The use of legislation by the Victorian State government to manage and discourage civil disobediance against logging in public native forests

Stream: Panel 87 - Environmental Politics: Cooperation and Conflict over Water and Forests 
Date: Wednesday, 28 September 2016
Time: 1.30 pm – 3.00 pm


A number of Australian State governments have sought to manage acts of civil disobedience through the use of legislation that restricts the broad community’s ability to speak out about environmental issues. This has been particularly been the case with respect to the development of legislation in Victoria (2004), Tasmania (2013) and New South Wales (2016) to manage acts of civil disobedience that target specific industries such as native forest logging on public land and the fossil fuel mining industry. This case study unpacks the politics associated with the Victorian State Government’s development of the Safety on Public Land Act (2004) that has made it much more difficult for the public to protest against native forest logging on public land. The genesis of this legislation is largely associated with an environmental campaign between 1996 and 2002 in the Otway Ranges in South Western Victoria. This campaign, for which protesting against clearfell logging was a major component, succeeded in making native forest logging on public land in the Otways illegal. OREN successfully dealt with ‘Forest Operation Zone’ legislation that made it illegal for the public to enter the forests to scrutinize logging practices. However, although the decision to end Otway logging proved to be popular for the Victorian State Government, pro-logging groups later succeeded in encouraging the government to develop the Safety on Public Land Act (2004) as a means to stop more Victorian forests from being protected in the future.


Simon Birrell (Presenter), University of Tasmania
Simon Birrell is currently undertaking a PhD through University of Tasmania which analyses how grassroot environment groups can successfully influence public policy. Between 1996 and 2008 Mr Birrell was a spokesperson with the Otway Ranges Environment Network , a grassroots environmental group that used a mix of conventional and non-violent direct action to successfully influenced the Victorian State Government to implement policy and laws that have made clearfell logging on public land in the Otway Ranges illegal. Mr Birrell who was previously a mechanical engineer has also been involved in changing environmental policies in Queensland through community campaigning.