Whilst sorting a massive pile of stored books, I have lately revisited the extraordinary tales of young Alice and the White Rabbit, and the analogy between Tasmania, and Lewis Carroll’s anecdotally drug-fuelled ‘Wonderland’, is inescapable. If cats sat in trees and grinned inanely at passers by in Hobart, no doubt exchanges such as these would be commonplace –
‘But I don’t want to go among mad people,’ Alice remarked.
‘Oh you can’t help that,’ said the Cat, ‘we’re all mad here. I’m mad, you’re mad.’
‘How do you know I’m mad?’ said Alice.
‘You must be,’ said the Cat, ‘or you wouldn’t have come here.’
‘How’re you enjoying the game?’ said the Cat.
‘They don’t play very fair,’ said Alice.
‘No one does if they think they can get away with it. That’s a lesson you’ll have to learn,’ said the Cat.
The landscape and ambience of our fair state, Tasmania, are enchanting, and thoroughly beguiling. As though by a Siren’s song we were lured to this place four years ago, and although we still rejoice in its natural wonders, the ugly, perverse reality of its public administration is slowly sapping our enthusiasm.
Take, for example, the Tasmanian notion of ‘an agreement’, in particular, the Tasmanian Forests Intergovernmental Agreement (TFIGA), signed off by no lesser personages than the Premier of Tasmania and the Prime Minister of Australia. I wonder if they read it before they put their names to it.
Or, did they know it was a pile of crap, that nobody had any intention of implementing?
Since October 2010 the people of this fair state have been privy to a spellbinding display of political expediency, complete with dense, esoteric documents, persistent claims of ‘historic’ achievement, and ‘agreements’ so poorly drafted, even trainee legal practitioners would be ashamed to own them.
Since the release of the West Report, we know for sure that Forestry Tasmania cannot meet its existing contractual obligations, even if no more forest areas are reserved. Are they going hell for leather cutting stuff down, as we speak? Is the sky blue?
Do they have any intention of backing off? Do pigs fly?
Will Minister Green do anything to stop them? Do fish speak Italian?
So, where’s the ‘agreement’?
All the people of Tasmania have to show for two years of negotiations, and the expenditure of an unknown sum of public money, are a couple of dodgy documents and a 2500 page report loaded with academic language that very few outside the so-called Independent Verification Group can understand. Call me low-brow, but what the fuck is a ‘Capstone Report’? What are polygons? And, since when did ‘headroom’ have anything to do with the harvesting of timber? I thought it was the distance between the top of a person’s head and a doorframe, or the roof of their car.
Amongst other things, the TFIGA requires the Tasmanian Government to introduce legislation into Parliament before 30 June this year to formally protect areas of reserve determined by the Independent Verification Group ‘as compatible with the guaranteed timber supply’. The same ‘guaranteed timber supply’ that the IVG has reported cannot be satisfactorily met in future years from public native forest, if more forest reserves are created. There is no ‘compatibility’, within the TFIGA, between the numbers for additional forest reserves and those for guaranteed timber supply.
So, where does that leave the agreement, and the Government’s legislative onus? Down the toilet, juggling for space with the steaming turds of their commitment to change in the forests, and the credibility of the Statement of Principles ENGOs?
But let’s not be too harsh. Maybe Minister Green will introduce some sort of relevant-looking bill into the parliament. It would certainly give him a chance to use all the aforementioned IVG jargon, and we know how much pollies love to appropriate jargon. Do they think it makes them sound smarter?
Even if such a bill is introduced, and passes through the House of Assembly, with Greens’ support, it must then run the gauntlet of the Legislative Council. An upper house which, Mr Phill Parsons has noted on a previous thread, is ‘the world’s most powerful upper house.’ The Tasmanian Constitution Act 1934 allows the Legislative Council extraordinary powers, unique in Australia. It may amend any bills presented to it, with the exception of some money bills, and, more importantly, it may reject any bill, including money bills. And, the Legislative Council cannot be dissolved. A ‘double dissolution’ is not constitutionally possible in Tasmania.
Does everyone recall the recent public statement of MLCs Paul Harriss, Ruth Forrest, Jim Wilkinson, Greg Hall, Vanessa Goodwin, Adriana Taylor, Sue Smith, Ivan Dean, Tania Rattray, Tony Mulder, Rosemary Armitage and Mike Gaffney? These 12, of 15, firmly-entrenched members of our ‘house of review’ indicated, in response to proposed sackings at Ta Ann, that they would block any further reservation of forests in the TFIGA if environmental protests such as those aimed at Ta Ann continued.
Are they likely to approve further forest reserves within three months of the introduction of the necessary legislation, as required by the TFIGA, to ensure its funding provisions? Do frogs have hair?
And, then there is the small matter of the Triabunna woodchip mill. The TFIGA expects, pursuant to Clause 32, that the Triabunna mill will reopen, and operate in accordance with the Statement of Principles, failing which the terms of the agreement may be reviewed. Will the Triabunna mill reopen? Has hell frozen over?
So, where’s the agreement? Disappearing in a maelstrom of spin, moving in ever-diminishing circles into a black hole, along with the naïve ambitions of all those who wished to be known by history as the saviours of the Tasmanian forests?
‘It’s all part of the process’, I hear them say – those of limited sense who have bought into this charade. But, does the process need to be so sloppy? Or, is it purposely incompetent, since a fair resolution is not on the agenda.
No force, it seems, can stop the power of forestry in this State. There’s a nigger in the woodpile, and he goes by the name of Forestry Tasmania – he’s big and mean and you could play footy with his gonads.
But, are we happy to admit defeat? Why are we persisting with a ‘process’ that merely fiddles at the edges of the monster’s lair? Can no one go inside and sort him once and for all?
Our only hope is for some sensible persons to be elected into government. Surely, the number of disenchanted and outright pissed-off constituents is reaching critical mass. Even Alice would be astounded by Tassie’s shenanigans, and she’s seen some seriously funky shit.