The Australian Government has announced that it is taking "strong action to restrict the importation of illegally logged timber into Australia by introducing new legislation".
Australia is adopting legislation requiring timber importers to meet a due diligence test to ensure that the timber is not sourced from illegal harvested forests.
“Restricting import of illegal wood by adopting strict legislation is becoming a global trend”, says Christian Sloth, Verification Services Manager of the Rainforest Alliance. “We have seen it happening first in the US, then in the EU – and now Australia is following suit. Consistent prohibition of illegal timber imports to key consumer markets will certainly make it harder for traders in illegal wood to find buyers”.
Welcomed by stakeholders
Both Australian and foreign stakeholders have been lobbying for this decision. Last year, 11 members of the US Congress urged the Prime Minister of Australia to fulfill an election promise to ban the import of illegal timber to Australia. Internal pressure has also been mounting, as demonstrated by the publishing of a joint statement by leading retailers and NGOs in the country, such as Fantastic Furniture, Bunnings, Ikea, Building Designers Association of Australia, WWF and Greenpeace.
Notably, Australian Timber Importers’ Federation (ATIF) welcomes the move. “Such trade damages the very impressive environmental and climate change abatement credentials of wood as the building and manufacturing material of choice,” said John Halkett, Technical Manager at ATIF.
The Australian Workers' Union (AWU) highlights how unfair competition posed by illegal wood import is threatening domestic jobs. “The legislation will encourage investment in the West Australian timber industry, provide more job security for timber workers, and give consumers and businesses greater certainty about the timber products they buy,” Stephen Price of AWU commented.
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 new legislation will be introduced into Parliament in 2011 after public consultation.
Sources: Press releases by the Australian Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Australian Workers' Union, Australian Timber Importers' Federation.
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