Tasmanian Times

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

Environment

Trouble at the mill (Part 2)

Mike Bolan How would you feel about anti-terror guidelines?

A ‘world scale’ pulp mill introduces resource depletion, infrastructure damage, health and environmental risks, business uncertainties and various hazards into a range of exposures in Northern Tasmania, all of which merit close attention and substantial care in their management and control. The net effect is a combination of potential threats that, inadequately controlled, could severely impact agriculture, tourism, fine foods and wine, recreation, fishing and rural communities. The economic effects of such impacts could easily exceed $25 billion over the mill’s life, with some impacts continuing for decades beyond and are thus well within the ambit of concern for businesses, communities and individual Tasmanians. What Tasmanians and businesses need is certainty about the control and prevention of effluents and other hazards from adversely affecting their lives and incomes.

Instead of openly discussing possible hazards and working with concerned industries and communities to establish whether, and where, a mill might work in Tasmania, the government has chosen a ‘fait accompli’ method incorporating a ‘trust the developer’ stance that is almost absurdly naïve and risky. Its processes place much of the decision making about impacts and their relevance into the hands of the project proponent, thus biasing the ‘approval’ process heavily in their favour. To take it further, we hear that the developer will also be responsible for monitoring their own performance, presumably reporting themselves to the regulator for corrective action. Another serious concern for many are the constant references to ‘guidelines’ when prudence dictates that regulations and laws would be more appropriate.

WITH any big industrial proposal it is normally considered essential to identify and manage the various risks so that existing industries, businesses and populations are not needlessly disadvantaged. A risk can be usefully understood as a potential negative impact that may arise from some current or future event. We cannot forsee the future, but we can try to assure that potential risks are controlled or eliminated. In circumstances where a risk could cause major problems, it is prudent to go to significant lengths to control them.

A ‘world scale’ pulp mill introduces resource depletion, infrastructure damage, health and environmental risks, business uncertainties and various hazards into a range of exposures in Northern Tasmania, all of which merit close attention and substantial care in their management and control. The net effect is a combination of potential threats that, inadequately controlled, could severely impact agriculture, tourism, fine foods and wine, recreation, fishing and rural communities. The economic effects of such impacts could easily exceed $25 billion over the mill’s life, with some impacts continuing for decades beyond and are thus well within the ambit of concern for businesses, communities and individual Tasmanians. What Tasmanians and businesses need is certainty about the control and prevention of effluents and other hazards from adversely affecting their lives and incomes.

Instead of openly discussing possible hazards and working with concerned industries and communities to establish whether, and where, a mill might work in Tasmania, the government has chosen a ‘fait accompli’ method incorporating a ‘trust the developer’ stance that is almost absurdly naïve and risky. Its processes place much of the decision making about impacts and their relevance into the hands of the project proponent, thus biasing the ‘approval’ process heavily in their favour. To take it further, we hear that the developer will also be responsible for monitoring their own performance, presumably reporting themselves to the regulator for corrective action. Another serious concern for many are the constant references to ‘guidelines’ when prudence dictates that regulations and laws would be more appropriate.

Tax subsidies were paid to the proponent, a tax funded promotional bus was used and a government taskforce was established to assist in the promotion. At the same time, the public was refused access to any financial support to mount objections or to test the validity of the proponent’s claims, or to produce scientific evidence of their concerns, further distorting the process in favour of the proponent and fuelling further community suspicion of government intentions and relationships.

Almost as soon as the project was announced and before the full risks were understood, local councils, the state opposition and the federal government and opposition stated total support for the project, denying communities access to unbiased representation except through self-funded submissions to a quasi-legal body that is not accountable to the public in any way. This created more distortion against the public and their interests.

Don’t mention Martin Bryant strategy

The overwhelming impression is of a government trying to mute objections from the community and trying to assure that the project is approved, regardless of the merits of differing views or the risks to other industries and communities. This view is reinforced by the ritual exclusion of the ‘world scale’ impacts of ‘world scale’ logging on farming, rural communities and water catchments.

The fact that the RPDC’s process is so rigidified and that decisions cannot be appealed despite their potential to have profound consequences on the lives and investments of so many Tasmanians, indicates a process that creates needless risk, particularly given the limited expertise, size and budget of the RPDC itself.

The structure of the RPDC clearly limits its ability to respond to public concerns, and the Commission is, in many ways, limited by information provided by the project proponent … “What information the proponent provides in response to the broad requirement of the guidelines is a matter for the proponent” is a telling quote. Far from being ‘independent’, it is clear that the Commission is highly dependent upon the proponent for information and impact definition. The RPDC includes a representative from the pulp and paper industry but no representative for the community despite the fact that it is the community who must suffer all of the impacts and pay for the entire process.

Given the global history of social and ecological disasters associated with pulp mills, the scope and nature of the risks are truly frightening for many industries and groups. The government response of ‘don’t worry… be happy’ fails entirely to deal with peoples’ genuine concerns. Their ‘don’t mention Martin Bryant’ strategy doesn’t help either when they refuse to look at the more serious consequences of ‘world scale’ logging and plantation land and water use on a small island with many existing businesses reliant on tourists interested in nature and farms and communities reliant on water supplies.

Overall, the scale and location of the proposal, the risks to other industries, the government’s inane ‘happy talk’, the closed doors of taxpayer representation and the absolute lack of government support to help the community to articulate and advance their concerns, all conspire to create an impression of democratic collapse and a domination of political party agendas by one industry regardless of the expense to other industries and communities. Does the federal government imagine that this process would be appropriate for other large projects, like nuclear power stations, for example?

The American revolution was started because Americans had taxation but no representation. That is not a circumstance likely to be tolerated for long in Australia. It is a condition that should not be tolerated in any open economy that relies on business confidence and stability for investment. Overall the threats presented by this process strike at the heart of the federal/state system in John Howard’s Australia.

Tuesday, Jan 9: Pulp mill in wrong place

Earlier: Trouble at the mill (Part 1)

And: Age, Saturday: Trouble at Gunns mill

And: Putt fires up pulp mill row

And, That share price:
Latest Stock Market detail: Here

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5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Mike Bolan

    January 8, 2007 at 1:20 pm

    David,

    The quote is from the RPDC determination of the directions hearing, it is on their web site and relates to the Wilderness Society submission.

  2. john Hayward

    January 7, 2007 at 10:53 pm

    Mr Bolan’s extensive inventory of faults and omissions in the pulp mill approval process is generated wholly from the public’s envious perspective, which is manifestly not that of the government/Gunns.

    Seen from that of the latter, it is a thing of almost childlike simplicity and beauty. It is a shame Bolan can’t at least vicariously enjoy the miraculous luck of our winners, Gay, Lennon, etc..

    John Hayward

  3. Brenda Rosser

    January 7, 2007 at 1:50 pm

    Yes. Australians have almost completely lost access to ‘representative’ government. The following article: ‘Militarism and U.S. Trade Policy’ by Dave Ranney at http://www.fpif.org should go a long way to explain the process by which this problem has evolved since the 1970s.

    Local democracy is in complete opposition to current economic globalisation.

    Globalisation in its current form is a process of economic and military domination shaped by large corporations in league with (mostly) Western Governments. It’s intellectual form is ‘corporatist’, an ideology that really doesn’t place any value on democratic processes and seeks to implement a new form of order that harks back to that of the medieval hierarchical one.

    Corporatism favours administrative power sharing by (only those powerful) interest groups. The ‘public good’ is denied and ignored whilst the controlled mainstream media bombards us with a lot of false rhetoric about ‘individualism’ when power is actually imposed by the use of collective conformity after individuals are disempowered through legislative Acts and Government policies.

    Democracy would demand the dismantling of the RPDC and the restructuring of State and Federal laws so that local people have the ability to shape and veto, if necessary, any industrial operation that may have a significant impact on their life and wellbeing. Critically we should begin by ‘unfloating’ the Australian dollar and re-regulating the financial industry.

    “Once a nation parts with the control of its currency and credit, it matters not who makes the nations laws. Usury, once in control, will wreck any nation. Until the control of the issue of currency and credit is restored to government and recognized as its most sacred responsibility, all talk of the sovereignty of parliament and of democracy is idle and futile. ”
    William Lyon Mackenzie King

  4. Tomas

    January 7, 2007 at 1:38 pm

    I am not sure whether the point on who paid for what is relevant. State governments want big business. They do what they can to support big business. The Tasmanian people voted for a majority Government who would support big business. It’s a simple fact of modern life, and the opposing view does not (currently) have the weight of public opinion behind it. Otherwise, people would have voted against the Government the last time around. Of course, public money went into the project, because the Government believes there will be a major economic benefit and there will be a positive vibe for other potential capital investments in the State. It’s pretty simple really.

  5. David Obendorf

    January 7, 2007 at 12:28 pm

    Mike, thank you for this contribution to the Tasmanian Pulp Mill debate.

    Could you tell Tasmanian Times readers which organisation or individual made the quote: “What information the proponent provides in response to the broad requirement of the guidelines is a matter for the proponent”?

    Has anyone calculated the quantum of tax-payer money spent by the State and Commionwealth government on supporting the Gunns proposal, or given to the proponent or used to promote this single proposal?

    Any thoughts on the activities and role of TCCI, Forest Industries Council, Tasmanian Tourism Council, Tamar valley municipal councils as public organisation (either as lobbyists or opponents) in this debate?

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