Image for The Great Betrayal

The scenario I am about to outline is rather like a war game, a contingency. Only time will tell whether the war game I sketch has in fact become the real thing: war. We should know by the end of the week, March 4th 2011, probably at 5pm, if past behaviour is anything to go by.

Institutional shareholders decide to leverage the outcome of the rapidly declining value of their investment in Gunns. They get rid of Gay. The bottom line doesn’t improve at all. In fact it tanks. Geoffrey Cousins and Bob Brown claim credit for Gay departure. Idea was to give Gunns the Mr Sheen treatment. If they look clean and shiny they might attract some lucre. Doesn’t work. Still a mudguard company – shiny on top and shitty underneath. No JVP comes up with the readies.

Last ditch. Institutional investors approach federal ALP government. If you don’t do something soon and back the mill project, we’ll pull the pin and the alternative will be horrible to contemplate. Gunns will go belly up and the Chinese will move in and get the lot in a fire sale.

Yes, yes is the chorus. Another horrible alternative says ALP stooges, is the Libs will get government and they will just build the mill anyway – no environmental controls and shove the consequences up your jaxie. Better we do it.

So time to do a deal.

Fed and Tas ALP governments, both hot for the pulp mill, start negotiating with a potential JVP, offering them the sort of guarantees only governments can offer, backed by money they loot from the public coffers. Plenty of signals lately. Underwriting, guarantor, direct funding – words popping out of pollies’ mouths. Preparing the ground or just shit poker players?

Who might the potential JVP’s be? Gunns has exhausted the world options. How about scraping the barrel a bit further? What about APRIL – Asia Pacific Resources International with headquarters in Singapore and operations in Indonesia and China, or APP – Asia Pulp and Paper also based in Singapore with operations in S.E. Asia? Probably the former. The latter is probably just too smelly even for the ALP, though the former is bad enough, but one should never rule out the highly outrageous or improbable in a war game scenario or in a real war for that matter. Shit, if desperate we can hard sell APP as a troupe of angels. Make a note: must prime the lie-machine and the media sub-branch just in case. Is there anyone else in hiding in the shadows? Three Dragons, a triad gone straight…ish?

The involvement of the state and federal governments in becoming a partner in the Tamar Valley pulp mill not a surprise. Always was a state sponsored project from the start. Read Soviet style. Gunns got dumped on by the GFC. Not their fault. We better step in because this is good for the economy. Meaning jobs equals votes. Meaning pulp mill is good for ALP. Meaning pulp mill is good for CFMEU. Meaning CFMEU runs ALP.

Let’s stitch this up. Let’s talk trade-offs and neutering the opposition. Hahaha.

Conservationists and Greens. Same thing. Whoopee there’s the forestry ‘roundtable’ in Tas. Those morons down there can be useful sometimes. The enviros want something so bad they’re blind to the downside. Or they are willing to travel the betrayal road re the suckers in the Tamar? Let’s get them to sign up to ‘in principle’ support for plantations and a pulp industry for Tas. Offer them some HCV forest. Might have to offer them most of what they want. Maybe 600,000 hectares south of Hobart. That’s their world. How about Cadman? OK throw in a few bits of the Western Tiers. What about the north-east. Do we have to? There’s only that nuisance Scottish doctor up there. Make a note: ramp up the smear campaign. She’s been sidelined by the conservation movement anyway.

What about the Greens themselves? They’ll need to be offered something big picture. How about a carbon tax? I know it’ll make Gillard look like a fuckwit but hey, it’s a real world we’re living in. Tell her to say it’s good for the country or some such crap. That which doesn’t kill me compromises me to the hilt and that’s a good thing for future powerplays. Nietschze – ALP intellectual. They may want something else. Gay marriage? Alright, offer them that but we can back out later after putting the god-botherers into bat.

Time’s running out. Bass Strait permits due to be announced March 4. Christ it’s going to be a hard sell dumping 64 million tonnes of crap a day into Bass Strait. What? Too many zeros? 64000 tonnes. Still a bad look. Might need those fishermen someday. Especially the recreational. What? We need them today? We’re sunk without the redneck vote.

I know what we can do. Hahaha. Why didn’t Gunns think of this before? They’re a bit slow down there. Must be the water. The Greens have always said that a closed loop chlorine free mill would be acceptable. Offer the state Greens that and they won’t have a leg to stand on. Get l’Estrange to waffle on about ECF lite – 30% less chlorine. That should be enough to split the Greens from the NIMBY’s in the Tamar. We know it’s a Claytons closed loop but that’ll be enough to split em as wide open as an oyster.

Still a few loose ends. Time’s a problem. Burkie has to make his permit announcement on March 4th. Let’s send ‘honest broker’ Kelty down to stamp on a few toes. Cut a few if he has to. FT could be a problem. Might need to sideline Bob Gordon. How about bringing FT back under state government control? That should do the trick. Make the Greens happy, as well as get the ferals out of the bush. There might be some consciences left in the Wildos. Bring Marr down to bolster the Oosting/Cadman faction. Browbeat the leftovers.

What a wonderful world. Now this is the real clincher. How about we relocate the Penola mill in South Australia to the Tamar? It’s closed loop but can’t attract any investment money. Of course it doesn’t exist. It’s just a proposal like the Gunns mill on the Tamar. But it’s closed loop. It’s a winwinwiwnwin. What a wonderful world.

The outcome. The Greens move closer to Labor state and fed. The possibility of a divorce in Tas of Greens and Labor recedes when Greens accept argument that they can accomplish more by being on the inside, exerting their influence to beef up pulp mill monitoring and that sort of window dressing. The alternative is too horrible to contemplate if the Greens pull the trigger – the Libs form government.

Booth gets jettisoned as an embarrassment or walks anyway. Greens and Wildos supporters accept the elegance of being offered what they have always asked for and claim victory. The small problem of location of the pulp mill easily enough overcome. Offer some on site environmental consultancies to a couple of high profile conservationists. Should get the geeny supporters cracking the bubbly. In the driving seat at last.

The only opposition left are some NIMBY ‘churls’ in the Tamar and marginalized ex-Green politician Kim Booth.

Two questions remain.
1. Will this scenario I have sketched become reality wholly, partially or not at all?
2. If the scenario does become reality will the opposition be confined to a few ‘churls’ in the Tamar Valley and Kim Booth?