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The Crikey Mayne man certainly created a ruckus last week with his support for the Tamar Valley pulp mill (HERE), and it was useful to hear once again from Warwick Raverty about the likely ravages of the mill if it is ever built (HERE)

It is probably pointless to repeat all the arguments that have been made again and again about why the mill should never be built, ranging across the full range of the adverse social, environmental and economic effects it is likely to generate for … well, generations.


But given the spleen-popping rage against Mayne, it is actually interesting to try to spot the differences between what Mayne is supporting and what has been produced by the roundtable-statement of principles-Lennon-Kelty-IGA farce.  Are there any?  On the face of it, there are absolutely none.  As far as the ENGOs who signed off on the SoP are concerned, their position would seem to be identical to that of Mayne, that is to say that they are not opposed to a plantation-based pulp mill in the Tamar Valley if it meets their conditions.  It has been known for several years now, for example, that the TWS was not opposed to a Tamar Valley pulp mill if it was closed loop, used plantation feedstock and perhaps some other things. 

Clearly, Mayne’s position fits into the Labor-Liberal shared vision (sorry, lack of vision).  But what are the differences between Mayne and the Greens?  The main difference is about the question of location.  The Greens are fully in support of the implementation of the SoP, which includes a Tasmanian pulp mill, which can only exist by having access to a much larger monocultural plantation estate than currently exists. 

You can forget about all the problems associated with the Tamar Valley pulp mill – according to the Greens – if it is just put somewhere else.  Somehow or other all the inherent land use and water catchment problems will disappear like magic if the mill is built at Hampshire, for example.  Somehow or other we will all get “socially acceptable” monocultural plantations – perhaps like we seem to have been gifted a self-selecting roundtable, emerging from thin air. 

It is also a vision splendid for a continuation of the downgrading of essential services in Tasmania, because a pulp mill built anywhere in Tasmania in the future is going to require free water, free feedstock and free transport to compete in the global marketplace.  That’s going to cost the public much more than the wasted millions upon millions of dollars of public funds which have already been poured down the drain.  But no doubt some magic wand will wave the economic viability of a non-Tamar Valley-IGA sponsored-pulp mill into a gloriously rich pulp-laden Camelot called Tasmania.

That’s the vision splendid of the roundtable to IGA.  All three political parties in Tasmania support the whole shebang in one form or another.  Building a pulp mill is front and centre to Tasmania’s long term future, in all their profoundly misguided dreams.  All three support, as a consequence, the continuing establishment and maintenance of Plantation Isle, a mad and doomed vision for Tasmania’s future. 

Those who scream blue murder about the Mayne’s support for the Tamar Valley pulp mill should also be screaming blue murder about having it built somewhere else in Tasmania.  In terms of the degradation of land and water supplies by short-rotation crops of pulpwood, it is hard to imagine a more inane blueprint for ecological, social and environmental vandalism than that which sits at the heart of Tasmania’s policy prescriptions by all three parties.

It is well past time for people to get serious about getting rid of Plantation Isle as a viable way that land and water should be used (or abused) in Tasmania.  Even the most ideally-placed pulp mills, such as those in South America that are coming on line, will not find it easy to survive, and they have much greater advantages in their favour than any pulp mill built in Tasmania.  MIS plantations are one of the worst schemes ever devised for Australian rural industry, more disastrous than the land selection schemes in the last half of the 19th century, and although there have been well-articulated arguments indicating their stupidity and guaranteed failure (Robert Belcher, for example), voices of sanity about this have been ignored by all three political parties. 

Now MIS plantations are being bulldozed in Victoria.  Even if you can’t hear the bulldozers there,  you surely know what they are doing here, and what they will continue to do for years and years, all at a loss.  Can’t you imagine or see a different future for Tasmania that is now actually starting to take place in Victoria?  You might think that bulldozing plantations in Victoria is an anomaly, a godawful mistake.  It is not.  It is a sign that the mad pulp dream is over.

It is time to stop Plantation Isle in its tracks.  It is time for Tasmanian political parties to show some courage about this whole useless proposition that monocultural plantations, as spruiked in the whole roundtable to IGA charade, are too big to let fail.  They’ve failed already.  They’re a dead hand on Tasmania’s future.  They’re a dead hand on Tasmania’s capacity to actually use public funds in a socially and environmentally constructive manner.

Which Tasmanian political party has any sort of vision for Tasmania’s future beyond pulp?  None of them.  The only differences between them are about feedstock and about location.  Apart from that, Tasmanian politicians have nothing to say.  They are like straws in the wind, with no sense of direction or purpose, with no sense of their proper role, with no idea at all about leadership or where they could be leading.

That’s what you get when you create roundtables, which you then suggest should have their own creation myths, like some Merlin-type wizardry, but there is absolutely no vision splendid for Tasmania’s future direction to be found from the establishment of the Tasmanian forestry roundtable in May 2010.So, for those who announced some sort of anaphylactic shock at seeing the Mayne man in Gunns’ corner, have a closer look at what it means to follow the prescription laid out on a plate for you all to see about the vision splendid agreed to by all three Tasmanian political parties.

Should it be, as the real estate agents like to say, all about location?  Or should it be about a better and more healthy and a more sustainable vision about Tasmania’s future?