HIS visit to Grafton yesterday was brief, but Federal Forests Minister Joe Ludwig came with a message the timber industry wanted to hear - the government would do everything it could to stop the importation of timber logged illegally.
Senator Ludwig toured Big River Timbers at Junction Hill with the Member for Page Janelle Saffin and some timber industry heavyweights to explain the rami- fications of the Illegal Logging Prohibition Act, which was passed into law in at the end of last month.
Anything that can be done to support the industry should be supported.
Sen Ludwig said it was estimated about $60 million worth of timber logged illegally came into Australia each year in direct competition with local timber companies.
The aim, which he admitted would be difficult to achieve, would be to reduce that to zero.
Mill owner and lifelong timber industry advocate Spiro Notaras said the legislation was welcome.
"Anything that can be done to support the industry should be supported," Mr Notaras said.
"It could be very difficult to police, but it will make those companies involved in illegal importing look twice.
"It will definitely help."
According to Sen Ludwig, the legislation was proposed by the Coalition before the last election, but they voted against it when the legislation was introduced. It passed with the support of the Greens.
"For the first two years it's a straight prohibition on illegally logged timber," he said. "You have to prove intent, though, which is a pretty high bar.
"It means you (Australian timber companies) can compete against legal products."
He said there were environmental benefits, as it meant only timber logged from legal sources was imported into Australia.
Ms Saffin said she was looking to provide further assistance for the industry through a timber industry forum and the development of specific skills for the industry to value add.
Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.