Political Donations from
Native Forest Woodchip Companies:
buying less regulation for more profit

The table below demonstrates the complicity of the Liberal/National Parties and the Labor Party in the current freeing up of the woodchip market. The listed companies are Australia's biggest exporters of woodchips sourced from Australian Native Forests. The table documents donations made to the major political parties in the financial year leading up to the March 1996 Federal election which saw the Coalition parties win a majority in the House of Representatives.

In 1995 the Victorian Coalition Government eased the Native Vegetation Clearance Act (19) to allow Amcor to clear native bushland for plantations. This was subsidised by the Federal (Coalition) Government in 1996 under their support policy for Regional Farm Forestry (as outlined in thier Environment Policy). A coalition of business groups based in the Latrobe Valley region (including Amcor) is involved.

Table: Donor returns to the Australian Electoral Commission for 1995/96.

CompanyCoalition PartiesALP
Amcor (Vic)$305 000$55 000
Boral/Sawmillers Exporters Ltd (NSW)$100 000$50 000
North (Tas)$80 000$80 000
Wesfarmers (WA)$140 000$20 000
Total$625 000$205 000

Information supplied by the Australian Greens, with extra information added by Craig (GECO).

It's interesting to note that this oligopoly of woodchipping companies are the dominant monopolies in their home states, and this arrangement sits quite well with the virtually centralised Liberal/National regime in this country (it could be said that the NSW Labor govt is a defacto liberal govt at least in it's "pragmatic" support for free market policies).

With the eight senators (7 coalition, 1 ALP) voting on any new legislation designed to further free up the regulations supposedly constraining the profit margins of the woodchip companies, it seems there isn't much hope for any rationality other than economic to intrude upon electoral politics. Australian Greens Senator Bob Brown has brought up the issue of these Senators complicity in the passing of new regulations reducing the ceiling on woodchip exports, but it escaped the attention of most of the mainstream media. The issue will come up again.....

As part of the agreement between the Federal and Victorian governments the Coalition federal government has agreed to "ensure that no controls under {the Export Controls Act (1982) will apply to the export of hardwood woodchips or unprocessed wood sourced from the East Gippsland region while the agreement is in place. The Commonwealth will seek passage of the relevant amendment by 30 June 1997." -from "East Gippsland Regional Forest Agreement between the Commonwealth and Victorian Governments"

At least this is something the Greens and Democrats can work on together.

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