Daily News Roundup

November 21, 2018

Image: ABC News

TUESDAY, November 20

Thousands of hectares of state forest appear to have been logged or earmarked for logging illegally, an ABC investigation has found, amounting to what some say is the mass “theft” by a government-owned for-profit logging company.

Key points:

  • Victorian Government determines where VicForests can log by creating “allocation order”
  • Only trees within that allocation can be harvested for sale
  • VicForests appears to be taking trees from outside allocation at hundreds of locations across the state

Trees making up some of Victoria’s most endangered ecosystems are being felled and turned into building products, paper or wood chips by VicForests, which are then sold in retailers such as Bunnings and Officeworks.

The apparently illegal logging is also threatening the habitats of some of the country’s most vulnerable species, including the Leadbeater’s possum, Victoria’s animal emblem.

In its simplest terms, the trees appear to have been taken illegally by VicForests — since they are not inside the areas it has been granted permission to log.

“If VicForests is logging timber that hasn’t been allocated to them, then they’re taking and selling timber that doesn’t belong to them,” said Danya Jacobs, a lawyer at Environmental Justice Australia.

“And another way of putting that is, it’s tantamount to stealing timber from public forests.”

The Victorian Government determines where VicForests can log in state forests by creating what is known as an “allocation order”.

That order includes a map, and the ownership of the timber inside the borders of that map is transferred to VicForests.

According to the Sustainable Forests (Timber) Act 2004, only trees within that allocation can be harvested for sale — and all other timber in state forests remains the property of the Crown.

But VicForests appears to be taking trees from outside its allocation at hundreds of locations across the state.

“It’s theft. Essentially these forests belong to all Victorians and by logging them, VicForests is stealing from all Victorians,” said Ed Hill, an environmental activist employed by Friends of the Earth.

He was one of the first to notice VicForests was regularly planning logging of timber it did not own.

Data obtained by the ABC’s Specialist Reporting Team, and independently analysed, shows it is a practice that has been repeated multiple times, is ongoing, and is planned to continue.

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United States President Donald Trump has vowed to remain a “steadfast partner” of Saudi Arabia despite saying that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman may have known about the plan to murder dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi last month.

Defying pressure from US politicians to impose tougher sanctions on Saudi Arabia, Mr Trump also said he would not cancel military contracts with the kingdom, saying such a “foolish” move would only benefit Russia and China.

“Russia and China would be the enormous beneficiaries — and very happy to acquire all of this newfound business,” Mr Trump said in a statement issued by the White House.

“It would be a wonderful gift to them directly from the United States!”

Some critics accuse Mr Trump of exaggerating the importance of the weapons sales to the American economy and the value of deals, which the White House says are worth hundreds of billions of dollars over the next decade.

Mr Trump said US intelligence agencies were still studying the evidence around Khashoggi’s murder inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2 and who planned it.

“Our intelligence agencies continue to assess all information, but it could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event — maybe he did and maybe he didn’t,” he said.

Mr Trump also said Khashoggi was seen by some as an enemy of Saudi Arabia, but that was not a factor in his decision making.

“Representatives of Saudi Arabia say that Jamal Khashoggi was an ‘enemy of the state’ and a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, but my decision is in no way based on that — this is an unacceptable and horrible crime.”

US intelligence sources say the CIA’s assessment is that Khashoggi’s death was ordered by the Crown Prince, who is Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler and is widely known by his initials MbS.

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Police are investigating the suspicious death of a four-month-old girl from Logan, south of Brisbane.

The baby girl was taken to the Logan Hospital on Monday morning with life-threatening injuries.

She was then transferred to the Queensland Children’s Hospital in Brisbane in a critical condition, where she died on Tuesday afternoon.

A 35-year-old woman and 37-year-old man are assisting police with inquiries.

Detectives from the Logan Child Protection and Investigation Unit, and State Crime Command’s Homicide and Child Trauma squads are investigating.

It is understood police are trying to determine whether the child’s injuries occurred over a prolonged period, and at various locations.

The Department of Child Safety said it could not comment on individual cases.

Meanwhile, investigations are continuing into the death of a nine-month-old girl, who was found on a Gold Coast beach on Sunday night.

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A dead whale that washed ashore in eastern Indonesia had a large lump of plastic waste in its stomach, including drinking cups and thongs, a park official said, causing concern among environmentalists and government officials in one of the world’s largest plastic polluting countries.

Rescuers from Wakatobi National Park found the rotting carcass of the 9.5-metre sperm whale late on Monday near the park in Southeast Sulawesi province, after receiving a report from environmentalists that villagers had surrounded the dead whale and were beginning to butcher the rotting carcass, park chief Heri Santoso said.

Mr Santoso said researchers from wildlife conservation group WWF and the park’s conservation academy found about 5.9 kilograms of plastic waste in the animal’s stomach, consisting of 115 plastic cups, four plastic bottles, 25 plastic bags, 2 thongs, a nylon sack and more than 1,000 other assorted pieces of plastic.

“Although we have not been able to deduce the cause of death, the facts that we see are truly awful,” said Dwi Suprapti, a marine species conservation coordinator at WWF Indonesia.

She said it was not possible to determine if the plastic had caused the whale’s death because of the animal’s advanced state of decay.

Indonesia, an archipelago of 260 million people, is the world’s second-largest plastic polluter after China, according to a study published in the journal Science in January.

It produces 3.2 million tonnes of mismanaged plastic waste a year, of which 1.29 million tonnes ends up in the ocean, the study said.

 

This daily news roundup is curated with stories from ABC News.

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