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There aren’t too many Tasmanian politicians at any level who have clean hands when it comes to what has been happening in the Tasmanian forestry industry, and is still happening.

The current disclosures by the administrators of Gunns are no surprise to anybody who has been involved in the long-running forestry conflicts.

The worst of the rotten bunch are all Tasmanian ALP, Liberal and independent politicians who have seats in the State parliament, all Labor MHRs and all Labor and Liberal senators.  None of them deserve to sit in any Australian parliament.  All of these people, without exception, gave their complete support to Gunns in any and every way that they could.  They ripped apart the fabric of proper representative government, especially in Tasmania.  They are responsible for shredding the very reputation of the parliamentary system, of creating a climate of public cynicism and distrust of the policy-making processes in Tasmania to the extent where they have created public distrust of the political institutions of the State.

It is not simply that they have put party political interest and personal careerism above their responsibility to represent the public interest.  They have gone well beyond that.  In 2006 and 2007 they poured public funds into a political circus for the benefit of Gunns, and Gunns alone.  For years they have pumped millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money into a subsidised rort whereby Gunns clearfelled and woodchipped at a nice tidy profit for themselves, paying their top executives more than the salary of the Prime Minister and keeping the earnings of their employees as low as possible, and their skills as low as possible.

For years Forestry Tasmania has been propped up with public funds so that Gunns could woodchip millions of tonnes of native forests.  For what purpose?  The answer is loud and clear.  All these Labor-Liberal-independent politicians believed that their political futures were comfortably secure by tying themselves as tightly as they could to Gunns, by licking Gunns’ boots and faithfully doing Gunns’ bidding.  The whole forestry policy revolved around preferential treatment for Gunns, most noticeably during the 2007 trashing of due process with the passage of the infamous Pulp Mill Assessment Act, but that was the tip of the iceberg.

In the period from the prostitution of the Tasmanian parliament in Gunns’ interests in 2007 until August 2012, all these politicians continued to worship at Gunns’ feet, gruesomely applauding every media release spouting the same absurd nonsense for years on end that “funding will be secured next week, at the end of the month, at the end of the year…”.  It was pathetic to watch.

While it destroyed the political credibility of most Tasmanian politicians, more damaging was the betrayal of these politicians of the parliamentary processes that had been built by convention and custom since the English Civil War in the 1640s. 

But still the attack on the thin veil of representative government continues, as the interests of Ta Ann have now replaced those of Gunns in the eyes of not just Labor-Liberal-independent politicians, but the Tasmanian Greens as well.  This has evolved gradually since 2006, but inexorably gathered momentum with the establishment of the baldly unrepresentative and unelected forestry roundtable in May 2010, funded from the public purse to operate in secrecy and confidentiality.  Initially, the purpose was to help Gunns get a “social licence” for the Tamar Valley pulp mill and thereby encourage a joint venture partner, which nearly worked, until Richard Chandler got cold feet in 2012.

Gunns gradually imploded after that, sacking workers by the hundreds while the Labor-Liberal politicians stayed silent or screeched blue-murder at “fringe groups”, but still the mad farce of the forestry roundtable kept going, all of the participants committed to the Gunns’ mantra of “all eggs in the pulp mill basket”.  When it became apparent that the mantra was as empty as their own thought processes, panic set in as the Greens scratched around for an alternative use for the plantation estate which they could use as trade bait.

And lo and behold, there was Ta Ann.  Thank goodness for Ta Ann, now in firm partnership with the Tasmanian Greens-ENGOs in the international marketing game.  When Mark Latham wrote about the “corporatized” Tasmanian political culture, the Greens were opposed to Gunns’ pulp mill – at least in the public domain – and appeared to all intents and purposes to be outside this dominant culture, but that is no longer the case.  They are now playing the same role for Ta Ann that many Labor-Liberal ministerial delegations played for Gunns over the years all over the world.

It’s unlikely that any of the Tasmanian politicians of the last few years who have kowtowed to Gunns and wasted massive amounts of public funds, divided the Tasmanian community irreparably for years into the future, will ever be held accountable for the damage they have done and continue to do.  They are wreckers who will never pay the price for the wreckage they leave as their legacy.  They are just as likely to be re-elected again and again, as Tasmanians continue to justify their vote, whatever they vote for, as “the lesser of the evils”.

The wreckers however, have convinced a growing proportion of Tasmanians that it is unethical to vote for any politician who will continue to tear at the fragile – almost threadbare – fabric of representative governance, which now includes all politicians of the three main parties.

• Nick Clark, Mercury: PPB Advisory said Gunns may have been insolvent from as early as March last year when its “white knight”, New Zealand billionaire Richard Chandler, pulled out of a $150 million investment. HERE

Kim Booth: ANZ has case to answer in Gunns’ financial collapse

• Editor: For years TT 2011 Tasmanian of the Year John Lawrence ( TT Archive here ), ( John Lawrence blog, Tasfintalk, here ) warned of the pending MIS and Gunns Ltd disaster. Then there were Jarvis Cocker’s extensive analyses, going back to 2006, TT HERE. Then there was The definitive Richard Flanagan article, Gunns Out of Control, published in 2009, HERE Few, especially politicians and media, listened ...

Yesterday on Tasmanian Times: State forest revoked to benefit Gunns pulp mill

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Jon Kudelka, 2008, here

But, according to ex-Premier Paul, we are lost without the pulp mill ...

• Nick Clark, Mercury: PPB Advisory said Gunns may have been insolvent from as early as March last year when its “white knight”, New Zealand billionaire Richard Chandler, pulled out of a $150 million investment. HERE

Peter Whish-Wilson: Australian Greens Call on Commonwealth to Guarantee No Further Support for Pulp Mill

• ABC Online: Forest peace deal saves 500 jobs: report The Federal Regional Development Minister insists a report on the job impacts of Tasmania’s forestry peace deal is credible, despite one of its authors working in the industry. ABC Online here