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On 14 June 2004, the Forest Industries Association of Tasmania (FIAT) released a 70 page report it had commissioned entitled ‘Impact of the Proposal to Cease Clearfelling of Old Growth Forests in 2010’. The report claimed 10,693 people were employed in Tasmania’s general ‘Forest and Wood Products Industry’ and concluded that ending old growth logging would lead to 1,345 job losses.

Prepared by Symetrics Business Consultancy, co-authored by Bruce Felmingham, Martin Farley, Geoffrey Lancaster, and Christian Farley, the report had nine chapters, headed as follows:

1.0 Purpose & Structure of Report

2.0 Policy Context

3.0 The People Context

4.0 Key Definitions

5.0 The Harvesting Profile

6.0 The Output of the Forest Harvesting Sector

7.0 Timber Processing

8.0 The Impact on the Industry

9.0 Impact on Jobs

Let us jump six years forward.

The Tasmanian forestry industry is in an unprecedented crisis, its companies either bankrupt or, in the case of Gunns, facing extreme commercial difficulty. The international markets no longer want old growth or even native forest woodchips. So desperate is the situation that Forestry Tasmania is giving away a large proportion of its annual logging ‘harvest’—destroyed native forest—without, it would appear any recompense to its owners, the Tasmanian people.

The logging of native forests is deeply unpopular, the conversion of great swathes of Tasmania’s rural countryside into monocultural plantations loathed. The apparent poisoning of a community’s drinking water, the perception of corruption of government by an industry, all would seem to have contributed to the extraordinary EMRS polling on Wednesday 24 February that found the ALP were in a seeming death spin, at just 23% of the state wide vote. In the premier’s own electorate, Denison, the Greens were polling a globally unprecedented 40%.

In Tasmanian elections it is, of course, always ground hog day.

On the following day FIAT, fronted by ex-ALP politician, Dr Julian Amos, released a report entitled ‘The Impact of Cessation and Non-Replacement of Harvesting in Tasmanian Forests. Part 1- Old Growth Forests’.

Prepared by Symetrics Business Intelligence, co-authored by Martin Farley, Christian Farley, and Bruce Greaves, the report had nine chapters, headed as follows:

1.0 Purpose & Structure of Report

2.0 Policy Context

3.0 The People Context

4.0 Key Definitions

5.0 The Harvesting Profile

6.0 The Output of the Forest Harvesting Sector

7.0 Timber Processing

8.0 The Impact on the Industry

9.0 Potential Impact on Jobs and Investment

Apart from the new title, and the slight reworking of the title of Chapter 9, there was one fundamental difference in these two reports.

Miraculously, in spite of the savage retrenchments, the well documented collapse of employment in the forestry industry, somehow employment in old growth logging had increased in those last terrible six years from its 2004 total by over 50%, and now 2,080 jobs would be lost if old growth logging were to be ended.

One has to admire Dr Amos’s chutzpah in keeping a straight face. But Dr Amos, as an ex-ALP minister, understands what polls mean, and was honest about FIAT’s avowedly political purpose.

“This had been done to ensure that when people vote, and with forestry in mind, that they recognise they are voting for people’s jobs.”

The next day, following on from FIAT’s pronouncements, Premier David Bartlett announced his intention if re-elected to lock Tasmania into old growth logging until 2037.

Bartlett spoke of the larger forestry industry employing 6,000. Which is 4,000 less than what the FIAT commissioned report claimed just six years before.

‘Without resource security going forward there would be thousands of jobs lost,’ Bartlett was quoted as saying.

No one asked why on industry figures four thousand jobs had disappeared in the last six years with resource security.

No one asked if it was the policies of the ALP government that had driven the forest industry to its present crisis?

No one asked if these policies were about keeping the jobs of forestry workers, or about keeping the jobs of Dr Amos and Premier Bartlett, of John Gay and Bob Gordon, of a hundred other hacks and cronies.

No one asked Julian Amos to explain how—while the amount of forest being logged had drastically declined, and employment in the industry plummeted— on his own organisation’s figures 735 new jobs were created in old growth logging.

No-one asked if we might see the Symetrics report recycled for a third time in 2016 with even more preposterous claims.

No one asked if we should now get ready for the eco-vandalism story, the unsigned letter/ e-mail story, the police raid on dirty feral camp story, the story that Greens are anti-jobs.

And no one would ever dare ask the question to which more and more Tasmanians assume they know the answer: what power do the woodchippers have over the Tasmanian ALP?