23
May
09

Bartlett’s forests destruction vision

From Tasmanian Times

Dr ANDREW LOHREY

PETER HENNING is correct in his analysis of Tasmanian politics and his quotation from John Cain most appropriate. The ‘empty vessel of the Tasmanian government’ has been filled for some years now by the interests of forest industries.

These ‘filling’ interests have been marshalled and spearheaded by Forestry Tasmania who is now the policy initiator for the Tasmanian government in a wide range of areas. Over many years this organisation has moved to fill all kinds of the policy vacuums in the state government and in the process has expanded its administrative reach and power. Today when there is a cut back to be made in expenditure Forestry Tasmania is naturally absolutely exempt.

Tasmania has become like a mining town where nothing happens without the knowledge and approval of the company that runs it. Tasmania is run by forest interests and nothing of consequence happens in government in this state that is not approved of by these forest interests. In this situation the public interest is of no consequence. Here are some examples of the ever expanding forestry interests.

Forestry Tasmania is slowly taking over the tourist industry with its new tourist ventures. Forestry personnel are not the most appropriate people to run tourist operations so why is this happening? It has happened because firstly there was a policy vacuum that FT saw it could fill and so expand its influence. For example, as an established tourist operator FT can now argue for a ‘tourist road’ through the Tarkine, a road that no one in the tourist industry seems to support. Forestry tourism is also a useful response to those annoying community groups who demand more conservation measures be taken in forestry operations.

Apart from having their forestry operations exempted from the Tasmanian Threatened Species Act and the Commonwealth Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Act FT have organised themselves so that there is no effective overview on any of their forestry operations. This means there is little scrutiny or institutional opposition to any of their activities on the basis of conservation and the environment.

The shock axing of the Department of Environment, Parks, Heritage and the Arts has received a lot of media coverage but we now find that the amount of money this policy will save is less than the money we collectively spend on the Hawthorn football team. This policy move is not about saving money. It is about reducing an already reduced conservation and environment voice in government, currently a small voice that may in some circumstances, inhibit the forward march of forest industries.

The Parks services have been so under resourced for years they are unable to properly look after the state reserves they already have. They have also baulked at taking over the new reserves which DPIW wants them to take over under the Crown Land Assessment and Classification Project. Reducing the capacity of Parks still further is a benefit, not for the public who does not figure at all in this game plan, but to the operations of Forestry Tasmania.

Lately Forestry Tasmania has initiated a government policy (announced by the Premier) for the endangered swift parrot – 500 ha of plantation blue gums per year to be planted for the next five years. This stupid policy did not come out of the Endangered Species Unit. It came straight out of Forestry Tasmania which indicates just how much it now controls policy in the Premier’s Department.

Forest industries have also now become involved in the area of public health. The toxic chemicals that are now in most of the water we drink are directly linked to a whole raft of serious illnesses. The consumer guide Choice has called on the Federal Government to apply the precautionary principle in relation to these chemicals. Guess who says this kind of pollution is OK? Why it the Chairman of the Forest Industries Association, Dr Julian Amos. Surprise surprise? If Forestry Tasmania continues spraying these chemicals on their plantations we will become known as ‘Cancer Island’.

Sue Neales said in her column last Saturday ( Here ) that Premier Bartlett has not successfully conveyed his long-term vision and policy direction for the state. Perhaps this is because he does not want to say that the policy which is in place and actually working behind the scenes is a vision for Tasmania as one large forestry operation. Clearly he endorses this vision and that is why he now tells Gunns to get on with the job of building the pulp mill.

At the next election there is only one danger for the forest industries that run this state. This is the danger they faced at the last election. This is the rise of Green and independent votes so the empty vessels of Labor and Liberal cannot form a government on their own.  In order to take the risk out of the next election we are sure to see a repeat of the expensive forestry paid advertising campaign we saw at the last election.

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