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Brown says Donations 'Reek'

A former Labor Minister approved export licences for three major woodchipping companies on the only day of the 1994-95 financial year that two of these companies donated money (totalling $242 500) to the ALP and the Coalition.

The then Resources Minister, David Beddall, extended woodchip approvals for Boral, Amcor, and Wesfarmers Bunnings on 21 December 1994, in what became popularly-known as 'Beddall's Blunder". The community backlash led to then Prime Minister Keating declaring three weeks later on 13 January 1995 that all export woodchipping would be phased out by 2000.

In the Senate this week, Senator Bob Brown tabled new research that showed the 'coincidence' of donation dates by the three companies and demanded an explanation.

"Amcor and Boral gave money to the ALP and the Coalition on the very same day Beddall renewed and extended their licences. And this was also the same day that another giant woodchipper, Wesfarmers Bunnings, gave their largest political donation of that financial year," said Senator Brown. "It reeks", he told the Senate.

Senator Brown, who tabled the accompanying graph in the Senate last night illustrating the coincidence of donation dates, said that 21 December 1994 had been a dark day for supporters of forest protection who had expected the federal Government to protect some of the nation's forests. "Short of an explanation, these circumstances call for an inquiry," said Senator Brown.

The woodchip donation research came to light yesterday just as a new book has been launched in Canberra that teaches consumers how to completely avoid use of any native forests timbers when next they build, design or renovate.

The co-editor of 'Forest-Friendly Building Timbers', Mr Alan T. Gray, said that unexplained coincidences such as the woodchip donations were what led him to bypass the political logjam on forest protection and go straight to consumers.

"The old parties won't protect forests so it's up to ordinary consumers to help make use of native forest building timbers as unpalatable as sitting down to a whale steak for dinner," he said.

'Forest-Friendly Building Timbers' is on sale in 200 BBC Hardware stores throughout Australia. "For the first time ever a national hardware chain has teamed up with conservationists to protect forests through consumer product choices," said Mr Gray.

Senator Brown has moved for Senate endorsement of 'Forest Friendly Building Timbers'.

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