Thursday, 1 June 2023

Questions without notice and ministers statements

Timber industry

Katherine COPSEY, Jaclyn SYMES

Timber industry

Katherine COPSEY (Southern Metropolitan) (12:11): (172) My question is to the Attorney-General. Attorney, now that the government has made the decision to end native forest logging on 1 January, will you work with your colleagues to also repeal the anti-protest laws, such as the sustainable forests timber amendment act, designed to penalise people who exercise their democratic right to protest against logging in native forests with huge fines and jail time?

Jaclyn SYMES (Northern Victoria – Attorney-General, Minister for Emergency Services) (12:12): Ms Copsey, the Attorney-General is not responsible for every law in this state, so that piece of legislation was not an Attorney-General bill. However, as a former Minister for Agriculture and having spent time in coupes and knowing how dangerous they are, that is a workplace safety bill in relation to ensuring that workers and indeed people that want to enter dangerous workplaces are prevented from doing so for their own safety. The question is just directed to the wrong minister in any further regard.

Katherine COPSEY (Southern Metropolitan) (12:12): I note the Attorney’s response to that question. Attorney, I have directed this question to you as the chief law officer in our state because protest is fundamental to the health of our democracy. We have seen the Labor government in South Australia following Victoria’s shameful example by putting in place draconian laws to crush climate and environment protest. Attorney, can you assure Victorians that further harsh anti-protest laws targeting people raising the alarm on crises facing our climate and environment will not be introduced by the Andrews Labor government?

Jaclyn SYMES (Northern Victoria – Attorney-General, Minister for Emergency Services) (12:13): This chamber considered that bill in great detail, and it was not in relation to curtailing people’s right to protest. This government certainly respects people’s right to protest. It was ensuring that people did not die or get killed by really dangerous equipment. In fact I am on the record saying I would have been happy to build a platform for protesters in forests just outside the coupe. That would have been fine. But when you go into a coupe and put yourself at risk, that is horrible. I spoke to timber workers who were terrified that they were going to kill someone. It was horrible having that on their mind. So you are linking a bill that was important to protect people’s safety with the right to protest in a really inappropriate way.