According to recent estimates, the illegal timber trade in Australia has developed to such an extent over the years, that it is now worth a whopping $400 million (€312.5 million).
Needless to say, the business of manufacturing and marketing products made from illegally collected timber negatively impacts both on local jobs, and on the environment.
Because of this, the Australian government saw fit to introduce the Illegal Logging Prohibition Bill, which basically states that those engaging in such activities are to be regarded as guilty of committing criminal offenses, and made to suffer the legal consequences of their actions.
Mongabay reports that, in order to pass this bill, the Australian government got some much needed help from local businesses, environmental groups and even social and religious organizations.
Furthermore, furniture and timber retailers such as IKEA, Bunnings, Simmonds Lumber and Kimberley Clark got behind this green-oriented project.
While furniture retailers are likely to have supported this bill for financial reasons first and foremost, the environmentalists who also got involved chose to do so because illegal logging more often than not leads to the destruction of relatively large patches of wilderness and negatively impact on local communities.
As Reece Turner, an activist working with Greenpeace Australia-Pacific, puts it, “Illegal logging often involves land theft, trashing national parks and breeds corruption and human rights abuse. It's a huge challenge to countries in our region including Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Cambodia.”
The people found guilty of having violated the Illegal Logging Prohibition Bill are to have their goods forfeited, and risk being made to pay a fine of $55,000 - $275,000 (€42,969 - €214,845), depending on whether they work alone or represent a company.
Moreover, some illegal loggers could be sentenced to five years in jail.
Despite the fact that importing and using timber coming from illegal logging is now listed as a criminal offense, environmentalists fear that further measures are needed so as to make sure that the prohibition does not stay on paper alone.
“The biggest outstanding question is how the government will ensure these laws are enforced. We know that unscrupulous companies and individuals continue to import illegal timber,” Reece Turner said.