Chapter 17:        WHY NO TASMANIAN REFERENDUM ON GUNN’S

TASMANIAN PULP MILL? HUH? BECAUSE THE GOVERNMENT

ALWAYS KNEW BEST WHAT WAS BEST FOR THE LITTLE PEOPLE?

 


MOTION: That the Rudd Government immediately seek to halt the development of Gunn’s proposed pulp mill in Tasmania, until such time as the Tasmanian Government consults and holds a legally binding referendum (Yes or No?) of the Tasmanian people as to whether or not the proposed mill should be permitted, to be built.

Rationale:

What possible rationale could there be for the Tasmanian people not to have a direct say in whether or not Gunn’s proposed pulp mill with all of its downsides, should be built? Does the Tasmanian Government not trust the people to be able to understand the arguments for and against? Does the Federal Government not rust the people? Both the Labor Government’s Peter Garrett (of Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) fame) and the Howard Government’s Environment Minister Malcolm Turnbull approved Gunn’s mill despite lots of angst in Tasmania and elsewhere. Why? Due to the political need for satisfying the chainsaw brigade and maybe lots of other reasons as well, democracy has been denied to the Tasmanian people by both major parties? Where has been the “Robust Democracy” in the process, to which both sides of politics have subscribed? Where has been the full and frank disclosure? Where has been the transparency? If political corruption were the motivation, then that would be understandable. If bipartisan “Me-too-ism” by the major party’s Environment Ministers and Shadows having given the mill the go-ahead has been motivated primarily by the need to win an electoral seat or two and has been the final arbiter, then democracy per se has certainly failed. The angst is not about "Value-adding". It is about the forest destruction required to feed the proposed mill.

The process of approval of Gunn’s timber mill has been far from transparent. Aside from the prospect of corruption being levelled at the players at a political level, the public perception of short-term-ism and short-sightedness would be the least of the undemocratic sins of successive Tasmanian Governments in relation to its management of the State’s forests.

Relevant to the subject, is a cover story published in Kerry Packer's now defunct news magazine, “The Bulletin”. The original story written by Richard Flanagan, published in December 2003, was entitled “The Rape of Tasmania”. The tragedy of the magazine’s demise can only be surpassed by losses of Tasmania’s forests. An archived version of the original story may be found at the following ACF address:

http://www.acfonline.org.au/articles/news.asp?news_id=417

The story was and continues to be a damning indictment of successive Tasmanian Governments’ inabilities to manage the state’s resources properly. Huge environmental damage had been done and continues to be done. “Google Earth” offers freely, a montage of satellite photos of Tasmania, some of which have a reasonable resolution. The overview provides some insight into the extent of forest destruction in Tasmania.

It is clear that governments, either State or Federal cannot be trusted currently, to manage the nation’s resources in the Nation’s best interests. When in opposition, the current Federal Labor Government promised to be environmentally sensitive. Instead, Howard’s idea of forest preservation and environmental responsibility which consisted of sending a few million dollars to Indonesia for their scammers to play with seems now to prevail in the Labor Government. If the Rudd Government wants to avoid the label of hypocrisy, then they need to oblige State Governments to give their constituents a vote on such controversial projects as Gunn’s pulp mill in the Tamar Valley.

The traditional political salve to the public’s anger at rampant deforestation has always been couched in terms such as, “Responsible balance between preserving the environment and providing jobs” which has always been a euphemism for “the need to win an electoral seat or two to thus win the next election”. And so, responsible government has always been about chopping down another half of what remains and then another half of what remains and so on in perpetuity. The parable of the race between the hare and the turtle is analogous to what happens to forests. They disappear incrementally due to politically motivated duress. Only a binding specific vote could rectify undemocratic decision making and/or outright political corruption of the kind outlined in "The Rape of Tasmania".

The forest industry’s perennial argument that Forest Growth and Re-growth” is sustainable is unadulterated brainwashing. If clear-fell practises today constitute sustainability, then there would still be vast forests of giant trees hundreds of years old. Contrarily, where-ever remnant forest giants have survived until today, chainsaws loiter in their shadows in anticipation of undemocratic imprimaturs to knock them over in the name of “Responsible Government” tantamount to political if not actual corruption.

A visit to “Styx Forest, Tasmania and the Tamar Valley, Tasmaniavia Google Earth’s satellite photos is an exercise that the Australian population at large should be encouraged to take. The forests of giant trees that once existed in Tasmania have disappeared. Similarly so for the giant Karri and Jarrah forests of Western Australia, the giant Eucalyptus regnans of south eastern Victoria and the rainforests of Queensland. What remains of the forest giants of two centuries ago is a tiny percentage, never to return. Three hundred year old trees, more than 100 metres tall as the tallest in the world were once common in Australia, but they have all disappeared.

Similarly, everyone should contemplate the size of the Styx Forest Eucalyptus regnans stump in the photo included in the Sydney Morning Herald article written by Stephanie Peatling and published on 28 September 2004. Check out the article:

http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2004/09/27/1096137173817.html

 The once magnificent Styx Forest has already been decimated, but the best that the self-serving Howard Government could do at the 2004 Federal Election, was to suck a few votes from the chainsaw brigade for the cynical purpose of winning another electoral seat despite the desperate need for conservation of what remains to prevail.

Typically, if the Opposition of the day tries to over-ride the chainsaw mindset with alternative employment propositions for Tasmania as did Mark Latham OL, the Government would want to exploit the situation for their own power mongering ends, as did the Howard Government.  Not democratic. Not responsible government. Cynicism is the go? Yep. Bugger the future for everyone except themselves!

If that forlorn picture alone, cannot stir Kevin Rudd PM, to act to protect what remains of such trees in Australia (if there are any), then nothing ever will.

 

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