 2010

Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Senator Joe Ludwig, today announced the Gillard Government will introduce legislation restricting the importation and sale of illegally logged timber.

Minister Ludwig said the new laws will promote global trade in legally logged timber products and stop unfair competition in Australia between illegal and legal timber suppliers.

“Illegal logging is a major problem for many developing nations and directly threatens Australian timber jobs,” Minister Ludwig said.

“Internationally, illegal logging is estimated to cost more than $60 billion each year.

“After widespread industry consultation, the Australian Government will introduce legislation that carries penalties for importing illegally logged timber.”

Minister Ludwig said the legislation is one of many tough measures the Government is taking to combat illegal logging.

“Under the legislation, importers will now need to meet a due diligence test to ensure the timber they are sourcing has not been illegally logged,” Minister Ludwig said.

The new rules will apply to all timber products including sawn timber, wood panels, pulp, paper, wooden furniture and composite products. The legal origins of these products must be clearly verified according to requirements set out in the legislation.

“The legislation will encourage investment in the Australian timber industry and give consumers and businesses greater certainty about the timber products they buy,” Minister Ludwig said.

“This initiative will complement a global effort being championed by Australia, the United States and the European Union, to combat illegal logging and demand importers disclose the legal origins of their wood.”

The new legislation will be introduced into Parliament in 2011 after public consultation.

Department of Agriculture, Fisheries & Forestry

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