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I was wrong.

In a TAP media release (Oct 19th) I said the environment groups involved in the secret negotiations, the ones who had signed the document of principles (some did not) had made a tactical blunder in giving ‘in principle’ support for a pulp mill in Tasmania.

My reasoning: the distinction drawn by the environment groups between ‘in principle’ support for A pulp mill rather than THE pulp mill was a very fine one, and would, in the bright light of day, be lost. The obvious outcome would be that Gunns, its hangers on, political lackeys and sycophants would claim they had a ‘social license’ to go ahead with THE pulp mill granted by the environment groups. Immediately following the signing of the document that is exactly what happened. Gunns and the CFMEU were gleeful. The stock market failed to appreciate the distinction between A pulp mill and THE pulp mill and Gunns shares soared 21.8% on the day.

It was entirely predictable.

What I did not say in the media release was that industry spokespersons and their political friends viewed conservationist support as also meaning community support. That was very convenient for Gunns and their political friends. They did have some grounds for this: The Wilderness Society, for example, has often claimed a broader representational remit than just its membership. Not long ago they claimed to represent the broad community and claimed to represent all businesses in Tasmania.

Now a tactical blunder is a low level planning mistake. In military terms a tactical blunder may cost you unnecessary casualties, you may lose weaponry on the battlefield, you may even lose a battle. But if your overall strategy is correct, the damage is contained and you should not lose the war.

So I admit I was wrong in saying what I said.

The environment organizations did not make a low level planning mistake. They made a colossal strategic blunder. It was completely avoidable but they apparently had no intention of avoiding it. In the middle of the round table was a self-destruct button, sometimes called a doomsday button. What the environment groups did when they sat down at the table was to reach across and press the button.

It was no accident. It wasn’t as if Paul Oosting and Sean Cadman tripped over each other and fell on the self-destruct button. (For the literal reader there wasn’t really a self-destruct button. It’s a metaphor for a self-defeating line of argument.) The environment groups, in close association with some Greens, were well down the road to developing a fatal set of propositions before the secret talks began. This resulted in an astonishing merging of the aims of some environment groups, and some Greens, with the aims of the pulp industry.

This is how it developed.

The Merger: Stage 1

What is needed for a pulp industry to get established in a country? First the country needs pulp mill feedstock, i.e. native forests or plantations. Few markets will accept native forest chips, or pulp made from non-FSC native forest feedstock, anymore – ask Gunns. Which leaves plantations.

The Finnish company Jaakko Poyry, for example, promotes plantation establishment in what used to be called Third World countries. Apparently Australia and Tasmania in particular, fitted into that category because in the late 1990s the Forest Industry Growth Plan was launched as well as Howard’s 20/20 Vision of a 3.3million hectare plantation estate by 2020. Out of this forest industry and government symbiosis was spawned the Managed Investment Schemes to facilitate the Vision at the expense of taxpayers who paid tax via the ‘investment’ of people who didn’t want to pay tax. The MIS companies have since collapsed. The Vision turned into a blinding disaster, except for those who received the money.

Most federal Liberals are still keen on MIS for ‘plantation forestry’ and federal Labor is very hot for it. Remember towards the end of last year, both parties passed Labor’s legislation to have 30 odd million hectares of plantations in Australia, 10 times what Howard planned and look at what a disaster for rural Australia the 2 million so far planted, of his proposed 3.3 million, have been. The burning question is: Who is going to pay? Are we looking towards an investment scheme on steroids in the future, at huge public cost? Will Australia be condemned to social engineering on a Stalinist scale? Michael O’Connor, head of the CFMEU has called for a massive expansion of plantations, most likely so the coal and iron ore mining industries can offset their carbon costs for generations to come.

The Wilderness Society, Environment Tasmania, Australian Conservation Foundation, the Greens and others are all for plantations as a way of substantially exiting native forest logging. So the first leg of establishing a pulp industry, leading ultimately to a pulp mill, now has the agreement of all ‘stakeholders’ except for the community. However, the claims of a broader representative role made by certain environment groups, as well as the willingness of industry and industry groups and the Federal and State Governments to believe them, or pretend to believe them, has been to reference the demand for plantations as being ‘community driven’.

As reported in the Sunday Nov 7 Age newspaper, the extravagantly pro-Gunns pulp mill Environment Minister, Tony Burke said: “One of the strengths of the Tasmanian agreement was that it was truly community-led…”

Bob Brown, Greens Leader, reinforced this useful view on Monday October 18th in an interview on PM Agenda on Fox News. He said words to the effect that ‘the people’ are calling out for plantations. He then went on to say that plantations were far better than native forests because the wood produced was cheaper, of a higher and more consistent quality and that plantation forestry requires fewer workers. No mention of the negative impacts of plantations. I note the contradiction here between Bob Brown’s ‘fewer jobs in plantations’ and TWS asking us to support a ‘jobs rich plantation industry’. Which is it?

The simple formula of ‘out of native forests into plantations’ has been an ideological position held in the green movement for the last 20 years. It was put on ice for a while, when the detrimental effects of plantations were big in the national consciousness. Even the conservation movement and the Greens recognized how damaging plantations were for rural communities. I remember former Tasmanian Greens leader Peg Putt saying to me, in the presence of Geoff Law and others, following some rally or other in Launceston, how embarrassed she was at having talked her Sydney friends into investing in plantations at a time when they seemed an elegant and simple way out of native forest logging. Now the policy is back. It’s done a Lazarus in the hope, or the expectation, that this time it will not die.

The Merger: Stage 2

Now comes the second stage and it’s just as crucial as the first. Once the plantations are established they are used as leverage for a pulp mill. Jaakko Poyry crops up again as the pulp mill provider. Jaakko Poyry is the mother, the father and the midwife of the Tamar Valley pulp mill. Gunns is merely the proxy. Gunns knows nothing about pulp mills. Their job is to pretend they do and raise the money to pay Poyry and Poyry’s pulp mill equipment supplier Andritz in Austria. Poyry probably plays some sort of facilitating role in the money procurement as well. It’s in their interest after all, because they stand to gain a fair slice of it.

The conservation groups at the negotiation table delivered the second stage by agreeing to ‘in principle’ support for a pulp mill. The pulp industry had come home with the quinella. Apparently it was a two horse race. THE pulp mill was not even mentioned at the negotiations according to The Wilderness Society. In other words, the distinction between A pulp mill and THE pulp mill was not drawn at the negotiations.

The result is that few believe the negotiations have in any way lessened the likelihood of a Tamar valley pulp mill. To the contrary. The demonstrations began immediately. The community group Pulp The Mill staged a trespass action on the Gunns pulp mill site at Longreach and there will be more protest action to follow, propelled by a sense of urgency that the industry sees the outcome of the negotiations as granting them a social license for the Gunns mill. To that extent the secret negotiations failed the overwhelming majority of Tasmanians who are opposed to the Gunns mill.

The Merger: Stages 3 and 4

What of the remaining two pillars necessary for the establishment of a pulp industry in Tasmania: choice of mill technology and location?

Industry players will say something like this:

“These concerns are mere quibbles. Both the location and type of pulp mill are dependent on the first two, to which you have already granted approval. Location and technology are minor matters that can be sorted out by educating you a little better. You are obviously misinformed. We know about pulp mills. You don’t. You disagree with us on only a mere fraction of the project’s totality. I’m sure we can both live with that. After all we have established common ground on the two most essential premises, plantations and a pulp mill. And we are working together on FSC certification.

The conservation movement and the industry worked very hard to meet on the common ground of agreeing to a plantation and pulp mill future for Tasmania. There is community support and a social license. There are no further obstacles that can’t be resolved through negotiation, a little give and take.”

Does TWS, ET and ACF imagine that disagreeing with the location of a pulp mill is somehow going to over-ride or pre-empt their a priori approval of both a pulp mill in principle and pulp mill feedstock plantations? They have neutered their own argument.

Their response will be that they have in mind a different use for plantations, predominantly timber and veneer production, despite the original intention of those who established the plantations as pulp mill feedstock, either for local use in a pulp mill or as chip exports. The evidence for and against the suitability of E. nitens for timber milling and peelers has yet to be assessed to the satisfaction of the public. The contrary positions and claims have yet to be resolved.

However the ‘in principle’ support for a pulp mill means that if a pulp mill is built the E. nitens plantations are going to be used for what they were originally intended i.e. pulp mill feedstock. Then it’s back to the native forests for timber production. Again the ENGO’s have neutered their argument. They might then have to revoke their ‘in principle’ support for a pulp mill, which begs the question: Why did they give it in the first place?

Having accepted battle on the field of the enemy’s choosing, the environment groups and, by extension, the Greens, are not going to avoid getting badly hurt. Acceptance of the two foundation premises necessary for the establishment of a Tasmanian pulp industry, support for plantations and ‘in principle’ support for a pulp mill, is their undoing. This is their Bannockburn. The ditches are dug and the lie of the land funnels them onto the spears of the enemy who suddenly appear out of the trees where they have been hiding.

So when ET and TWS say the peace negotiations were never about the Tamar Valley pulp mill, that it wasn’t even mentioned, they were either being disingenuous or just plain silly. From the industry point of view the Gunns mill was the glittering prize. The conservation groups were blinded by the glittering prize they were going for, out of native forest logging (substantially), that they either failed to see or chose not to see, for whatever reason of for whatever inducement or trade off, what industry negotiators stood to gain. They were warned.

Klepto-capitalism

From the industry point of view the negotiations were also about something else. Firstly: the core business of guaranteeing the delivery of massive exit, re-structuring and compensation packages for the logging industry, plundered from the public purse. Secondly: to the right people. The conservation groups were there to facilitate this naked case of klepto-capitalism. They were there to put a gloss on it, to give the grubby manoeuvre an air of legitimacy and to greenwash an unpleasant monoculture proposal. This was a classic example of Naomi Klein’s ‘disaster capitalism’ at work. The ENGOs seemed to be willing facilitators and very publicly led the chorus calling for compensation for the failed logging industry.

So an industry grown flabby and bloated from reliance on huge public subsidies is to have its problems solved by receiving more huge public subsidies?

The Greens came on board as well. Even Christine Milne, normally a hard-headed opponent of venality and sloppy thinking, called for a compensation package for Gunns if they stopped native forest logging. In the Chicago and New York of the 1920s and 30s that was called a protection racket. Why would we the people of Tasmania want to compensate Gunns for not cutting down our trees? Why would Milne think we should? How far does the love-in go?

Furthermore, why would we want to hand over hundreds of millions of dollars ($1.2 billion has been mentioned) to an industry that has replaced delusions of endless growth and delusions of entitlement, with, well, delusions of entitlement? The former delusion was a failure and the campaign to ensure that the latter will also fail has begun. Must we campaign against the conservation groups and the Greens on this as well? Surely the application of a modicum of logic, of historical knowledge and fair play should tell the Greens, the conservation groups and others, that appeasement on this matter is ruinous. We don’t see the same level of concern for vegetable growers, carpet factory workers, scallop fishermen etc. It’s an easy point to make and it will hurt.

Plantations and Confirmation Bias

The Greens, The Wilderness Society, Environment Tasmania and Our Common Ground speak with one voice when it comes to promoting plantations as the solution to decades of ‘forest wars’, so much so that we could rightly speak of the four organizations as being a conglomerate. That there is a revolving door between the various divisions of the conglomerate is noted.

The conglomerate’s mainland friends include Australian Conservation Foundation, a party to the negotiations, and Get-Up. Following on from the incredibly creepy pro-plantation TV advertising campaign by Our Common Ground, which was a waste of somebody’s considerable amount of money because it seemed just like another chapter of Forestry Tasmania bullshit, Get-Up launched a campaign to coincide with the release of the Agreement of Principles, seeking 50,000 signatures on a petition calling for the establishment of 25,000 hectares of blue gum plantations in Tasmania for timber production. That’s 250 square kilometres, a fair swathe of land, and rather discredits the assurance by the conglomerate that their support for plantations as a way out of native forest logging doesn’t mean they support further extension of the plantation estate.

Get-Up might like to let Tasmanians know where the 250 square kilometres of land is going to come from. Conversion of native forest is out so that pretty well leaves only farmland. What a coincidence! Bob Gordon of Forestry Tasmania made a public announcement urging farmers to devote a proportion of their farmland to agricultural tree production. I’m not saying there is necessarily a conspiracy. There may well be. Jaakko Poyry could be behind all of this.

But as far as the conglomerate and its friends are concerned the explanation is likely to be one or more of the following: incompetence, cognitive dissonance, doublethink, false flag funding, more incompetence, more doublethink.

So much has had to be sacrificed so that plantations could be spun as the final solution to the forest wars: truth, decency, rural communities, freedom of speech, Greens supporters, water security, food production etc. Any number of people could add to this list especially the following whose work on the damaging effects of plantations is now so inconvenient and has been deliberately abandoned: Dr. David Leaman, Dr Alison Bleaney, Dr. Marcus Scammell, Robert Belcher (Sustainable Agricultural Communities Australia), Peter Henning, Karl Stevens (ex Greens Councillor West Tamar), Brenda Rosser, Mike Bolan, Bob Loone (deputy mayor Meander Council) and many others.

Many could see the trap developing and said so, but conservation groups and the Greens would not listen. There was ‘confirmation bias’ at work. They only paid attention to messages that confirmed their views.

The way Greens West Tamar councillor Karl Stevens was treated by the Greens party is instructive in this regard. Some in the Greens took exception to Karl Stevens’ criticism of the Greens’ plantation policy and pushed for his expulsion from the party. A grievance hearing was convened and the outcome proved highly unsatisfactory to Stevens. He was not expelled from the party but he was denied his freedom of speech. He was instructed to have any material he intended to make public vetted by a censorship panel. Rather than lose his right to freedom of speech he resigned from the party.

There are many ironies in all this I am sure the average reader will recognize. Perhaps the most pointed was Bob Brown’s recent correct and principled stand against a Singapore takeover of the ASX on the grounds that Singapore denied people their democratic rights and suppressed freedom of speech.

If an enemy of the Greens decided to mount black ops against them, this is what they would do. First get control of the policy and decision making apparatus and then do a whole range of things designed to alienate their supporters and confirm the prejudices of their enemies. Clamp down on dissent within the party, establish a monoculture, enforce caucus thinking and deny members freedom of speech. Kick people out of the party who won’t toe the line. Develop cosy relationships with powerful political lobby groups masquerading as environmental charity organizations. Develop a cosy relationship with a political party, which you have in the past identified as being corrupt and a tool of a particular sectional business interest. Be secretive at every level in the organization and support those who make deals behind closed doors. Anchor your actions to a policy of pragmatism and eschew your own previously stated ideals and principles such as adopting ‘in principle’ support for a pulp mill.

I am guessing there hasn’t been a black operation directed against the Greens, which means they have done this to themselves.

Alternatives to a pulp industry future 1

For several halcyon years, community and conservation groups and the Greens were united in opposition to the Gunns mill and to the idea of a big pulp future for Tasmania. There was a bit of flirting with what I will call ‘the Hampshire alternative’, but not much. Some people said ‘why not put it at Hampshire’ when they couldn’t think of anything else to say.

The Gunns mill on the Tamar seemed imminent. We were all united in the battle of the frontiers, the battle for the hearts and minds. We won that battle. The polls prove it although some may say it was the government and Gunns who lost it. The display of stupidity and thuggery by Gunns and its political puppets was fiercely entertaining and led us often to comment on how lucky we were to have enemies with barely half a brain. 

The Hampshire alternative grew more popular in later years for some unfathomable reason and the enthusiasm for it was in inverse proportions to Gunns’ increasingly precarious financial position. There was no rational need for a voicing of that ‘alternative’. It infected people like a virus of the brain. The alternative to a pulp mill in one place was a pulp mill somewhere else. That the future of Tasmania lay with the establishment of a pulp industry grew to be a given. God only knows why. An extraordinary popular delusion? Where did it come from?

Bob Brown in an interview on Radio National in December 2009 voiced that position when he said the people of the Tamar Valley did not want the pulp mill in the Tamar Valley; they wanted it somewhere else.

I remember well the incredulity generated when The Wilderness Society asked the public, in a leaflet, to support Gunns building a closed loop, chlorine free, plantation fed pulp mill in Tasmania (not the Tamar Valley). Many could only see themselves supporting Gunns going to hell in a hand basket but that was support they did not need. The company was doing a great job of getting there by themselves.

Then Swedish pulp company Sodra started sniffing around the campfire, whether on its own initiative or through the invitation and encouragement of others, including Gunns, I do not know. What did the Wilderness Society do? They welcomed Sodra building a closed loop etc etc. You get the picture. TWS has never explained what they were playing at in either case.

As I was descending from the Watchtower Face on Mt Arapiles in June 2009 I received a call from a journalist who asked for my response to Sodra’s apparent interest in investing in the Gunns mill subject to certain conditions being met. I replied that if Sodra ever turned up in Tasmania we could guarantee them conflict and misery without end and the Tasmanian community would do everything in its power to put their investment at great risk. That is still the right message. Playing the TWS accommodation game is fraught with danger.

The pushing of the Hampshire alternative by some people in the Tamar region revealed a NIMBYism of the narrowest kind. Many in the community found it repugnant and at odds with all the work that had been done to establish that a pulp industry future for Tasmania, regardless of whether the mill was at Hampshire, Longreach, Scottsdale, Salamanca, or anywhere else, would be economically and socially disastrous as well as being an appalling low return means of using scarce resources like land and water.

The threat of the pulp mill was already stifling investment in the Tamar and had caused a collapse of the property market in Rowella, Kayena, Sidmouth and north Deviot. A pulp industry of the scale proposed, and already with most of the approvals in place, would displace so much established business, deter future investment of the ‘clean, green and clever’ kind and depend on whopping subsidies to keep running, to the detriment of public services.

Alternative to a pulp industry future 2

The surface of the Tamar was a mirror. The sky was that stunning sun-smashed blue of a northern Tasmanian spring day in September 2006. Tasmanians Against the Pulpmill (TAP) had been formed in June that year following Les Rochester’s collapsing of TRAC. I was with the ABC 7.30 reporter Joscelyn Nettlefold. We were on a small boat on the waters of Longreach, just offshore from the proposed pulp mill site.

Conversing on camera I said that the pulp mill should not be looked at in isolation. It was the symptom of a deep-seated disease in Tasmania. (Cathran Bowyer put it succinctly when she said the pulp mill was a scab on a very big sore.) The deep-seated disease in Tasmania was the lack of separation between business and government. It wasn’t as if there was a sticky interface between the two – they were super-glued together. In addition there was a robber baron mindset in an industry for which the pulp mill was the vehicle for a big grab for land, water and forest resources and the locking in of public subsidies forever and ever. And the whole show was being facilitated by a state government and opposition long accustomed to pandering to an industry with delusions of entitlement and to a single company intent on a complete monopoly of the industry in Tasmania.

Then Joscelyn asked me the obvious question for which I was not prepared, yet it was the most obvious question to expect.
“Isn’t your objection to the pulp mill in the Tamar just a case of Not In My Back Yard?”
“Yes it is”, I agreed. “But the backyard is the whole of Tasmania”.

No matter where the mill was to be located in Tasmania it was still going to have massive socio-economic impacts on the whole of Tasmania even if, in the Alice In Wonderland scenario, all the environmental problems were solved with an alternate technology. Let’s call that the Geoffrey Cousins scenario. It would be churlish to lumber poor Alice with it.

Naomi Edwards, retired actuary, chose to examine the economics of a pulp industry in Tasmania. The title of the paper, which was written in September 2006 as a submission to the RPDC, says it all: “Too Much Risk For The Reward – an analysis of the pulp mill returns for the people of Tasmania.” This was a seminal work and would be an automatic inclusion in any anthology of the intellectual capital developed during the six years of the pulp mill chapter in this island’s history. Naomi’s conclusions were unequivocal. Going down the pulp mill road was not what Tasmania should be doing. A mill here would not be able to compete with pulp producers in the developing world and would of necessity require huge subsidies of public money to stay afloat.

Naomi, former partner of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, had done consultancy work for the Wilderness Society and the Greens. Therein lies the irony. Why is her work now so conveniently forgotten by those with whom she worked so closely and who are now supporting a pulp industry for Tasmania? I am one baffled Tasmanian amongst many, who would like to know why this position has been adopted contrary to all the evidence compiled by Naomi Edwards and by many since. Was the ‘about face’ a trade off: out of native forest logging in exchange for broad support for a pulp mill? It was probably never that baldly stated but the environment negotiators apparently understood what was required of them. Why else would they include ‘in principle’ support for a pulp mill in the statement of principles? There are many in the community who want to know if there were any other inducements. There are many in the community who insist there were inducements.

Where do the Greens stand on ‘in principle support for a pulp mill’? Are we even allowed to ask or will we stand accused of disloyalty or disunity if we do? One presumes the Greens as a political party agree with the principle. They have endorsed the agreement in its entirety. I have heard no mention of opposition to the principle of support for a pulp mill. If anyone in the Greens is listening, an answer to this question would be timely. It’s in your own interests to clear this up. Silence will only foster the growth of a new class in Tasmania, the erstwhile Green voter.

Let me return to the argument of an alternative to the Tamar Valley pulp mill. The alternative, if you want to put it like that, to a pulp mill in the Tamar was not a pulp mill somewhere else. The alternative to having Hamburg bombed, from the German point of view, was not to have Berlin bombed instead. Apart from being quite illogical it was a denial of all the work that had been done demonstrating what the alternative to a pulp industry in Tasmania really was. For example, The Wilderness Society and TAP, with the assistance of dozens of fine food and wine producers, tourism concerns, artists and crafts people and various other small businesses of the Tamar Valley, organized an impromptu trade fair in the Albert Hall in Launceston in 2007.

What that trade fair demonstrated was that the alternative to the Tamar Valley pulp mill already existed in the vibrant and creative range of small businesses established in the valley, in its healthy per capita income and low level of unemployment. A pulp mill would impact those businesses and stifle future investment. The threat of the mill was already successfully achieving the latter, and continues to do so many years down the track. This was a compelling argument and it was applicable to the whole of Tasmania. A pulp industry, especially on the scale proposed and still proposed, would displace much and pre-empt much. There was a very good argument to make that Tasmania’s economy would have to move away from being a developed economy in the direction of a developing economy, dominated by one huge undifferentiated commodity in which food producing land, predominantly dairy and beef, was displaced by E. nitens monoculture. It would be our version of the palm oil and coffee kleptocracies of the Third World, now known euphemistically as The Global South, in which food production is sacrificed for an export industry. Well, Tasmania is located in the right part of the world for the big lurch backwards.

Why was that alternative to a pulp industry in Tasmania forgotten so easily in favour of the Hampshire alternative? Was it really so that the Wilderness Society and some in the Greens saw support for some sort of pulp future as a way to deflect criticism of them as being anti-development? The compelling rejoinder was there for them to use. After all we had worked so hard together developing the argument. Instead of taking up defensive positions on the battleground of the enemy’s choosing, it was just a matter of reversing the accusation, of going on the offensive. It is the pulp mill that is anti-development. It is a displacement industry. The pro-development party is the party opposing a pulp future for Tasmania. That means a giant pulp mill anywhere and not just in the Tamar Valley.

Unity

The call for unity in opposition to the Gunns pulp mill is loud and insistent. I truly wish it were as easy to effect as making the call. But there are problems and they stem from the fact that the conservation conglomerate has its own agenda, as you would expect, and that agenda is a lot narrower than the purview of the community, as one would also expect.

Does the call for unity mean that those who dissent from the pro-plantation and ‘in principle’ support for a pulp mill, which I have identified as fatally flawed lines of argument, need to come on board and accept the forest peace deal arrived at in secret and ditch the most cogent arguments against a pulp industry future for Tasmania?

That’s not going to happen.

Or does it mean the conservation conglomerate, including the Greens, have to withdraw their ‘in principle’ support for a pulp industry future in Tasmania, and return to the unity we enjoyed several years ago?

That has to happen.

First published: 2010-11-08 06:36 PM

ABC Online:

Cracks appear in forestry agreement

Tasmania’s Forest Industries Association could pull out of the recent historic forest agreement, if the Premier does not honour an assurance over timber supply.

Under pressure from the Liberals, David Bartlett yesterday released a letter which assures sawmillers they will have access to native timber for another 17 years.

The letter says their wood supply agreement is likely to be renewed until 2027 and there are sufficient resources to do so.

The Greens Leader Nick McKim is confident it will not derail the historic forest agreement, saying nothing in the letter commits Forestry Tasmania to extending the contracts.

“There’s nothing in the Premier’s letter than would compromise the successful implementation of the principles and the real message here is for the Liberal Party to stop throwing rocks at the process and understand that there is a restructure that can deliver a timber industry that we can all be proud of underway,” he said.

The Forest Industry Association of Tasmania (FIAT) disagrees.

Spokesman Terry Edwards and has attacked the Greens for suggesting the Premier can abandon an assurance he gave to sawmillers.

“The commitment given by the Premier on behalf of the government is a secure commitment and I don’t understand how Mr McKim can read that letter as being other than an absolute assurance by the Premier that wood supply agreements will be extended to 2027”

“The commitment given by the Premier is a secure commitment and the comments by Mr McKim are some what destabilising,” Mr Edwards said.

He says if the commitment is not honoured FIAT will need to re-examine its involvement in the forest agreement.

The Liberal Deputy Leader, Jeremy Rockliff, says the revelations about the Premier’s letter to FIAT shows a split in the Labor-Green Cabinet.

“This is the start of the unravelling of this great relationship because what David Bartlett has been doing is two-timing Nick McKim,” he said.

“I mean he’s said one thing in writing to the forest industry, another thing to Nick McKim and so what David Bartlett needs to do now is tell Tasmanians exactly where he stands on the future of the forest industry.

Uncertain future

Sawmillers are facing an uncertain future following the historic forestry agreement to restructure.

FIAT wrote to the Premier before last month’s Statement of Principles were released, seeking assurances sawmillers will have their wood supply agreements renewed until 2027.

Read the full article HERE

And,

Premier denies Cabinet forestry rift

The Tasmanian Premier has played down suggestions of a rift between him and his Green Cabinet colleagues over forest issues.

The Opposition says David Bartlett is two-timing the Greens, by making promises to sawmillers while also expressing support for the Forestry Statement of Principles.

Mr Bartlett has released his letter to the Forest Industries Association in which he assures sawmillers that their native wood supply will be secured until 2027.

The issue has dominated Question Time in Parliament.

Opposition leader Will Hodgman asked the Premier if it was a “rock solid guarantee of an extension to contracts until 2027”.

Mr Bartlett replied: “I stand by every commitement made in the letter that I sent.”

But the Greens leader, Nick McKim, claims the letter promises nothing.

“Forestry Tasmania has expressed a willingness to commence those negotiations, it doesn’t say those negotiations have started.”

Mr McKim is confident it will not compromise the forest agreement.

Read more HERE

ET, TWS, ACF Media Release

10 November 2010

Forest jobs and communities

Environment groups said today’s release of a study on forestry employment highlights the urgent need for transformation within Tasmania’s forest industry.

The report “Tasmania’s forest industry: trends in forest industry employment and turnover, 2006 to 2010” by Dr Jacki Schirmer from the CRC for Forestry, found:

o   one-third of forest workers lost their jobs in the last two years;
o   job losses in the native forest sector were 4 times those in the plantation sector; and
o   forest industry employment declined to less than 2% of the overall workforce.

Dr Phill Pullinger, Director of Environment Tasmania said: “This report shows that past policies and practices are failing timber workers and communities across Tasmania.”

“The data shows a permanent transition of jobs out of the native forest sector. The industry must restructure to be largely based on plantations if it is to have a secure future,” he added.

Lindsay Hesketh of the Australian Conservation Foundation, said “The implementation of the Statement of Forest Principles provides the best opportunity for reforming industry so that it can provide secure jobs in a sustainable timber industry.”

“The implementation will need the kind of important data provided by the CRC report – including where the job and community impacts are and which communities need help.”

Paul Oosting, Wilderness Society added that “Aspirations by some in the timber industry to continue native forest logging would only continue the unhealthy conflict over logging. They are not in keeping with the Statement of Principles and are not in keeping with the reality of the changes in the market-place.”

In addition, environment groups today repeated that forest contracts should be negotiated as part of the implementation process.

Burning wood for power: lessons from interstate and overseas

Will Mooney
Huon Valley Environment Centre

Logging industry interests in Tasmania have been working to undermine a key principle included in the recent agreement with conservationists.

The principle rules out the burning of native forest to generate Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs).

Recent reporting from mainland Australia and the United States elucidates why these interests are so determined to hold on to the prospect of a huge, native forest fueled, biomass industry: they need somewhere to offload the huge volumes of low-value wood generated by broadscale native forest logging. To date, regulations in the Renewable Energy Act, have meant that it is hard for native forest wood fired power plants to qualify to generate RECs. The ‘high-value’ test in the Act, means that operators have to prove that the wood they would use is genuine ‘waste’ from the harvesting of high value products. None of them have been able to do this.

Government regulations and electricity markets are the key factors that could determine wheather we see our forests incinerated for cheap electricity or fostered as living carbon stores.

In New South Wales, a proposed wood-fired power plant at Eden is in the final planning stages. Carbon pricing, electricity markets and Renewable Energy legislation could be crucial in determining if it goes ahead.

http://www.smh.com.au/business/carbon-concerns-mean-theres-no-miracle-cure-for-eden-mills-ills-20101029-177fy.html

In the United States, which has one of the world’s most developed wood fired power sectors, scientific research and government regulations are imposing greater rigor on the industry. Communities, scientists and now Governments are questioning the climate benefits of burning wood for power and instituting tougher checks and balances.

http://www.boston.com/business/articles/2010/10/25/tougher_rules_rile_green_power_producers/

The big question is: how will the situation in Tasmania play out? Will we allow industry interests and politicians (the Liberals being the main culprit) water down agreements and legislation to allow native forest burning power stations to get up? Will we allow outdated, inefficient plants and technology to be installed to liquidate our forests? Will we accept the false mantra that logging and trucking the remains of our our old growth forests into inefficient power stations is ‘carbon neutral’?

SENATOR THE HON RICHARD COLBECK

Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Fisheries & Forestry

Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Innovation, Industry & Science

M E D I A R E L E A S E
10 November 2010

Forestry report demonstrates need for ongoing investment

The release of the Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) for Forestry’s report into the Tasmanian forest industry indicates the need for ongoing private and public investment in this important sector for the State’s economy.

“There is no doubt the forestry industry has been hit hard by the global financial crisis. And this challenge has been added to by corporate attacks by environmental groups on Tasmanian forest product markets,” said Coalition spokesperson for Forestry Senator Richard Colbeck.

“But any suggestion the forestry industry is in terminal decline is simply a figment of the Greens’ and fringe environmentalists’ collective imaginations.

“Just yesterday, ABARE-BRS released its latest market analysis of the industry showing a 25% increase over the past year in dwelling commencements around Australia, a key indicator of demand for structural wood products.

“Roundwood, paper and paperboard exports also saw increases over the past year following the global recession.

“Of concern however is the increase in imported timber products. If the Greens have their way in shutting down the native forest industry, this will only increase. Instead of quality timber products sourced from best practice sustainably managed forests, our houses and furniture will be made from imported product where forest management practices are often questionable.

“Thousands of Tasmanians remain directly employed in the industry while many thousands more are indirectly employed. The report indicates this is particularly important for regional communities.

“We should support these jobs with targeted investment, not trash them as is the habit of the Greens and their supporters.”

ABARE-BRS report at: http://www.abare-brs.gov.au/publications_remote_content/recent-20?sq_content_src=%2BdXJsPWh0dHAlM0ElMkYlMkYxNDMuMTg4LjE3LjIwJTJGYW5yZGwlMkZEQUZGU2VydmljZSUyRmRpc3BsYXkucGhwJTNGZmlkJTNEcGVfYWJhcmVicnM5OTAwMTc1Mi54bWwmYWxsPTE%3D

SENATOR THE HON RICHARD COLBECK

Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Fisheries & Forestry

Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Innovation, Industry & Science

M E D I A R E L E A S E
10 November 2010

Tasmanian Premier slams Gillard Government over forest workers’ funding delay

Tasmanian Labor Premier David Bartlett has today criticised the Gillard Labor Government over its two month delay in distributing promised emergency funds to Tasmania’s forest contractors and their employees.

Mr Bartlett said on ABC radio this morning, “I am disappointed that it hasn’t happened as rapidly as it should have.”

Forest contractors and their representative organisations are just as furious with the Gillard Government about the long delays threatening mass protests at Parliament House, Canberra.

“The Gillard Government clearly doesn’t understand the dire situation for forest contractors and their employees in Tasmania,” said Coalition spokesperson for Forestry Senator Richard Colbeck.

“Even the Labor Premier in Tasmania, Mr Bartlett is critical of the long delay as he meekly attempts to stand up for forest workers while at the same time buddying up to his new best friends from the Greens who want to see an end to the industry.

“Federal Forestry Minister Joe Ludwig was sworn in on the 14th of September. Almost two months later, the application process hasn’t even been opened let alone funds distributed.

“Minister Ludwig claims consultation has held up the program, yet forest contractors advise me they have provided the Government with everything they needed some time ago.

“Minister Ludwig should stop basking in the glory of returning to government and start helping forest workers. Talk is cheap, action is demanded.”

WHY ARE FORESTRY CARRYING OUT NEW ROAD OPERATIONS IN THE STYX VALLEY?

Tim Morris MP
Greens Member for Lyons
Wednesday, 10 November 2010

The Tasmanian Greens today called on Forestry Minister Bryan Green to reveal whether planned roading operations in the Styx Valley are related to new forestry operations in High Conservation Value forests in the area, and if not, for what purpose the roadworks are occurring. 
Greens Member for Lyons, Tim Morris MP, said Forestry Tasmania are currently advertising that there will be interruptions to traffic between Mueller Road and the South Styx Bridge for approximately two months, and the only forest being logged in this area is HCV, raising fears that new roadworks are being driven into, or are facilitating the logging of, HCV forest only weeks after the signing of forestry roundtable principles which agree to protect HCV forests as a priority.

“Minister Bryan Green needs to reveal whether Forestry Tasmania are upgrading existing roads or driving a new road into the Styx Valley to access and clearfell HCV forests, and if so he needs to order Forestry Tasmania to cease this destructive and undermining activity until the future direction of the industry is decided,” said Mr Morris.

“The Minister was unable to answer when asked about this in Parliament today, and I will continue question him about these roadworks until he reveals the truth.”

“Now is not the time to be driving new roads into pristine forest areas, or to be carrying out major upgrades of existing roads that only access HCV forest areas.”

Age: Brumby makes pledge on state forests
Adam Morton and Royce Millar
November 12, 2010

PREMIER John Brumby will today promise ‘‘Tasmanian-style’’ peace talks between loggers, unions and environmentalists in a bid to resolve decades of conflict over the forestry industry in Victoria.

A returned Labor state government would also abolish VicForests, the government agency that has faced accusations over its logging practices and economic viability.

But Mr Brumby has not guaranteed that the process will lead to greater protection of the state’s old-growth forests.
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He said a ‘‘stakeholder forum’’ would follow the Tasmanian model, in which timber companies, unions and green groups met for several months before submitting a joint recommendation to the government.

The federal government would then be asked for funding to carry out proposed reforms, including possibly helping workers and communities who lost their jobs.

‘‘We have been encouraged by the approach taken in Tasmania and we hope that stakeholders in Victoria can also put forward a strong and sustainable consensus vision for the timber and forest products industry,’’ Mr Brumby said.

‘‘The key is to provide a fair process where all the parties feel comfortable negotiating and discussing possible solutions, without the government having a predetermined view.’‘

The Tasmanian peace deal announced last month included a moratorium within 90 days of government acceptance of the deal on logging forests of high conservation value.

Read the full article HERE

Kim Booth ...

LATEST FORESTRY CRC REPORT REVEALS AN INDUSTRY IN CRISIS
Major Restructure is Required
Kim Booth MP
Greens Forests spokesperson

The Tasmanian Greens today said that the recently released Forestry CRC report reveals that one third of forest workers lost their jobs in the past two years, that job losses in the native forest sector were four times higher than those in plantations, and that forest industry employment now makes up less than two per cent of the overall workforce.

Greens Forests spokesperson Kim Booth MP said the report, entitled Tasmania’s forest industry: trends in forest industry employment and turnover 2006 to 2010, was produced by Dr Jacki Schirmer of the CRC for Forestry, and is proof, if any more proof is required, that the Tasmanian timber industry requires a major restructure into a plantation base with globally acceptable certification and a focus on value-adding.

“This latest CRC for Forestry report reveals that one third of all forest workers lost their jobs in the past two years, that job losses in the native forest sector were far higher than in the plantation sector, and that employment in the forest sector now makes up less than two per cent of the workforce,” said Mr Booth.

“There is no way the Tasmanian forest industry can survive in the global non-differentiated wood fibre market. Our forest industry will continue to decline until we differentiate our wood products in the global market.”

“This collapse is precisely what the Greens have been warning would occur and the tragedy is that the timber barons and so-called industry reps have ignored the warnings and blindly led the workforce into disaster. It is time that the industry dinosaurs got out of the way and allowed a modern industry to evolve.”

“It is obvious that the forest sector is in trouble and requires a massive restructure, into a plantation-based industry with globally acceptable certification and a focus on value-adding,” said Mr Booth.

Reference:
Tasmania’s forest industry: trends in forest industry employment and turnover 2006 to 2010, Schirmer, J., CRC for Forestry, available at: http://www.crcforestry.com.au/publications/technical-reports/index.html