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by Staff Writer Feb 8, 2011,conflict-between-wilderness-society-and-australian-paper-hits-cyberspace.aspx

The strained relationship between Australian Paper and The Wilderness Society reached a new low as conflict over paid-for links on Google took the disagreement to cyberspace.

According to the Wilderness Society, the two parties have been in discussion for the past five years over Australian Paper’s forestry practices, but talks have broken down recently.

The Wildnerness Society had bought a sponsored link on Google for the search term ‘reflex’ as part of its Ethical Paper campaign against the harvesting of domestic forest in Australia.

The top search result for people searching for terms including ‘reflex paper’, ‘office paper’, ‘office stationery’ – and hence anyone searching for Australian Paper’s leading Reflex brand of office paper – would link to the Wilderness Society’s Ethical Paper portal.

It is believed Australian Paper asked Google to remove the sponsored link, citing trademark violation. A search for ‘reflex paper’ now brings up a sponsored link to an Australian Paper site titled “Ethical Paper: The Facts”.

The Wilderness Society’s Ethical Paper campaign aims to get companies and organisations to pledge not to purchase Reflex Paper until Australian Paper stops sourcing from native forests.

In a statement, Australian Paper highlighted that Victoria currently has 7.8 million hectares of native forest and 4.7 million hectares, or 60% of these, are set aside in parks and reserves. In total, almost 90% of Victoria’s native forests are either unavailable or unsuitable for timber harvesting.

Australian Paper corporate & government relationship manager Stephen Hawkins pointed out that “each year only less than 0.1% is logged for all users, including us”.

The paper company also said that it sources more than half of its total fibre requirements from plantation wood, recycled pulp and wastepaper from kerbside collections.

According to The Wilderness Society, the forests in Victoria are an important water source catchment to the people of Victoria and a critical habitat to native animals including the Leadbeater’s Possum.

Campaigner Luke Chamberlain said major forest fires over the past decade have impacted in the biodiversity of forests in Victoria and using plantation wood would be a better alternative.

“There is no issue of supply here in Victoria. There is enough plantation wood in the ground in Victoria to completely substitute the native forests that Australian Paper uses to make Reflex paper.”

The organisation is now targeting Reflex paper distributors such as Woolworths, Coles and Officeworks, to get them to join the campaign.

“We do not want to be doing this. We want to be working on constructive solutions,” said Chamberlain.

“We have invested in an independent economic analysis of the industry in Victoria to see what opportunities there are in plantations. We have shared this with Australian Paper and they continue to ignore concerns over the native forest content.

“We are also involved in the certification audit of Reflex products and currently await an audit which came about after complaints made by stakeholders and FSC Australia about Australian Paper’s ongoing logging of native forests.”

Hawkins said Australian Paper had always “enjoyed positive engagement” with The Wilderness Society.

“We have certainly learned a lot from them. In business, you learn more from your opponents than those that think you’re fantastic.

“We have enjoyed that engagement but now we are a bit disappointed and confused by their current campaign,” added Hawkins.