Tasmanian Times

Environment

This is my last letter …

Planetless*
Weaving webs of industry
Invades the bloom of nature’s realm.
Witness, the jewelled robe fades.
No master at the helm.
Greed pursues greed.
Mankind.
Mice on a floating rind.

Having worked in the forest industry for a total of 26 years, many of them as a Timber Workers Union rep, fighting hard for wages and conditions, in particular occupational health and safety, I believe I have every right to be bitterly disappointed at seeing so-called union reps, workers and Labor Party politicians grovelling at the feet of the Prime Minister John Howard, prior to the last Federal election.
This is the man who fought against every proposal we ever made, right through to arbitration (for all unions).

It was obvious to us that the policy of all governments, the captains of industry and the rural leaders to stop training our young people would have dire consequences into the future.

It is particularly galling to now see these same leaders blaming our young people who are not experienced and are now lacking confidence.

They have all sat back waiting for each other to do the training and
now blame the young people.

Every day I read Positions Vacant, and note that in the rural sector along with most other positions, experience is required. They have all sat back waiting for each other to do the training and now blame the young people. Taxpayers now appear to be the ones responsible for training.

If our young were offered half of what the overseas workers are being offered they would be more than happy. They are flown in, housed and transported to work. A recent advertisement for broccoli cutters ( experienced) two days per week, provide own transport, is an insult. To start with, this causes complication with dole payments red tape and in most cases finishes up being a penalty, not an income. Transportation alone kills it. It also does not help if you want to do TAFE courses. You can easily become ineligible for income support. It does not help to have Centrelink people ‘help’ fill out your forms. If you are overpaid you are held responsible and in some cases treated like a criminal.

Japan has profited well pulping our national forest

What we now need is a guarantee on employment numbers for the new pulp mills. One can only assume thqat Premier Paul Lennon and Gunns Leader John Gay have had a quiet little meeting at some café to make some notes on where the workers to build the mills will come from. Will they be fly-ins from Korea or China? Perhaps they will be poached from other industries? They will then fly in replacements. Either way I cannot see any possibility of unemployed Tasmanians benefiting. I refer to this policy of shirking their responsibilities for training up our young workforce over the past 20 years. Perhaps a mill will be built on the Korean Peninsula where labour is cheap and easily replaced, requiring very little in occupational health and safety and environmental responsibilities. Transport costs are not an issue.

Japan has profited well pulping our national forest.

This will be my final letter.

I will be sitting back in the twilight of my life to watch the fiascos unfold. I would like everyone to know that I have always opposed the total piecemeal destruction of our complete biodiversity through clearfelling, burning and the continuous poisoning of our wildlife from insects, bacteria, fungi, microbes, birds, carnivores to mammals and while not recognised or accepted, in some cases, humans. Aerial spraying leaves residues on shrubs and in puddles. Animals ingest these poisons in small doses when they clean their fur or have a drink. It does not kill them but as in humans it breaks down their immune systems, allowing other serious consequences. We should be testing for herbicides and insecticides as well.

I know from my own experiences that we have in Tasmania, highly-skilled, expierenced bushmen/hunters/shooters who have the ability to carry out organised culls that are humane and only target the required species. Where else in the world do they poison their wildlife? Once you upset the balance, commonsense is required and this sometimes needs a compromise or two. The problem with being an extremist is you invoke a similar response from those whom you oppose.

The skins could not show a bullet hole

As a 12-year-old, my father gave me a single shot .22 and an old two-cell torch to cut back the wallaby population that was attacking his oat crops. The skins could not show a bullet hole as they would be worthless, every shot to be a head shot. From my box of 50 bullets I proudly displayed my 49 skins. He was most impressed but wanted to know why I had wasted a bullet. It was that requirement from our heritage past that sets today’s bushmen apart.

As the winner of the Professor Harry Bloom Award 2000 for environmental excellence, I am sorry to report that its importance becomes more meaningless each year as I realise nothing is really changing. What changes there are, are only on the fringes and are full of carefully constructed motherhood statements and vague promises.

It started out like a new-born lamb and now resembles a carcass the crows have picked the eyes out of. I cannot believe the majority of Tasmanians support deliberate poisoning of nature’s animals and plants.

The Tasmania Together document is a classic example. It started out like a new-born lamb and now resembles a carcass the crows have picked the eyes out of. I cannot believe the majority of Tasmanians support deliberate poisoning of nature’s animals and plants.

Throughout my working life, I have done my best to make people aware and to be more brave and not display the fear which was so evident when we, a tiny population, were frightened away from receiving a staggering one-billion dollars for a review into saving some old-growth forests; we not only lost out on a workable senate but voted to accept a mandatory lock-up very nearly the same area for a paltry $5 million.

The job losses produced was only a furphy. I remember nearly 100 jobs being lost at the particle board mill Wesley Vale without so much as a whimper from the industry or the media. Many of our unemployed have left or dropped out into drugs and prostitution.

Gunns invests its profits into the wine industry, buying old homes, farming lands, sport and self-promotion against a competitor it doesn’t have, court cases etc. Why are they not required to invest in restructuring in sawmills, veneer, plyboard and apprenticeships. Gunns and Forestry Tasmania appear to control Labor and Liberal policy and with the help of Dick Adams, ALP, have unravelled the federal ALP.

Gunns invests its profits into the wine industry, buying old homes, farming lands, sport and self-promotion against a competitor it doesn’t have, court cases etc. Why are they not required to invest in restructuring in sawmills, veneer, plyboard and apprenticeships. Gunns and Forestry Tasmania appear to control Labor and Liberal policy and with the help of Dick Adams, ALP, have unravelled the federal ALP.

They have a clear plan to control conservationists spreading their net across a wide section of groups and individuals. It reminds me of the good old days when we could go netting on Baker’s Beach. Gunns are on the beach end controlling the operation; we do not really know who is in the water. They are like sand crabs, you can see them but when you move loser they pop down out of sight.

Deadly poisons

I can say that despite being spat on, verbally abused, a number of death threats, and two attempts, I have never been afraid.

Many people ask me why we now have palls of smoke over Tasmania in the autumn. My answer is in the beginning of the woodchipping, the residues from logging for veneer and sawlogs was chipped but since the Japanese demanded a high quality of chips, some lower grade sawlogs become chips. Further to this, the time taken for wood harvesters to clear a coup could not be tolerated, the area had to be put back into production quickly. The volumes of so-called waste has increased and burning is the cheapest and quickest way; everything else is poisoned off.

Eventually someone important will ask, “Where are the plantations of Celery-Top Pine and Myrtle, Sassafras, Leatherwood and other special trees.”

Initially the low-grade forest was thought to be the target for woodchips. These to be removed and replanted, not our pristine forests. Economics soon came into play.

Eventually someone important will ask, “Where are the plantations of Celery-Top Pine and Myrtle, Sassafras, Leatherwood and other special trees.”

I regret the loss of many of my friends over my stand on these issues but thankful to those who have supported me. I am saddened that we are locked in a future of deadly poisons.

This is my final correspondence and involvement on this thankless, sometimes threatening, above all hopeless situation. Age and illness have taken their toll (I am tired) but at least I have had my say …

John Reed is a fifth-generation Tasmanian Australian; Great-Great-Grandfather a bullock teamster and bushman; Grandfather a bushman, paling splitter and axeman; Father a farmer, axeman and woodcutter (Reed).

Great-Great Grandmother and Great-Great Grandfather came out in convict ships Eden, 1836 (male) – 1850 (female), later married when pardoned, raised 13 children in the bush and became farmers (Breward).

Great-Great Grandfather, a distiller of Scotch whiskey, Castlemaine, Victoria; Grandfather drove mail horse-drawn coaches Far North-West Coast and bullock teamster, King Island 1920s (Hart).

John Reed was also a former jockey in his youth; riding on all Tasmanian racetracks including King Island; played football on King Island, East Devonport, Exeter.

Published three books, Nugget’s Place, a short history, King Island, 1991. I Wouldn’t have Missed it for Quids, poems and some biography, 2001. Also one collection on biodiversity, Mersey River catchment, Living World of Warrawee, 2001.

*From John Reed’s book of poetry, Piece of Mind

Author Credits: [show_post_categories parent="no" parentcategory="writers" show = "category" hyperlink="yes"]
3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. editor

    February 20, 2005 at 4:54 am

    John Reed’s final letter was poignantly resigned, but his deep disillusionment is what a majority of Tasmanians need to share if this state is to be snatched from ruin.

    In 1998 Tasmanians elected as premier a former official from The Builders Laborers Federation, a union which had in the last phase of its existence become renowned for cutting deals with employers to sell out its members, culminating in the jailing of its leader, and its deregistration. Neither the Tasmanian Labor Party nor voters, not to mention the logging companies, seem to have had any qualms about this.

    The BLF’s successor, the CFMEU, has continued in much the some vein, seemingly untroubled by job losses, low pay, or poor conditions among forestry workers, but aroused to passion when Gunns’ access to public high-consrvation value forests seemed threatened in the last federal election. Forestry workers failed to twig even when the union threw in their lot with arch-enemy John Howard, or when Gunns director Robin Gray endorsed the Bacon government.

    A study of voting records reveals that the Labor Party, both state and federal, is on the side of big donations, whether from corporations or Judas unions. The disappearance of Tasmania’s plight from federal Labor’s agenda indicates how politically calculated it always was. Kim Beazley is quite aware of how indefensible the subsidised crash liquidation of Tasmanian forests is, and his silence eloquently demonstrates his concern.

    The first step to Tasmania’s deliverance will be a realisation that we have no government, and no mainstream media, we can trust. The second is a realisation that we, their prey, have the numbers to get rid of them. The Liberals’ surge in recent polls, however, suggests deliverance may be a vain hope.

    John Hayward
    Weegena

  2. Dave Groves

    February 18, 2005 at 2:35 pm

    Gidday to you John.

    I thank you for your effort in the face of so much adversity. I can’t add anything to the truth you write so beautifully.

    I am humbled by your insight and courage.

    It is people like you, that fight for honesty and truth and decency among people, that are a true blessing to this awesome place that we caretake.

    There is a groundswell of like souls that are moving to drive a wedge into the shadow of greed that is souring our land and poisoning its inhabitants.

    I trust we will have your strength and conviction.

    Love and happiness to you.
    Dave (Groves)

  3. Taz

    February 18, 2005 at 11:06 am

    I’m impressed by your thoughts on the matter John. Well done

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