LOCAL Nationals MPs have spoken out in support of timber workers, including those prevented from working by legal action surrounding the Alberton West timber coupes.

Gippsland South MP Danny O’Brien said the state government promised 12 months ago to remove ambiguity in the Code of Practice for Timber Production that was allowing groups to regularly take legal action to stop harvesting while court action was pending.

“We have heard from timber workers across the region that this is putting their industry, their jobs and their families at risk as the supply of timber is locked up.

“Melina and I met this week with Mark Maiden who is a Yarram-based contractor, and some of his crew, who have been prevented from harvesting the Flinders coupe at Alberton West by a legal injunction.

“If the Andrews’ government was serious about protecting timber workers and their jobs, it would have acted to close these loopholes and ensure work can continue in the forestry industry.”

Ms Bath said repeated legal action was threatening not only harvest jobs but those of workers in mills and manufacturing and construction down the supply chain as timber supply dwindles.

“In NSW, the state government has legislated to minimise this sort of destructive legal action and has backed its timber industry, but the Labor Government here in Victoria is more interested in green votes in the city than country jobs.”

Mr Maiden, who employs a large crew across Gippsland, including 14 staff in Yarram, said the legal action was frustrating for all his workers: “I just want to be able to work and put food on the table for my family and those of my staff. It’s very frustrating to be locked out of our workplace.”

Earlier this year, the state government said it was “overhauling the Code of Practice for Timber Production to provide much-needed certainty for conservationists, the forestry industry and the Conservation Regulator”.

“The review makes significant improvements to the code and addresses a number of deficiencies raised by the industry and community, in order to ensure the government delivers on the Victorian Forestry Plan,” the government said in June.

“The government is continuing to examine aspects of the code that may require amendment in the short-term and will do a comprehensive review of the code by December 2023.”

See the full statement.