About the ALP Otway Ranges Interest Group
(a non-constituent unit of the ALP)

by Trevor Poulton

Dear ALP Members,

The fate of the State Labor government at the next State election may well be determined by environmental votes. Despite this, the Bracks government has failed to address concerns of the community, concerns of unions and workers, and concerns of members of the ALP over logging of native State forests.

The ALP Otway Ranges Interest Group was established late 2000 in response to this apparent indifference. The Group represents a non-factional network of members of ALP Branches extending along the West Coast through to the Melbourne Metropolitan area and elsewhere within the Victorian ALP.

PURPOSE OF ALP OTWAY RANGES INTEREST GROUP

The Otway Ranges Interest Group has been established to:

The Group believes its establishment better ensures the ALP can augment its electoral credibility in the Otway region through its capacity both, to act as a conduit for views and aspirations of the general ALP membership, and to lobby ALP members holding positions of responsibility within the Party.

The Group seeks a united Metropolitan and Country ALP perspective on the valuing and appropriate use of our natural assets in the Otway Ranges.

ENVIRONMENT & WATER

Our interest is to ensure the unique natural assets and beauty of the Otway Ranges are preserved for the benefit of the public and for future generations.

The Otway Ranges follows the Great Ocean Road along the south-west coast. Scenically, it is viewed as the jewel in the crown of Victoria. However, the region is now under threat from clearfell logging. We don't have to go to the Amazon or the rainforests of Indonesia to be aghast over forest destruction. It is happening here in Victoria under a Labor Government.

Clearfell logging is leaving the Otways looking like a series of bomb sites, causes reduction in water yields and quality in catchments and is destroying the habitat of native plants, habitats of birds such as powerful and mask owls, and habitats of native animals such as the threatened Spot-tailed Quoll. It is converting native State forests into plantations.

TOURISM & JOBS

Concern over the Otways is not merely environmental. It goes to the heart of regional economic development.

The economic activity of tourism in the Otway region is now estimated at $1 Billion per annum, whilst logging is valued at relatively meager sum of about $10 Million per annum.

With over 80% of timber extracted from the Otway Forests ending up as wood chips, there is no doubt that clearfell logging of the Otways is woodchip driven, and is undermining a major regional economic asset.

This campaign is also not about loss of timber workers' jobs. Only about 40 jobs would be directly affected as a result of bringing clearfelling to an end; government funds are already available for industry and workers adjustment. This debate is about creating jobs and increasing community wealth through growth in tourism which is incompatible with State government subsidised destructive logging practices.

Still, the State Labor government persists with clearfell logging of the Otways, clearfelling areas around waterfalls, clearfelling catchments, clearfelling old-growth forest stands and mixed-species containing rainforest, and clearfelling potential environmental votes.

The government needs to be reminded that the ALP holds the State seat of Geelong by only 16 votes.

Lindsay Tanner, Federal Shadow Minister for Finance, stated at the Young Labor Conference on 1 April 2001:

We would add to that. We as members of the ALP must make a stand! We must urge the Bracks' Labor government to now bring clearfell logging of native forests in the Otways to an end.

OBJECTIVE

Members, there is a state-wide interest in bringing clearfelling to an end, and there needs to be a state-wide response within the Party.

The objective of the Interest Group is to seek a government prohibition on clearfell logging of native State forests in the Otway Ranges and an end to issuing of residual log licence which are used as an excuse to transform the Otways into woodchips.

The political message that needs to be delivered by members of the ALP to the government and the Minister is this -

STRATEGY

It is our intention to see a policy recommended at the Autumn 2002 ALP State Conference that promises an end to clearfelling of the Otways.

We are seeking support from Branches, Policy Committees, the various factions and from MPs to achieve this.