Image for Bartlett’s World of Forestry Fantasy

The day after an “anti-pulp mill meeting” in Launceston, noteworthy for Warwick Raverty’s suggestion that Gunns should consider using compensation money (for what?) to build a mill at Hampshire rather than the Tamar Valley, David Bartlett said this: 

“The future of Tasmania’s forest industry relies on a new approach – not repeating the mistakes of the past.  The forest policy of the past decade has failed the industry and workers.  That policy has not delivered certainty.  Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent on ‘fixes’ for the forestry, but the industry is worse-off than it’s ever been.  Simplistic one-off solutions do not work.  It’s that approach that has left the industry with the problems it faces today, and it’s those problems we are trying to clean up through the present process.  The fixes of the past were meant to deliver a pulp mill. They didn’t.  They were meant to deliver a sustainable saw-log industry. They didn’t.  The fixes of the past have seen thousands of jobs lost in the industry, and Tasmania’s brand trashed throughout the world.  The old-style approach of instant solutions has not worked, and will not work this time.  Continuing the approach of the past is a recipe for continued failure.  The State Government has clear goals for the future of the forest industry.  That’s for a state-of-the-art plantation-fed pulp mill, and a sustainable sawlog industry.  That is our forest industry future.  The only way that we can achieve that is by working through the Statements of Principles developed by the industry and environmentalists for a lasting solution.  We will see this through. We will not be distracted or put-off.  Jumping at political quick fixes is not the answer.  It will simply condemn the industry to more of the same - and that’s not a future anyone wants.  We have a rare chance to get it right. I will do everything I can to make that happen.”

So there we have it folks.  The first plank of Bartlett’s plan is full steam ahead for Plantation Isle.  This must be Bartlett’s interpretation of the motherhood blurb in the “Principles” about community engagement. No quick fixes about community engagement in this statement.  No need to bother with that. Just tell them “we will not be distracted or put off”. That should serve to get the community draw-droppingly engaged. 

But I don’t think Bartlett was talking about changing the location of the pulp mill, was he?  What he was talking about was implementing Gunns’ full agenda.  Gunns’ pulp mill agenda, that is, and whatever else goes with that agenda. Plus he is in panic mode, under fire from his old boss Paul Lennon, for not being gung ho enough about Gunns’ pulp mill. 

Come on Bartlett boy, get behind the “Principles” for the Real Man.  You’re the man for The Man.  We’re all in this 2007 PMAA stuff together.  Working all those long hours for The Man was for a purpose, their purpose.  Just don’t mention that line in the sand crap.

There will now be people out there in fairyland Tasmania who will look at what Bartlett has said and say “Ah, but he didn’t mention the Tamar Valley, did he, so he’s not talking about the Tamar Valley pulp mill, is he?  Thank goodness for that!”

They will be the same fairyland Tasmanians who praised and thanked the signatories to the roundtable agreement for including the “Principle” to build a plantation-based pulp mill which didn’t name the Tamar Valley as the site. “Oh, thank goodness”, they said, “the pulp mill they mentioned is just ‘a’ pulp mill, not ‘the’ pulp mill.”

It makes you wonder how long it will be before people start saying that the 2007 Pulp Mill Assessment Act and its permits are not really about the Tamar Valley at all.  And that Gunns didn’t withdraw from the RPDC but was hauled out against its will. 

Just give them time.  After all, they are already saying that the roundtable agreement had nothing to do with Gunns.  Nothing at all.  They weren’t even a signatory!  They didn’t have a say!  They just sat there, as observers, like flies on the wall who everyone ignored.  Why would you take notice of Gunns?  Nah, the stuff in the roundtable agreement about pulp mills, about getting out of native forest, about a plantation-based industry.  None of that has got anything to do with Gunns.  Far-fetched.  Don’t let a good story get in the way of the facts. 

This is tantamount to saying that Gunns doesn’t play an important enough role in Tasmanian forestry to have any influence within the roundtable.  No way. Why would they have any reason to communicate with all the other sectors of the industry that had a seat at the roundtable?  They’re a separate silo, on the moon.  They might have had the Tasmanian parliament do their bidding in 2007, but that’s just a Lennon flash in the pan.  Lennon’s role in the roundtable, to get things sorted out, that’s all different.  Nothing to do with Gunns. 

It might seem extraordinary that anti-pulp mill activists could have this mindset, but they do, as evidenced by some public (and private, for that matter) reaction to what several recent independent (non-partisan) detailed critical analyses of the current Tasmanian situation reveal. 

Suggestions that the substantive thrust of the roundtable agreement was based on decisions that Gunns had already taken – such as their decision to exit native forest logging and to base their operations in Tasmania on plantations – have been called a conspiracy theory, based on the inflammatory notion that the evidence is all contrived to fit a preconceived position.  The criticisms, whether they come from the ENGO media hit-brigade or the government-Gunns equivalents, only reinforces conclusions about this.  Who now is taking the lead as attack dog in the world of cyber anonymity against independent voices about the pulp mill issue is hidden from view, but presumably it runs the gamut from the Greens and TWS on one side to the Labor Party on the other. 
 
That’s one thing we all know for sure. 

On the face of it, it is undeniably absurd that supporting Plantation Isle will somehow assist in getting the pulp mill out of the Tamar Valley.  But that is the reality of the current debate, which sees all mainstream environmental groups, the Greens and various other anti-pulp mill groups (but not TAP) supporting Plantation Isle.

It is much more sensible to argue that supporting Plantation Isle and all that it means, such as the dangling carrot of FSC certification, makes it all the more likely that Gunns will be able to claim a social licence for the Tamar Valley pulp mill.  In fact, that is precisely what they are saying now.

And surely it is much more sensible to argue that those who ignore the inherent social, economic and environmental risks associated with an inflexible, monocultural plantation estate are actually helping Gunns achieve its main goal. 

So for those who don’t want to believe that the roundtable agreement was about serving the interests of Gunns, just remember that Tasmania’s premier has made Gunns’ pulp mill one of the two central planks of “working through the Statements of Principles developed by the industry and environmentalists for a lasting solution”.

Those who think, like Warwick Raverty, that transferring the pulp mill to Hampshire, and arguing for that as the basis of utilising Tasmania’s MIS plantation deadweight, need to consider more carefully and deliberately the long-term costs to Tasmania.  May I suggest that the most logical place to start is with the information provided by Tasmania’s Timber Workers for Forestry Inc.

But wait, there’s more.  While the first plank of Bartlett’s “clear goals for the future of the forest industry was “a state-of-the-art pulp mill”, let’s not forget the second plank. 
 
The day after Bartlett made his press release, he gave assurances to Glenorchy’s McKay Timber that the company could “continue to harvest from high conservation value old growth forests and regrowth that had already been logged until 2027” (Sue Neales, Mercury, 4/12/10). A very neat arrangement for what Bartlett calls a “sustainable sawlog industry” to sit alongside a plantation-based pulp mill. 
 
George Monbiot recently wrote in the Guardian that the “acceptance of policies that counteract our interests is the pervasive mystery of the 21st century”.  He referred to blue-collar workers in the United States “who angrily demand that they be left without healthcare, and insist that millionaires pay less tax”.

Those who oppose the Tamar Valley pulp mill, and who at the same time loudly support Plantation Isle and the implementation of the “Principles” of the roundtable agreement, are doing much the same thing as those American workers, and are really supporting a policy which is more likely to support the dream of Gunns to build a pulp mill in the Tamar Valley plus a continuation of the logging of old growth for at least another 17 years. 

If it comes to pass that Gunns is able to use the support of environmental groups, the Greens and other community-based organisations for “a pulp mill”, as evidence for a social licence to build a plantation-based mill in the Tamar Valley, in addition to the logging of old growth for nearly another 20 years, then the actions of some so-called “anti-pulp mill” activists will have some responsibility for that outcome, and for the deleterious future impacts that their support for Plantation Isle and the on-going exploitation of native forests will invariably deliver.

Monday, ABC Online:

Libs urge dumping of Tas forest peace plan

The state opposition has urged Tasmania’s forestry industry to dump the forest peace deal and back its 13 point plan.

Ten parties signed a statement of principles, which aim to move the industry away from logging in native forests and to end logging in high conservation value forests.

The Liberals’ policy announced last week allows continued native forest logging.

Opposition MP Jeremy Rockliff says the Liberal’s policy offers job security, where the government has admitted up to 3000 jobs will be lost under the peace deal.

Read more HERE

Stock and Land: Gunns wins extension on mill buy
06 Dec, 2010 11:03 AM

GUNNS has gained a two-week extension to settle with Forest Enterprise Australia’s receiver Deloitte on its purchase of a sawmill at Bell Bay, throwing in doubt whether it has the funds to pay for the asset.

Chief executive Greg L’Estrange would not comment about the deal when contacted, but Deloitte said Gunns had asked for additional time, The Australian Financial Review reports.

“We have every expectation that this will be settled by December 13,” Deloitte partner Sal Algeri said.

“We are happy with the process. Gunns were just not ready on November 29 to settle.”

It is believed that Gunns paid about $45 million for the sawmill, a fraction of the $72 million capital expenditure FEA paid to build the sawmill a few years ago.

The sale is an important part of Gunns developing its softwood plantation business; the sawmill is one of Australia’s largest timber processing operations and among the few sawmills that is capable of processing both hardwood and softwood.

Read more HERE

Finance latest…

Gunns shares more than double
Stock and Land - ‎21 minutes ago‎
Investors in timber company Gunns have certainly had a tumultuous year with the stock hitting more than a decade low in May of just 26.5¢. ...
Gunns shares more than double
06 Dec, 2010 01:23 PM

Investors in timber company Gunns have certainly had a tumultuous year with the stock hitting more than a decade low in May of just 26.5¢.

Former chairman John Gay was pushed out and the stock has more than doubled to about 66¢ but is still well off its five-year high of $3.57, The Australian Financial Review reports.

Gunns has bowed out of native forest logging in Tasmania and recently shut several mills in northern Tasmania.

It’s still trying to lock down a joint-venture partner for its Bell Bay pulp mill and recently said it expects to have financing sorted by early 2011.

There are two companies conducting detailed due diligence, believed to be European pulp players.

Gunns’ new chairman, Chris Newman, said trading remained difficult due to the strong Australian dollar, but reaffirmed 2011 guidance for underlying earnings before interest and tax of between $40 million and $50 million.

He also said dividends would not likely be paid for at least 12 months.

The Australian Financial Review
Source: http://www.afr.com

... there was a bit more info in the AFR this morning: Article ends:

Macquarie Bank analyst Jodie Bannan said that with so many moving parts in the business by way of asset sales and FEA sawmill acquisition, combined with weak core business earnings, Gunns balance sheet was under pressure

Media Release - 6 December 2010

Scare campaign over forests a deliberate attempt to disrupt Tasmanian forests talks

A deliberate scare campaign is being rolled out by opponents to a historic agreement to end logging of native forests in Tasmania and establish a sustainable industry to secure jobs, The Wilderness Society said today.

Unsubstantiated and misleading claims made in The Australian newspaper today, followed shortly afterwards by a media release by Federal opposition forestry spokesman Richard Colbeck, appear deliberate attempts to disrupt the goodwill generated between the forestry industry and environment groups in Tasmania, Wilderness Society spokesperson Vica Bayley said.

A one page, unattributed document is the basis on which Richard Colbeck claims a conspiracy, Mr Bayley said.

The Wilderness Society doesnt have $1 million to run a forest campaign on the mainland. This document has all the hallmarks of a fabrication.

Mr Bayley said discussions between the parties involved in the Tasmanian forestry talks were proceeding well.

Despite what Richard Colbeck may think or imagine, what is happening in Tasmania is unique to Tasmania. There is a chance to end more than three decades of mistrust and battles over native forests in Tasmania and help a struggling timber industry develop a sustainable, long term future.

This story has already broken in Tasmania, having been reported by the Examiner Newspaper in mid October, the fact it is being rolled out again confirms it is a fabricated beat up, concluded Mr Bayley.

What Richard Colbeck said:

SENATOR THE HON RICHARD COLBECK
Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Fisheries & Forestry
Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Innovation, Industry & Science
M E D I A R E L E A S E
6 December 2010
Green groups prepare secret million dollar campaign to wipe out timber communities

A secret million dollar campaign is being prepared by environmental groups to wipe out timber communities and forestry jobs across Australia.

Coalition spokesperson for Forestry Richard Colbeck said he had obtained a secret document (attached) which shows the environmental groups were set to transfer their efforts in closing down the native forest sector in Tasmania to every other timber community in Australia.

The secret document provides a breakdown of costs including a $1 million advertisement buy; plus more spending on focus groups, annual benchmark polls and a national campaign web site.

“These highly organised green groups have been given great confidence by Labor’s decision to form an alliance with the Greens in Federal Government,” said Senator Colbeck.

“These green groups, many with multi-national financial clout, are set to wage a major battle against forestry workers and businesses across Australia without any regard for timber workers, their families and communities.
“If previous campaigns are a guide, this will not be a factual information campaign, but a deceptive one full of propaganda which does not reflect the facts of the forestry industry.

“The reality is our local native forestry businesses produce high quality products under sustainable conditions. Forestry industry businesses and workers understand they need to responsibly manage our forests to ensure their ongoing viability.

“There is a very strong case for maintaining local native forestry operations.

“Demand for quality native timber products for housing and furniture is only increasing in Australia. Any move to shut down the local native timber sector will only ensure the products are imported from overseas where no such sustainable forest management occurs.

“If we want to store more carbon, we should have long-term rotation management regimes in native forests,” Senator Colbeck said.

“And if we want to mitigate against catastrophic bushfires we should have well-managed sustainable native forest operations.

“Any move to scrap native forestry removes these benefits and ensures Australian homes and furniture will be made from imported timber with lower environmental standards.”

Canberra backs forests peace deal in Tasmania
Andrew Darby
December 7, 2010

THE Gillard government has backed the pioneering Tasmanian forests peace pact, ensuring a blueprint to end most native forest logging can be drawn up.

The government has thrown its support behind an interim moratorium on the contentious logging of wild forests. But it stops well short of guaranteeing the costly buyout that some in the state’s timber industry want, instead opting for a detailed ‘‘due diligence’’ assessment.

The federal government’s statement of support, released last night, has been keenly awaited by business, green groups and the Tasmanian government, which reached a principles peace pact almost two months ago. They regarded Canberra’s backing as essential to ending 25 years of forest conflict in Tasmania and restructuring the failing industry.

The pact is also seen as a potential precedent for Victoria’s native forests.

The moratorium on logging in a list of so-called high-conservation-value forests was regarded in Tasmania as a vital first step, but Premier David Bartlett had refused to implement it without the federal government’s backing.

The federal statement endorses ‘‘as a sign of good faith’’ the state’s offer to have some forests taken off the logging list while the next stages of the agreement are worked through.

‘‘An initial moratorium will necessarily cover a small area, with additional areas being added over time as the final agreement progresses,’’ the statement said.

The two governments will appoint an independent facilitator to implement the initial stages of the peace deal, with a deadline of June 30 next year.

However, the federal government made no offer of financial support, and Mr Bartlett has ruled out state aid to buy the industry out of native forest logging. The federal statement pointed to $22.4 million in assistance recently given to forest contractors, as well as $325 million already given by Canberra to the state in forest packages.

‘‘The Gillard government’s current role in the process will be to help facilitate negotiations, as opposed to providing new financial resources,’’ it said.

The state’s dominant timber industry player, Gunns Limited, warned recently that without compensation the principles agreement would fall over.

Full Andrew Darby, Age story, HERE

• Fill in The Examiner survey:

Below is a link to a questionaire in which one of the questions relates to the pulp mill. 

Pulp the Mill Working Group

http://www.examiner.com.au/specialfeature.aspx?id=4272