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WA taxpayers should pay to save forests

THERE’S an old but enduring adage that there are two certainties in life – death and taxes.

Maybe this should be applied to one of the most important, yet divisive, debates ever to consume the hearts and minds of Western Australians.

The issue of logging old growth forests has seen high emotion and, sometimes, low tolerance.

However, irrespective of people’s personal or political views on the logging issue, there has been a relative ignorance of, and lack of consideration for, those who will bear the brunt of any changes to the Regional Forest Agreement – timber workers and their families.

More so than in the Perth metropolitan area, most country towns have tight-knit communities that thrive on helping each other – especially in times of economic misfortune.

They now need help – and that means all Western Australians.

While opinion in the Perth metro area against logging old growth areas may be well-intentioned, there is a real need for greater awareness of the plight of the communities of Manjimup, Pemberton, Nannup, Greenbushes and other timber-related towns.

Much more than awareness and consideration is needed.

It is everyone’s responsibility to not only consider the consequences of political or personal choice but to also commit to solutions – solutions that will cost money.

The real and indirect cost to the timber industry of the revised RFA will be huge.

Given the Court Government has revised the agreement in response to mounting public calls, it follows that voters (especially in our capital city) need to consider the acceptance of certain financial imposts that have to be put in place to look after the bush – the communities that will suffer massive job losses and social dislocation.

One way is a nature tax – a sort of green credits tax in reverse.

Such a tax would help fund a comprehensive restructure of the timber industry, associated financial recompense to workers and local timber-based industry and innovative strategies to introduce niche industries and value-adding timber-related enterprises.

Regionally-based industry has been good to the state’s economy as long as WA has been settled.

Now may be the time when that debt can be repaid.

If WA taxpayers are made clearly aware of a need for special levies in times of economic concern (as with the vehicle licence levy to help repay losses due to WA Inc) and if they are fair dinkum about a comprehensive restructure of the timber industry, they should support the concept of a nature tax.

There’s another old saying in business – you get what you pay for.

Someone has to pay and it cannot be the timber workers and their communities.

They have already paid enough for being victims of the changing political tide.

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