Image for NW jobs and the pulp mill: The gross failure of Rockliff, Green, Kons, Best and Whiteley

Understandably, the issue of the proposed Gunns Pulp Mill has been raised in the media over the last few days with the announcement of the closure of the Wesley Vale Paper mill and partial closure of the Burnie plant. This week we heard the news that 250 plus jobs will be gone by March 2010 and unless PaperlinX finds itself a buyer for the remaining operations at the Burnie mill, another 170 jobs are likely to go.

Tuesday’s Examiner reported the total loss of 3500 jobs in NW Tas. this year

Predictably Liberal Shadow Treasurer Peter Gutwein has attacked his Labor counterparts over the NW job losses.

Indeed, it is difficult not to notice as the unemployment situation facing NW Tasmania becomes more dire, the elephant in the room which the Tasmanian Government and Mr Gutwein’s Liberals could have, yet failed to deliver to the NW region. Tasmania’s biggest ever project and according to both Liberal and Labor a creator of thousands of new Tasmanian jobs – The Gunns Pulp Mill.

Questions should be asked of Government and opposition about their joint failure along with Tasmania’s biggest company, the self proclaimed “Builders of Futures for Tasmanians” - Gunns LTD to deliver Tasmania’s largest ever project with its promised 2000 plus Tasmanian jobs to Hampshire in NW Tas where the massive employment boost would have been not only appreciated but crucial to the ongoing survival of the community.

History will bear witness to the fact that the local NW Tasmanian community voted (see poll) to have the pulp mill yet their elected reps - Green, Best, Kons, Rockcliff, Whiteley did not seem to lift a finger to secure it for them.

One might assume that regionally mismatching the biggest employment delivering project in the state’s history in a place as small as Tasmania would be difficult even for politicians. Yet Mark Latham and even John Howard, who in unprecedented scenes crowd surfed the traditionally Liberal hatin’ CFMEU, would attest that when the Tasmanian logging industry and politicians put their heads together it is not that unusual for bizzare and often destructive outcomes to follow.

It is now clearer than ever that the Tasmanian Parliament, bar the Tasmanian Green party and few independents have achieved this dubious feat.

image
Jeremy Rockliff

Many will recall, the Healthy Democracies meeting at the Tailrace Centre, Launceston in April 2008 where Liberal Deputy Jeremy Rockcliff defended his support for the Gunns Tamar Valley pulp mill curiously arguing that he was ‘a farmer’ and that ‘farmers’ (Rockcliff was referring to ‘tenants’ of former farms that had become industrial tree plantations) on Tasmania’s NW coast needed a Tamar Valley pulp mill.

Dr. Warwick Raverty then stood up and asked Mr. Rockcliff why he had made no effort to lobby Gunns the govt or RPDC to have the mill at Hampshire?

Rockcliff just sat there and said nothing.

I challenge anyone to find evidence on Hansard of any elected rep. from the NW coast lobbying the parliament and Gunns to have the mill at Hampshire. 

image
Bryan Green

image
Steve Kons

image
Brenton Best

image 
Brett Whiteley

From Bryan Green, Steve Kons, Brenton Best and Brett Whiteley? Not a word.

The question must now be asked, why did these elected representatives not lift a finger to secure jobs for what they had argued was a 2000 jobs plus project for their community?
Most Tasmanians would agree that it was because these local politicians were more interested in giving Gunns what Gunns wanted.

Yet today we have a proposed Gunns Tamar Valley Pulp Mill which the former premier Paul Lennon promised 2000 Tasmanians would derive employment from - that is yet to secure project finance and may never be built.

Why?

Because domestically it has no social licence and it is followed by a serious PR problem in the national & international finance world, all primarily due to the stench of corruption surrounding its assessment and its highly unpopular siting in the Tamar Valley.

Former Premier Paul Lennon gushed to the Tasmanian Parliament in March 2007 when he introduced his “dream fast track bill” for Gunns…… 

“2000 Tasmanian families would not have to worry about how they are going to pay the bills or afford to send their children to school or wonder where their next meal is coming from. 2000 Tasmanian’s who will not have to leave the state to find work. The benefits are also within our reach. The opportunity is there for us, but we cannot afford to let it slip”( Premier Paul Lennon, March 2007). 
 
Of course, in November 2004, Premier Lennon had directed Tasmania’s independent

Resource Planning and Development Commission (RPDC) to assess a world scale kraft pulp & chemical mill, proposed by the Gunns LTD.

Gunns were looking at two potential sites:

Longreach (The Tamar Valley) - Mecca of Northern Tasmania’s booming wine industry, a thriving $500 million tourism industry and home to 100 000 residents.
Hampshire (35km south of Burnie NW Tas) -  Sparsely populated, with high unemployment and home to a vast estate of Gunns’ eucalypt plantations. Arguably, the preferred site of the host NW community and arguably most Tasmanians.

Cheered on by the Premier and Will Hodgman’s Liberal opposition, Gunns chose the Tamar Valley.

This has proved to be an almost fatal error by Gunns and raised serious concerns about the authenticity of claims by Gunns and the Tasmanian Labor and Liberal parties that they had the employment of Tasmanians first and foremost in their minds.

As Dr Warwick Raverty argued in April 2007 (who has since publicly withdrawn his support for any pulp mill run by Gunns) “Considering that the last kraft mill built in Europe, near Stendal, Germany in 2005 and half Gunns proposed size, received a 200 million Euro subsidy from the government of the European Union, I argue very strongly that either Federal Labour, or the Coalition should be promising in the coming election campaign up to $600 million in Government subsidies to make it attractive for Gunns to move this proposal to Hampshire if Gunns see sense and agree to abide by the Tasmanian and Commonwealth Environmental Guidelines TO THE LETTER. That would be a truly level playing field solution that would fix a big unemployment problem in Tasmania’s north west……. (HERE)

Former Premier Paul Lennon also confessed to the Examiner Newspaper in 2008,

“I think the people of the North-West Coast would welcome the pulp mill with open arms and clearly the people of Launceston don’t…I was lobbied heavily by the Burnie City Council to tell Gunns to shift the pulp mill up to Burnie right at the very early stages…Well I didn’t believe it was the job of Government to dictate that to private industry”.

Indeed in February 2005 the Cradle Coast Authority and Burnie City Council commissioned an independent poll surveying 1000 people from North-West Tasmania on the Pulp Mill issue. 88% of respondents supported a pulp mill in Tasmania and 97% of those in favor wanted the mill in the NW.  Burnie Mayor Alvwyn Boyd said that the people of Burnie would welcome the mill at Hampshire as long as it met the RPDC’s 2004 Guidelines.

Also an opinion poll carried out by News poll for the Wilderness Society in the electorate of Bass in August 2007 showed the northern Tasmanian electorate strongly supportive of a plantations-only, chlorine-free pulp mill at Hampshire.

“It shows that 46% of voters in Bass are in favour of a Hampshire pulp mill with 34% opposed. This compares with 35% in support of the proposed Tamar Valley pulp mill with 53% opposed.
But the support for Hampshire jumped to 70% if it is a plantations-based (no native forests), chlorine-free pulp mill. The current Tamar Valley proposal is for a mill that uses chlorine in the production process and which is 80% based on native forests when it starts up.
(HERE)

If the Tasmanian media allow the Government and opposition to champion the proposed Gunns Tamar Valley Pulp Mill as a saviour to job losses in NW Tas, without asking - particularly the members for Braddon – why they failed to secure the Gunns Pulp Mill for NW Tas. and in doing so delivering thousands of jobs whilst also resolving what remains the most controversial, divisive and long-running environmental stoushes in Tasmanian history, they will have failed to do their jobs.

Disclaimer

Before anyone leaps down my throat and starts emailing and phoning me -  I also oppose this proposed mill being shifted to Hampshire. The Gunns Pulp Mill is not going to Hampshire, if it is built, it will be in the Tamar Valley where I live. This is the last time I will explain myself in this way. I should not have to do this. Indeed, any further abusive or harrassing communications I receive privately, outside this forum which is not in response to private contact I have inititated will be regarded as public property and exposed on this forum. I am more than happy to have a discussion with others about the topic I have written on within this forum.

Frank Strie yesterday said a radical proposition two years ago to help the North West mills had been disdained by politicians, Gunns, Forestry Tasmania, and ignored by mainstream media. The question stands:
This is the truth, Richard Colbeck