Booth, O’Halloran, O’Connor, McKim, Morris

A response to: I don’t agree

Dear Richard,

Your article contains errors of fact, incorrect assumptions and - in my view - unnecessarily divisive, personal language.  I reckon you should be taken to task for what is not one of your better efforts ...

Having had your spray, you may choose not to read my response.  That’s fair enough but I won’t be ‘silenced’ either.

From the comfort of your desk, you have attacked the Tasmanian Greens, casting the four of us with dark motive and hollow core without having once spoken to any of us about why we chose the path we did.  Reading your article, I’m pretty sure you haven’t read the Hansard from Tuesday’s debate or the amended Bill either.

As I write, planning is underway for the last of the bulldozers to leave coupes scattered over half a million hectares, for Forest Practices Plans to be dissolved and the Wedge-tail, the Devil, potoroos, bettongs, marsupial mice and velvet worms are safer than they were a week ago.  Yes, politics and life are full of uncertainty, but right now, those wild things are safe from plunder and burn. I can’t understand why you wouldn’t think that in itself was a good thing.

It is not misleading to say that over half a million hectares of high conservation value forest will have legislated protection. It’s simply fact.

What you describe as a massive capitulation, an abandonment of environmental ethics, Nick, Tim, Basil and I all saw as country roads ahead of the alternative.

The continued destruction of forest ecosystems we all love, relentless conflict between those who will defend and those who will destroy them, or, a chance for something brighter? A chance to keep over half a million hectares safe while the industry undergoes essential reform. The sawlog quota more than halved and an industry that needs genuine Forest Stewardship Council credentials to have any kind of viable future. What’s not to like about that?

I’m genuinely curious, what is your real world alternative Richard?

We thought very long and very hard on our vote.  The five of us did.  We talked to each other at length about the dilemma we faced.  We talked to family, friends, colleagues, associates and party members. We listened to the counsel of our elders. We listened to ourselves, each examining their conscience about what was the right thing to do by Tasmania, by the forests.

We really stewed on it. We examined our conundrum from every possible perspective.  It was the most difficult decision, we all agreed, any of us had had to make in our time as MPs.

In the end, four of us resolved that to reject any amendment made by the wreckers upstairs and send it back to its certain death, left us with nothing except forests at risk, more conflict and a stymied economic transition into the 21st Century.

For Nick, Tim, Basil and I, the choice was clear.  Kim held a different view and we respect that. We all - all five of us - love those forests and we all want them protected. There are no rights and wrongs here, it’s just a difference of approach.

And do you know, I reckon each of the five of us will go back to the earth believing we did what was right by Tasmania. 

True, politics can be a grubby business but it’s the only game in town if you’re motivated by making real any part of a philosophical ideal.  Politics is also the art of the possible, it’s not an all or nothing contest.  We’re operating in the real world here. To compromise to get an outcome is to acknowledge that change is a staged process. You have to try to bring people with you to make enduring positive change.  At some point you have to get out of the trenches, and sometimes you have to bend a little to make a positive gain, rather than walk away with nothing but your pride intact.  That’s my view anyway. 

With so much lost already, we figured it was worth a shot.

What’s the worst thing that can happen if the TFA Act falls over? We all go back to where we were a couple of years ago.

And we’ll have the same intractable conflict, the same trench warfare, the same anger on both sides, the same weary populace.  What does that achieve for the forests or this great state of ours?

How much forest has actually been saved in the past decade Richard .....? And how much has been lost?

Here we have real chance. I agree there’s plenty of uncertainty in the mix.  It’s not ideal but it’s better than business as usual.  And if we can, collectively, pull this off, it sure is better than another twenty years watching beauty and wonderment get trashed at massive public expense, financially, physically and emotionally.

Still don’t agree? That’s ok. I don’t really expect you to see that our glass is half full rather than full of dregs.

There are enough of us who are feeling upbeat about the future.  I reckon last week was a good week for Tasmania.  On Thursday we signed up to the national DisabilityCare full scheme. By 2019, the lives of around 11 000 Tasmanians living with disability, their families and carers will have been transformed for the far, far better than life is for them now.

I am certain you will agree that’s a great outcome for our people.

And here’s where we will disagree on the positives ... When four of the five Greens MPs voted with Labor to pass the Forests Agreement Bill 2013, there was a seismic shift in the conflict that has poisoned our beautiful state for decades.  Environmentalists, industry leaders, unions, Labor, the Tasmanian Greens and - would you believe it - a majority in the Upper House, all prepared to give it a go.  A significant and diverse demographic supports us, and yes, plenty of them are green. Plenty.

Living treasures of the environment movement, people like Rob Blakers, Nick Mooney and Todd Walsh, believe the four of us did the right thing in the circumstances that confronted us.  Gerard Castles is another one. They recognise that the time for words alone has passed.  And there are others, whose names you would recognise, who agree but feel ‘silenced’ by the vitriol and divisiveness from some who have engaged in the debate since the vote.

You don’t agree, but the passage of the TFA Bill and the long process of talking, arguing, negotiating, conceding on both sides ... this new dynamic has great potential to be a healing shift, if we all get behind it.

Surely it’s worth a chance, for Tasmania, for the forests?

Just a reminder too, Richard, that the World Heritage nomination of 170,000 hectares was a team effort. It is the direct result of the Signatories process, the fact that the Tasmanian Greens voted through the original TFA Bill in November, as well as the intense discussions with Labor at a state and Federal level by the state and Federal Greens. 

And it is 170,000 hectares of iconic, old growth forested land that’s being added to the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area.  The pernicious Hall amendment doesn’t change that.  Check the Act if you don’t want to take my word for it.

Finally, on the ideas and vision of the Tasmanian Greens. With respect, you are just wrong. The Greens have been arguing for sustainable economic transition since Christine Milne was a young school teacher from Wesley Vale. But now is the time to deliver it, while we’ve got the chance. It’s happening right now. All around us, right before our eyes ... If only we could all see it.

In the latest round of State Government innovation grants announced this weekend, funds are going to blueberry farmers, honey producers, a free range poultry business, a lettuce grower, a baker and a flower farm among a number of small enterprises to benefit.

In Parliament, the public domain and in Cabinet, the Tasmanian Greens have articulated a vision for a 100% renewable island and driven energy reform that will deliver a Smart Grid for Tasmania. 

Here’s a good, sophisticated, green vision for the future which I released a fortnight ago:

We’ve overseen vital science and policy development on forest carbon, working with State and Federal Labor to ensure the carbon in our forests, including in any TFA reserves is eligible to be traded on global markets.  Tasmanians now have a clear picture, for the first time, of how much carbon is stored in their forest estate and our vision is for that carbon to stay exactly where it is ....

We’ve set out and are implementing a vision for a greener social housing. 

We’ve driven the ban on non-biodegradable plastic bags while ramping up the pressure for a state-based container deposit scheme.

We ensured $16 million in extra funding went into the Parks and Wildlife Service, enabling the gazettal of 78 000 hectares into new reserves and to employ extra rangers to look after our world class reserves.

We directed some of our funding allocation from the sale of TOTE to set free the battery chooks and the suffering sows from their stalls.

There’s more but if you’ve read this far it’ll be some kind of miracle so I’ll wind up now.

The greening of Tasmania is a continuum ... the story unfolds.  No-one has exclusive rights to its telling, and the four Green MPs you heap such derision on tell that story every day in some forum or another.

You should tune in to Parliament some time and listen to Basil talk about the Tarkine.  He has moved me to prickling tears more than once. The man is an absolute beauty and green to his cells. This I know to be true. Basil always puts Tasmania first. Always.

Whatever you say Richard, I love the threatened forests and this island so much, that I’m committed to playing whatever role I can to ensuring this works.  How about you?

Big love to the girls.

Yours sincerely,


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