Image for Mill backing: I made no such comment. Peter Henning: It was in The Australian

Geoffrey Cousins:

It has been drawn to my attention that you published an article by Peter Henning ( initially with Bob McMahon, HERE and later HERE ) that stated I had suggested that I would support a pulp mill in the Tamar Valley as part of some arrangement on forest practices.

I have made no such comment, either publicly or in private discussion.

Peter Henning may be confused by a comment I made on Lateline where I said a properly configured mill would be fine in Tasmania.

That statement was in line with everything I have said on this issue previously.

It made no reference to the Tamar Valley.

Peter Henning:

It has been drawn to my attention that Geoffrey Cousins denies ever having suggested he would support the Gunns Tamar Valley pulp mill proposal, and that I am incorrect in believing that he did. 

A Matthew Denholm article, published in The Australian on February 20, 2010, is the source for my conclusion that Geoffrey Cousins was willing to support the mill.

Denholm states unequivocally that, in relation to “the proposed mill” Cousins “was ready to swing behind it, if Gunns accepted Sodra’s terms”.

It could not be clearer that this is a reference to Gunns proposed mill in the Tamar Valley.  It is a direct, unambiguous, statement of support for Gunns mill in the Tamar Valley.

The question that Geoffrey Cousins needs to answer if he was/is opposed to Gunns building the Tamar Valley pulp mill is this: Why did he not contradict what Denholm wrote in February that he was “ready to embrace the $2.5 billion project”?

It is disingenuous in the extreme to suggest that Denholm’s reference was not to the Tamar Valley.  It is unacceptable and tendentious to conclude other than Denholm was writing about the Tamar Valley pulp mill proposal.

This could not be clearer:

“Mill critics ready to cancel Gunns pulp mill assault

• Matthew Denholm, Tasmania correspondent
• From: The Australian
• February 20, 2010 12:00AM

KEY opponents of the Gunns pulp mill are ready to embrace the $2.5billion project—if it meets conditions set down by potential Swedish joint venture partner Sodra.

A leading opponent of the proposed mill, Sydney businessman Geoffrey Cousins, told The Weekend Australian he was ready to swing behind it, if Gunns accepted Sodra’s conditions.

These included that Gunns obtain top-flight environmental certification for pulp wood from the Forest Stewardship Council. Gunns would also have to address marine pollution issues by adopting chlorine-free technology or an equivalent.”

If Geoffrey Cousins is now backing away from this position, well and good, but to use what I had written as the vehicle to do so, at this point in time, eight months after the Denholm story, doesn’t wash with me.

In fact, perhaps it would be opportune, right now, for Geoffrey Cousins to take on board all the cautionary voices from within Tasmania about the long term social-economic-environmental costs associated with building any kind of new pulp mill in Tasmania. 

His first port of call could be material in the public domain written by John Lawrence ( HERE ). 

His second port of call could be the material written by Alison Bleaney and Marcus Scammell.  His third port of call could be the material written by David Leaman.  And I could add Mike Bolan, Bob Loone, Max Bound, Tim Thorne and others to that list.

The advantages of paying some attention to the voices of these people are that the views that they put forward are views not coloured by commercial or career-oriented perspectives.

I would suggest that it is well past time for Geoffrey Cousins to back down completely from his support for any type of pulp mill in Tasmania, irrespective of its wood supply source, irrespective of the proponent “addressing marine pollution issues” or adopting cleaner forms of technology.

It is well past time for Geoffrey Cousins to back away from his statement (as reported in The Australian), that “If we can get a good clean mill… it would be bloody-minded not to support them”.  “Them” being Gunns.

The fact of the matter is that it would be downright “bloody-minded” for a pulp mill to be imposed on any part of Tasmania, for it would lock Tasmania further into the gridlock of lost opportunities, degradation of the rural economy, and destruction of basic natural resources of water-land-air.

Any new Tasmanian pulp mill will be uncompetitive in the global marketplace, and will be a dinosaur millstone dragging inexorably on the public purse as soon as it is built.

Just look at this:

“Newsprint demand fell by 16% in the first five years since its peak year of 1999 in North America. In 10 years demand has fallen 57%.

Uncoated woodfree demand in North America has fallen by 33% since 1999. In Western Europe the market has matured during the last decade, and we estimate that newsprint demand in 2010 will be 24% below the peak year of 2000.

If the analogy of the shifting platform materializes in the coming years, demand should decrease by 50-75% in the first 10 years after the peak year and by 75-98% in 15 years. That would mean that demand for uncoated woodfibre in Western Europe would be only 2.3-4.7 million tonnes by 2014 (from a current estimate of 7.1 million tonnes) and only 187,000 tonnes to 2.3 million tonnes by 2019. Coated mechanical paper demand should drop to 144,000 tonnes to 1.8 million tonnes by 2022.” Source: RISI

Is this where Tasmania’s future lies?  No future there at all.  It is time Geoffrey Cousins pulled back from laying the dead hand of the past on future generations of Tasmanians.

First published: 2010-10-25 04:00 AM