Susan McMahon

So far about two and a half thousand people have registered their names on the Voters Block, and the aim is to have at least ten thousand register over the next few months. In marginal seats like Bass, a few thousand votes directed one way or another could make an enormous difference to the outcome. Bass has always been regarded as a ‘litmus’ seat, almost always held by the party which holds government.

AGAINST the beautiful backdrop of the Tamar’s upper reaches on June 5th, the community based group, TAP (Tasmanians Against the Pulp Mill) launched its Voters Block.

The initiators of this idea are the venerable Buck Emberg and Joan Dehle Emberg. Buck arrived in Tasmania 40 years ago and was astounded at the ease of access ordinary people had to their elected representatives. Since that time he has noticed a distinct erosion in that access, and as a result he feels that we are losing access to democracy itself. The way the state government has dealt with the pulp mill issue has confirmed this feeling of loss of democracy.

The Voters Block idea has been described by Bob McMahon, TAP media spokesman, as an exercise in ‘old-fashioned politics’ where voters in any electorate can register their names and pledge to not vote for any candidate at any level of politics — local, state and federal — who support the proposal to build a pulp mill in the Tamar Valley. People feel very strongly that their concerns in many areas of this proposal have not been heard by those elected to look after our interests, despite polls finding that the majority do NOT want this mill. This is one way to make our elected representatives take notice.

The first test for the Voters Block will be in the upcoming local government and federal elections later this year, and TAP plans to hold a series of public forums to gauge the attitudes of sitting members and candidates. The Voters Block is seen as a way of concentrating people’s attention on this crucial issue when they vote. They will not be advised on how to vote, but will be provided with a list of candidates and their stance on the pulp mill issue.

So far about two and a half thousand people have registered their names on the Voters Block, and the aim is to have at least ten thousand register over the next few months. In marginal seats like Bass, a few thousand votes directed one way or another could make an enormous difference to the outcome. Bass has always been regarded as a ‘litmus’ seat, almost always held by the party which holds government.

Several factors have acted as catalysts to community groups, such as TAP, feeling the need to call our politicians to account.
According to Bob McMahon, “Politicians have made decisions that will poison our air, pollute our waters, destroy our fishing industry, and devastate our food production capability by driving the conversion of our best farmland to plantations. These are dangerous people. They shouldn’t be allowed in the streets, let alone in the corridors of power, pretending they represent us.”

In his pulp mill speech to Parliament in October of 2004, Premier Paul Lennon promised:
“This will be a thorough approval process, a painstaking process. No stone will be left unturned. No voice will go unheard.”… “This is an inclusive exercise. We want the community to be involved and to be informed. We want the community to be inquisitive. We want the community to ask questions on matters it needs answered.”

What has changed since Paul Lennon made this speech? This Voters Block is one way the community has of insisting that its voice WILL be heard. In the words of Buck Emberg, “People power works. We will be going at this full bore”

Anybody concerned about the hatchet-job done on our democratic process with this pulp mill assessment fiasco is invited to register on the Voters Block. Details will be added to a confidential data-base until the pulp mill is defeated, after which they will be destroyed.

Register at angryvoterster@gmail.com
You can also phone 63944225 or 0400 995283