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Pic: Daniel Haley

• Ben Quin:

It’s a bugger that comments are not being taken on Richard Flanagan’s article ( Here ).

Whilst our genesis in this debate is different, I too have never signed up for this new forest agreement.  Like Flanagan and others, I sincerely believe that without public subsidies, the old forest industry would have died last year.  A new industry, with different values, would surely have risen to replace it.  Economics at work.

I don’t agree that the attempted silencing of dissent, using the threat of lost conservation outcomes, is the main problem with the path that has been laid out before us. The true poison in this agreement is different.

During the public debate in the years following the passage of the pulp mill assessment act, pro-forestry activists argued that the result was simply democracy at work.  Not only was the bill passed by both houses of the parliament, but in the following election, voters returned the Liberal and Labor members who had supported the passage of the bill.  Hence, the result was legitimate.

Against this background, pro-forestry activists can righteously proclaim that it is conservationists who could not accept the result.  It is conservationists who destroyed the forest industry against the democratically conferred majority will. 

Rubbish!  It was Gunns, under the management of Gay, Gray and co, saddled on the warhorses at Forestry Tasmania, who were the architects of this destruction.  They gambled with the public forestry estate and hundreds of millions of public dollars (and were allowed to do so).  They used their market power to muscle forestry contractors into unsustainable contracts.  They spat in the eye of loyal long term customers in Japan.  They paid to dine privately with the Prime Minister of the day, at the same time as his environment minister was assessing their applications under the EPBC act.  They trampled the Tasmanian Parliament and held the majority of its members in thrall.  They delivered the biggest corporate collapse in Australian history.

Now, this “peace agreement” absolves these corporate sins – sweeps them away without trace in a froth of new legislation.  It passes the burden of failure to idealists, striving within the law to map a path towards their different visions of a sustainable future.  Crushed.

Meanwhile, the white-washed forestry industry can plot its way to a publicly subsidised pulp mill, or whatever other scheme they may dream up.  We should ask the boys at Korda Mentha for an update.

Ben Quin is the managing director of an engineering and agribusiness company with operations in Australia and China.

• John Hawkins, Chudleigh:

The debate on TT must now shift to FSC and industry accreditation. This can be assisted by TT team of bloggers who are able to provide, local, constructive and perceptive comments to keep the various contestants on the track of truth and integrity.

As detailed in my Underbelly series ( Here ), lack of FSC proved to be one of the main factor in the demise of Gunns. In that series I quoted from original documents which noted L’Estrange berating Gordon of Forestry Tasmania over his inability to progress FSC and the effect this was having on Gunns take-or-pay contracts.

Gordon knows from this experience that if Forestry Tasmania fails to gain FSC they are finished and either way Tasmania’s old growth forests are safe from his GBE’s clutches.

The problem for Forestry Tasmania is that their track record of logging ... clearfelling and burning of Tasmanian Forests, protected or unprotected in or out of World Heritage-listed areas does not and will not allow FSC accreditation to Forestry Tasmania. Further FSC cannot be obtained over all the clearfelled Tasmanian native forests now in plantations, nor is FSC accreditation easily bought despite the extraordinary $7 million now allocated under the IGA.

Aided by experience and a track record of corruption over due process, what will our Pollies and the Civil Service do to assist Forestry Tasmania to gain FSC accreditation?

If Forestry Tasmania fails to gain FSC their largest customer, Ta Ann, will walk away.

This is even more likely if Ta Ann has already received the majority of the $15 million allowed for under the IGA buy-back scheme over surrendered contracts.

Rolley is a very important player in this saga for he negotiated these vastly inflated and unsustainable wood supply contracts when CEO of Forestry Tasmania, he is now CEO of Ta Ann; he smells the wind and presents well on TV.

A percentage under these contracts - say 40% - will now be surrendered as legislated under the IGA for a substantial part of this $15 million.

I ask Rolley:  Was the wood ever available to be harvested?

Further was Rolley responsible for the Force Majeure clause in the Ta Ann contracts ... guessing that FSC - or the lack of it - could trigger another claim, but of a different order.

The inclusion of this clause by Rolley in the Ta Ann contracts was clever and as indicated in my Underbelly series ( Here ), it provides a final way out for Rolley and Ta Ann, with or without the IGA. A large slab of Government money is allocated under the IGA, some $13 million under “Residue solutions” and $20 million under “Voluntary exits” this could be raided by (Deputy Premier Bryan) Green to satisfy Force Majeure in the Ta Ann contract.

As the people’s representative with overall supervision of Forestry Tasmania Green is in an interesting position over a conflict of interest.

This should bring the payments to this Sarawak company to in excess of $35 million. Well done Rolley, Harriss, Hall, Mulder and Green: gift aid from the rich to the even-richer-but-corrupt rulers of the downtrodden in that Third World country.

The discretionary disposal of all this money is presumably in the hands of the Tasmanian Deputy Premier Green, who has now been three times before the courts. It has been removed from the domain of the Federal Minister after he was hoodwinked by this State’s logging industry, a matter now subject to a Senate Enquiry.

We must now therefore concentrate our efforts on TT to ensuring that the process over gaining of FSC for Tasmania and the disposal of the IGA millions is not further corrupted by the not so good and great.

As I have outlined here there is a lot at stake, “FSC lite” and money for mates are not acceptable.

Royal Commission now.

John Hawkins is an Englishman who missed out on winning the lottery of life: Being born a Tasmanian.

• Carol Rea, Margate Tasmania:

Ah Richard. It really pains me to challenge some of the things you have written because I know you are so passionate about our forests. And is division not what Mr Abetz and Co would love to point to?  But I must because you write with much resonance and authority and today I think you have got some of it wrong.

I will never support the ‘silencing’ of people and no-one I know within the eNGO community thinks any differently.  So in the spirit of democracy I will use my voice in this space.

There is ‘practical’ and there is ‘principle’. I believe they can co-exist. Your article to me loudly proclaims they do not and cannot.

I am not an accomplished wordsmith and it would take me many days to gather my thoughts into a readable essay so I will respond to just one paragraph. I think it is one of the most powerful, incendiary and inaccurate paragraphs in your article. Bereft as it is from the rich conjecture and rhetoric of other parts of your essay it presents as fact that which is not fact but opinion. It lays down a foundation on which you build. This is why I have chosen it.

“For these environmentalists have managed to negotiate a deal that extraordinarily manages to resuscitate at vast public subsidy (reportedly $350 million) the worst aspects of a dead forest industry employing less than a thousand people; lock in social conflict for another decade; empower in Forestry Tasmania a rogue government agency that sees itself as the real power on the island and which works to undermine governments; and delivered the island to political stagnation by ensuring forestry remains the island’s defining political issue.”

• Resuscitate the worst aspects of a dead forest industry with $350 million – No. Some of this is to buy back quotas, to retire contracts – to allow sawmills to close and give some dignity and re-training to people who have long worked in the forestry industry. Some of this is regional development funding that will flow later in 2013 to create work and education that is not centred on forestry . Some of this is to re-tool mills to use plantation timber. Some of this is to examine better, sustainable use of residue. This is not resuscitation it is re-incarnation.

• Lock in social conflict for another decade – on what do you base this point – it hangs there with no rationale, no cogent reasoning – why?  Do you really believe that conflict is inevitable because it is historical?

• Empower in FT a rogue government agency – I would suggest that things are changing there – (many of the rats have left the ship).  FT is fighting for survival and knows that it will sink without FSC.  Since FSC is something it cannot manipulate it will have to abide by the rules.  You could have welcomed the fact that FT is finally entering the land of real and accountable forestry. If FT cannot do this it will become redundant.  In the meantime they will not be logging or roading in over 500,000 hectares of public native forest.

• Forestry will not be the defining political or financial issue for Tasmania – just read the news or the statistics about where the dollars lie. Manufacturing is first, followed by agriculture and then a lagging mining industry, a long way back, at third. Forestry as the defining political issue of the future will only be so if people continue to make it overwhelmingly adversarial.  The media just love it don’t they? If the Tasmanian Forestry Agreement can be allowed to realise the opportunities it offers we can move forward to a resolution – one that protects HCV forest and engages in sustainable logging practice in public forests.  No more headline news then.

• It would be interesting if you could contemplate a time that traditional forestry communities will change and diversify and that conservationists will be content with the protection of their most precious forests. Hopefully you will be able to write that piece in times to come.

Richard, forestry is perhaps no longer the defining issue for Tasmania as of 30 April 2013. The opportunity to conserve and protect a very large area of precious and important public native forest is in our grasp. Re-structuring the native forest industry is possible but difficult. The TFA will lay down the process to do so.  However the notion that there should even be a native forestry industry into the future is perhaps the elephant in the room.

There is of course more to consider than public native forest. According to the Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association the private forest estate in Tasmania comprises 1,059,000 hectares of land, which represents 15% of the state’s total land area. Some 885,000 ha is privately owned native forest. It is inevitable that some of this timber will be logged for profit.  I am a pragmatist. If my house is to be built of wood I would prefer it to be from well managed local forest rather than imported timber.

I continue to be optimistic, realistic and hopeful of a future Tasmania where my grandchildren will walk in the new reserves with me.

sincerely,

Carol

Carol Rea is a retired Mental Health clinician, owner-builder, regular volunteer and Management Committee member of The Wilderness Society Tasmania, conservationist, pragmatist, optimist and grandmother

• These are the documents which Bryan Green responded to (his letter was tabled in the Lower House debate on Tuesday) and which apparently gave the Signatories confidence to support the final TFA Bill:

Monday_29th_April_IAD.pdf

Tuesday_30th_April_2013_ASS.pdf

• For reasons why Greens MPs voted for or against the TFA check the Tasmanian Greens website:

http://www.tas.greens.org.au

• Editor: Tasmanian Times welcomes constructive debate on this divisive issue, below ...