TASMANIA of our times has a well-known and well-deserved reputation for the politically bizarre, politically grotesque and politically tragic-comic.

If one were to try to identify “the latest episode” in this sequence of unmitigated irresponsibility, appalling mismanagement and failure in governance which is the hallmark of Tasmanian politics, one would be out of date by the time “the latest episode” was in the public domain.

So let me just say, in reference to one of the latest episodes of political inanity, that it involves Tasmania’s newest “Minister for Tourism”, who has just reported proudly of her latest foray on the international stage at our expense, but ostensibly in our interests.

She would like us all to know that she has been busily raising money in New York, at the Waldorf-Astoria no less, on behalf of efforts to save the Tasmanian devil. 

According to her press release of January 23, “efforts to save the endangered Tasmanian devil received a huge boost … with US$13,200 raised…”.  Huge boost?  Amazing.  To be fair, let us put the “Minister for Tourism’s” priorities in her official role on this matter of the devil’s survival in proper perspective.  Unless I am mistaken, the Hawthorn Football Club’s claims on the public purse, as part of the tourism portfolio, are far in excess of those diverted to saving the devil.  The “Minister” would object that Hawthorn’s weekend fly-ins would spend more than the subsidy, but they’d spend it without the subsidy, so I’m not buying that.

But there’s more.  What an opportunity was thus presented to the “Minister”, in the performance of her arduous duties, to spread the message of a clean, green, food-producing nirvana that is Tasmania, where high quality, cool-climate, niche agricultural and marine produce thrive under her auspices and her encouragement and nurture.

So it came to pass.  If we are to believe Michelle O’Byrne, Tasmania’s future as a producer of fine quality food and beverage is assured.  Our image of pristine, clean, green quality is preserved intact in New York.  Tasmanian fish, cheese and other products were “a feature” on the menu, and “working in partnership with leading Tasmanian wine makers… Tourism Tasmania secured wine exclusively for Tasmania”. 

What’s wrong with that?  That’s all good news, right?  No one with Tasmania’s interests at heart could find fault with such a worthy endeavour, could they, unless…?

Unless you know what’s really happening, unless you know the truth.  Truth is not relative.  Truth is on the ground, here and now.  As I write, news (a “latest episode”, as it were) is being posted about the clear-felling of native forest on the east Tamar valley’s Mt Dismal towards the end of 2008, an operation which completely obliterated the native habitat of some of Tasmania’s threatened species – including the Tasmanian devil. ( The Scalping of Mt Dismal

The point is this.  The grotesque nature of what O’Byrne is doing is the deliberately contrived promotion of an image of Tasmania which obscures the truth.  This applies to the tokenism of the campaign to save the devil at the State political level (notwithstanding the huge efforts of committed, but under-funded researchers), but also the continuation of policies which are wrecking the habitat of the devil (and a huge number of other threatened and endangered species) everywhere throughout Tasmania.

The same applies to the food industry.  Most of the niche food producing enterprises in Tasmania have developed and prospered despite government policies, not as a consequence of them.  It is no secret that the Tasmanian government has no interest in the encouragement of high-quality food production.  The fact is that most of the high quality, diverse food production in Tasmania is increasingly under threat from government policies.

Michelle O’Byrne’s voting record, at both a federal and state level throughout her career, has been opposed to diverse and high quality food production in Tasmania, but in support of corporate forestry practices, MIS plantation and agricultural schemes, clear felling of native and high conservation forests, destruction of high value water catchments, the establishment of a pulp mill in the Tamar valley, and other policies, which by their nature are destructive of water and land resources, sustainability and diversity, the potential future of all agricultural and fishing enterprises in the greater Launceston area, and the continued high quality of Tasmanian food production.

It was no surprise that among the five “leading Tasmanian wine makers” which Tourism Tasmania is marketing in the US, Tamar Ridge was included.  Tamar Ridge is owned by Gunns.  It is difficult, at this stage, even for the craven Tasmanian government, to not include Tasmanian wines other than those owned by Gunns on an international promotional of Tasmania, clean and green. 

Perhaps the day will come when all Tasmanian wine is just “Gunns wine”, just one variety that everyone can recognize.  But is that the case already for the wines available at Launceston’s Australian rules football venue, home away from home of the Hawthorn Football Club?  After all, if we are going to be the only State to subsidise an AFL team to play in Tasmania (rather than the AFL paying us), and pay them five times the amount we are prepared to fund an effort to save the Tasmanian devil, when you fly here from Melbourne what you really want to drink in your corporate box in Launceston’s premier football ground, paid for from Tasmanian taxpayers, is cool climate Tamar Ridge wine. 

Right?


   

 

Peter Henning
The point is this.  The grotesque nature of what O’Byrne is doing is the deliberately contrived promotion of an image of Tasmania which obscures the truth.  This applies to the tokenism of the campaign to save the devil at the State political level (notwithstanding the huge efforts of committed, but under-funded researchers), but also the continuation of policies which are wrecking the habitat of the devil (and a huge number of other threatened and endangered species) everywhere throughout Tasmania.

The same applies to the food industry.  Most of the niche food producing enterprises in Tasmania have developed and prospered despite government policies, not as a consequence of them.  It is no secret that the Tasmanian government has no interest in the encouragement of high-quality food production.  The fact is that most of the high quality, diverse food production in Tasmania is increasingly under threat from government policies.