At his inaugural press conference as Premier in May 2008, David Bartlett pledged that he would “take a deeply considered approach based on data, information and knowledge” to the possibility of old-growth forests being valued as carbon offsets. The following day, Bartlett told Matthew Denholm from The Australian that the “parameters” of the timber industry had changed over the preceding decade and that “I expect by the end of the time I am Premier they will have changed again”. However, he hastened to add that “any future changes would be made in consultation with stakeholders.”
Needless to say, the timber industry funded group, Timber Communities Australia (TCA), was alarmed. “The parameters have been redone that many times that there is not really any scope left to redo those parameters any more,” Barry Chipman stated.
Who did Bartlett consult on forests policy in his first three months as Premier?
Extracts from David Bartlett’s appointments diary, which were obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, reveal that in his first three months as Premier his only meetings on forests policy were with government agencies, companies and industry lobby groups which championed the logging of old-growth forests. Requests for meetings from environment groups were rejected.
Three days after becoming Premier, Bartlett met with Bob Rutherford, the Deputy Secretary of the Department of Infrastructure, Energy and Resources, who has carriage of forests policy. The extract of Bartlett’s appointments dairy notes that the meeting was for a briefing on the forthcoming report from the World Heritage Committee on the potential impact of forestry operations on areas environmentalists wanted added to the Western Tasmania World Heritage Area. The committee’s draft report recommended only minor additions, largely of areas that had already been set aside as National Parks in the 1999 Regional Forest Agreement but which have not been formally added to the World Heritage Area.
The following week, Bob Gordon (pictured) and Ken Jeffreys from Forestry Tasmania were the next industry supporters to trudge through the doors of the Premier’s Office “to discuss forestry matters”.
Within weeks Bartlett stated that “while many of the parameters around forestry are subject to change over time, I do not see the amount of protected land being one of them.”
Shortly afterwards, Bartlett also met with Michael O’Connor and Scott Mclean from the Forestry Division of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union. In early July 2008, on the eve of a visit to Scottsdale, Bartlett was back in touch with McClean after Gunns shock announcement that it would close the Tonganah mill in the town with the loss of 74 fulltime and 55 casual jobs.
In the following week, Bartlett had a flurry of meetings on forestry issues spanning from a July 11 briefing from Forestry Tasmania on Gunn’s propos “pulp mill and woodsupply”, a visit to Britton Timbers in Smithton to “view green and dry mills”, a visit to meet Simon Kang at Ta Ann in Smithton.
The day after returning from Smithon, TCA’s Barry Chipman met with Bartlett in his office. “Our first meeting was just to introduce TCA to him. We had half a dozen TCA branch presidents there to say ‘this is us, this is what we are about. We’ve had good support in the past from the government and we’d like that to continue’.” The TCA have subsequently had other meetings with Bartlett too.
However, repeated requests from The Wilderness Society for a meeting with Bartlett got nowhere until he finally meet with The Wilderness Society and some other environment groups in December 2009, nineteen months after promising to consult “stakeholders”.
Nor does Bartlett’s appointments diary indicate that he met with any scientists or academics with independent expertise in forest policy in his first three months as Premier.
In the end, Bartlett’s “deeply considered approach” to formulating forestry policy was to meet with the same old players that had long had the ear of Paul Lennon.
In the end, David Bartlett’s promise that he would lead a “new government from in government” was hollow when it came to forests.
Forestry related appointments in David Bartlett’s first three months
* May 26, 2008: Bartlett sworn in as Premier and holds his first media conference;
* May 28, 2008: (his third day as Premier): “Premier to meet with Deputy Secretary DIER for briefing on World Heritage Committee Report”; (The Deputy Secretary of the Department of Infrastructure, Energy and Resources is Bob Rutherford).
* June 3, 2008: Bob Gordon and Ken Jeffries from Forestry Tasmania “to discuss forestry matters”;
* June 17, 2008: “Premier to meet with Michael O’Connor and Scott Mclean from the CFMEU Forestry Division”;
* July 7, 2008: “Premier to speak by phone to Scott McClean from CFMEU Forestry Division for briefing on Scottsdale mill/softwood supply position”;
* July 8, 2008: Premier to meet with workers from Tonganah mill
* July 11, 2008: Premier’s briefing from Forestry Tasmania on pulp mill and woodsupply
* July 14, 2008: Visit Britton Timbers in Smithton to “view green and dry mills”
* July 14, 2008: “Premier to visit Simon Kang at Ta Ann”;
* July 15, 2008: “Premier to meet with Barry Chipman, Timber Communities Australia” in the Premier’s office.
Tomorrow: Who gets to meet Premier David Bartlett?