A Night for Looking Back… and Forward

Some thoughts on the 25th anniversary of saving the Franklin celebration.

Part 1
We stared in awe of the mirror-like image of rainforest gracing the surface of the Gordon River. It was a night for reflection. We watched the Franklin River flowing freely through the wild toward the ocean. It was too, a night to ponder from where we have come and to where head.

The first comment from the speeches that hit me was from Peter Thompson of Talking Heads on the ABC, when he said “the River moves fast, just like politics”. This was certainly true for the saving of the Franklin, but I couldn’t help thinking of Lennon’s sudden replacement by Bartlett. This shift was highlighted on the night by the attendance of Premier Bartlett, something Lennon would never have done.

Thompson also quoted Ross Ashton, then HEC Commissioner: “if the parliament works in popular decisions, we’re doomed in this State and we’re doomed everywhere”. One couldn’t help wondering if the political mindset had changed at all when considering consistent surveying over the past few years showing a majority opposed to old growth logging and the pulp mill, and all the while a government doing all it can to support it.

The first singer (Ian Paulin I think) reminded us that anniversaries are as much about the future as the past. Then Richard Flanagan, someone who knows the River with the intimacy that comes with floating with its waters over fifty times, described the saving of the Franklin as “a moment when things mattered more than power and money, when people became more than just workers and consumers”. Yet, again we had to question where we have come since then as we still destroy pristine forests with an industry that “survives only for the grotesque subsidies from successive State and Federal governments”.

I went to the interval half inspired half distressed. The face of Australia certainly has been changed by the environmental movement, but it can still be disturbingly ugly. I swapped places with David Bellamy at the urinal who was wearing a bright orange t-shirt with “the pommy botanist is back” across the chest and my spirits lifted again.

Part 2

Lorraine Bayly made a comment that struck me: “young countries like Australia and the USA have an immaturity, a stupidity”. I have often wondered why it seems older societies like those of Europe seem to have a greater appreciation for nature, culture and diversity.

She reminded the audience that timing is everything. My mind set sail on the change of Premier, the global markets hammering Gunns and even the 25th anniversary of such an inspiring environmental victory occurring at a time when weary pulp mill and forest campaigners need a boost. Could we be coming to ‘a moment’?

Doug Lowe, Tasmania’s most popular Premier spoke of not slavishly following tyrannical institutions and warned of the unique power we gift the Legislative Council here in Tasmania. Bartlett clapped and shook his hand and I hoped he took some strength from it.

I certainly wasn’t the only one who kept glancing at Bartlett in search of an expression or reaction to the words from the eclectic group of saviours. Because as yet, we know little of the new Premier, other than that he is easier to look at than the last, and he is at least willing to be exposed to other views. He is though, yet to differentiate himself in terms of policy. A night conducted by Bob Brown, at a table with Doug Lowe and Bob Hawke could only be a positive influence on his polity.

The 75 year old David Bellamy then ran up the stairs having just met the policeman who put him in prison 25 years ago, and thanking him for the fame. When he returned to England all those years ago he had to meet Prime Minister Thatcher who said to him “there are votes in this green business”. At this point Peg Putt and David Bartlett laughed across the table with each other.

Bellamy then said “now I’m back and we’re heading for pulp fiction, turning 2000 year old trees into toilet paper to wipe our arses with”. He suggested we change now, to give ourselves “the breathing space to find out what sustainability actually is”.

In introducing Bob Hawke, Senator Brown argued that we need inspiration from science, from the arts, from business, but especially from our political leaders.

Bob Hawke didn’t really seem any different to me than when he was Prime Minister. He said, with an element of cheek of the man sitting next to his wife; “the suggestible David Bartlett has been listening very intently”.

He spoke of the Franklin campaign being a testament to public protest, “they weren’t playing games”. How strange a feeling it was, to hear a Prime Minister speaking positively and truthfully of protest.

“It is not a matter to choose between the environment or development, we can have both. It was true then, and it is true now.”

The he moved on from the Franklin, saying it was insignificant compared to the environmental crisis we now face in climate change. Yet, the same arguments as 25 years ago are championed daily; it will cost jobs; it will cost economic growth. He criticised Conservatives spouting about ‘family values,’ when the greatest obligation to family must be “to pass on a planet that is inhabitable, viable and enjoyable”.

I walked home with Mother Nature raining on my face and almost blowing me over, and I thought, ‘She has a chance’.

James Dryburgh

The 75 year old David Bellamy then ran up the stairs having just met the policeman who put him in prison 25 years ago, and thanking him for the fame. When he returned to England all those years ago he had to meet Prime Minister Thatcher who said to him “there are votes in this green business”. At this point Peg Putt and David Bartlett laughed across the table with each other.

Bellamy then said “now I’m back and we’re heading for pulp fiction, turning 2000 year old trees into toilet paper to wipe our arses with”. He suggested we change now, to give ourselves “the breathing space to find out what sustainability actually is”.