Timber Communities Australia
This article is part of the Center for Media & Democracy's spotlight on front groups and corporate spin.
TCA was originally named the "Forest Protection Society" in 1987 when the group originated. The organization actually sought to protect a "forest-based economy," and, accordingly, after some confusion as to the organization's real purpose, it eliminated the word "protection" from it name when it changed its name to Timber Communities Australia, Ltd. 
In a February 2004, Australian Greens Senator, Bob Brown, sketched some of the activities and funding of Timber Communities Australia, Australia's longest running industry front group.
"When articles on the forests appear in print or go to air, there is an outcry from the forest industry. But what at first appears to be a broad based response to a media story is, in fact, a highly orchestrated campaign by a small cabal long linked by personal history and involvement with the woodchip industry and using an innocuous-sounding organisation called Timber Communities Australia, TCA, as a front to give it credibility," he told the Senate. TCA concerns itself with promoting what it calls "productive conservation" in the forest-based sector of the economy and "countering the misinformation promoted by those who seek to impose unrealistic, unfair and unnecessary levels of forest preservation and deny economic and community growth opportunities." This description indicates TCA is actually an economic-promotion group rather than a forest protection or preservation group. 
"Since its inception in 1987, TCA has been positioned as the voice of the little people caught between the conservation movement, governments and the large woodchip companies. It purports to be the authentic voice of those who are merely seeking to make a living and keep their jobs, to feed their families. Its advertisements feature stereotypes of the hard-working family--craftspeople, bee keepers, people in truck-stop cafes and children in the bush with their grandparents. Its web page says it is a grassroots organisation which `exists to encourage the sensible, balanced multiple use of our forests for the benefit of all Australians'", he said.
"In fact, it is the brainchild and mouthpiece of NAFI, the National Association of Forest Industries, headquartered in Canberra, the lobby group of Australia's logging and woodchip corporations. NAFI and Timber Communities Australia share a common headquarters in Canberra and a common executive director, Kate Carnell," he said.
Brown's speech drew a response from Queensland Senator and Minister for Fisheries, Forestry and Conservation, Ian Macdonald. "Timber Communities Australia is a magnificent grassroots organisation. It is a group of ordinary Australians--if you can call them that--working in the industry, working in country communities, who are eventually getting their message across about the hypocrisy of the Greens and their very left-wing agenda," he told the Senate. 
In May 2006 a journalist with the Mercury newspaper in Tasmania, Sue Neales, wrote that "Timber Communities Australia says it represents the "timber folk" of Tasmania. It is closely linked to and partly funded by the Forest Industries Association of Tasmania, which is in turn funded by timber industry corporate players, predominantly Gunns." 
Brown told the Senate that the financial returns for TCA revealed its lack of grassroots support. "In 2001-02 only four per cent, or $43,630, of Timber Communities Australia's income came from its members. Seventy-six per cent, or $730,000 out of $965,498, was from direct industry contributions. In the following year, 2002-03, direct contributions from industry to TCA rose to 86 per cent--$734,154 of the total of $838,977--and, conversely, member contributions fell by $4,228 to only $39,402," he said.
"NAFI's in-kind contributions to Timber Communities Australia, by way of space, salary and administrative assistance, were valued at a further $67,891. In other words, industry contributions pay the wages of Barry Chipman, Timber Communities Australia's ubiquitous Tasmanian spokesperson, and eight other staff around Australia," he told the Senate.
- Jill Lewis, National Director
- Ursula Alexander, National Secretary
- Kersten Gentle, Victoria / SA
- Adrian Coward, Northern Tasmania
- Barry Chipman, Southern Tasmania
- Tish Campbell, Western Australia
- Sue Doust, Queensland
- Peter Lezaich, New South Wales
Other SourceWatch resources
- Senator Ian Macdonald, "Address to the Timber Communities of Australia Annual Conference", Eaglehawk, NSW, 16 March 2002.
- Senator Bob Brown, "Timber Communities Australia", Senate Hansard, February 11, 2004.
- Senator Ian Macdonald, "Timber Communities Australia", Senate Hansard, February 11, 2004.
- Sue Neales, "Let the record reflect", The Mercury, May 20, 2006.
- "Forestry lobby defends Gunns' pulp mill", ABC News, July 15, 2006.