Tasmanian Times

Environment

The acid on Rudd

Peter Henning

The attempt by the Bacon government, with the support of a supine, surrogate opposition, to destroy such voices in the political domain by reducing the size of the House of Assembly, failed dismally. Lennon’s Labor government and its Liberal alternative are both deeply unpopular. Their neo-liberal model at federal level, the Howard “brutopia”, as Kevin Rudd has described it, has finally been rejected by a majority of the Australian people. This in itself is cause for hope, as is Rudd’s new rhetoric.

Rudd has written that “neo-liberals reject the legitimacy of altruistic values that go beyond direct self-interest. When costs… threaten to affect economic self-interest, however, they often seek to externalize them and transfer them to the state”. Rudd’s support of the pulp mill is in direct contravention of what he has written about the dangers of neo-liberal free-market fundamentalism. He needs to be continually reminded of this. Further, he needs to be reminded that the neo-liberalism in action which he condemns is exactly what is happening in Tasmania under the Lennon government, but with the government as instigator, as collaborator, in the transfer of taxpayers money in subsidies to corporate interests, to the detriment of – and let us use Kevin Rudd’s words again – “the identification of key public goods, including education, health, the environment and the social safety net”.

Many Australians voted for Rudd on the basis of hope for a new direction, not for more of the same, and in the hope that he would bring a new honesty to public life, that he could be trusted. Before the election he wrote that “there must be a new premium attached to truth in public life”. He cannot have it both ways. His government’s continued support for the mill will come at the cost of his credibility about his stated core political beliefs, especially his rejection of neo-liberalism.
TASMANIAN ACADEMIC and public intellectual Pete Hay ( author, most recently, in collaboration with photographer Matthew Newton, of The Forests (The Angel of History) ), had this to say in December 2006:

“The first duty of the democratic citizen is to defend her place. To defend it, for example, against the life- and place-destructive technologies ordered without your leave into your home valleys and foothills by men with maps and computer simulations, and claiming the fake authority of democratic ritual, as opposed to the real authority of democratically-lived citizenship, and membership of place and its living communities.” ( The governments’ contempt )

The “democratic ritual” that Hay refers to is “the regular elections between two bland and homogenized political parties”, which allows, for example in Tasmania, “that the forests that cradle the island’s very soul continue to be trashed even though survey after survey confirms that 70-80% of voters want to see an end to the destruction of the clearfells, though lacking the requisite courage of their convictions, most of them, to vote accordingly.”

It is a system which guarantees passively acquiescent voters, “timid, easily-spooked, but well-meaning folk”, and they vote in droves for policies they say they don’t support.

Other voices have been raised against this passivity, the “relaxed and comfortable” retreat from political engagement, which John Howard promoted to consolidate his narrow and banal vision through a decade of lost opportunities in all areas of public policy, and which like-minded state politicians on both sides of the phony party-divide, such as Tasmania’s Paul Lennon, have rushed to emulate, if not surpass.

One such voice, journalist and cartoonist Michael Leunig, also writing in 2006, is scathing. He reminds readers of the behaviour of Australians during the Vietnam War, and asks specifically in relation to the large anti-war marches in 1970, “Where were you all five years ago when it really mattered?”, in other words before the massive loss of life and destruction. And so, to 2006. “Now it happens again – the all-powerful Australian swinger-people have changed their minds and are rejecting the war in Iraq. After having endorsed it at the ballot box they are now disowning it in the opinion polls … What has taken the swinging people so long?”.

In the aftermath of the 2007 federal election we can see it all again. Tasmania is an exemplary microcosm because it had a dominant local issue. In the weeks and months leading up to the election it was clear in poll after poll that a majority of Tasmanians were opposed to Gunns’ proposed pulp mill being built in the Tamar Valley. But even though there was a surge of support for anti-mill candidates, particularly in most booths in Bass and Lyons close to the mill site, but also throughout Tasmania, the basic shape of the vote for the major parties, which were back-slappingly unified as a single party in support of the mill, was much the same as usual.

In other words, quite a large number of people who said they were opposed to the pulp mill in the Tamar Valley, and lived in Launceston and the Tamar Valley itself, voted for a party which ardently and vociferously endorsed it. They gave their imprimatur to the new Rudd government to claim an electoral mandate for the mill to be built.

This can be clearly demonstrated by the example of the Georgetown municipality on the East Tamar, dominated by Georgetown itself, a town which will be directly affected in many ways if the mill is built. In the federal election, the combined vote of the pro-mill ALP and Liberal Parties in the municipality (booths at Georgetown, Georgetown South, Hillwood, Pipers River and Weymouth) was 81%, and the vote for the anti-mill Greens and Independent Sven Wiener was just over 16%. In the recent elector poll in the municipality, 48% of those who voted thought the mill would have an adverse impact on the social, environmental and economic well-being of the residents of the Tamar Valley, and 52% thought it wouldn’t. But more than 30% of eligible voters didn’t bother to cast a ballot, either because they didn’t have an opinion, could not care either way, or decided that the issue was not important enough to them. So what we can really know from all this is that about a third of all eligible voters in the municipality are opposed to the mill and about 36% support it. About half of the 33% who indicated opposition to the mill in the elector poll clearly did not vote that way in the federal election. They did the opposite. They voted for a party whose views about the pulp mill they disagreed with.

The retreat from democracy is not just about people deserting their convictions or their consciences when they enter the polling booth. An associated aspect of the malaise is that the mutual responsibility of both electors and elected to be informed, to understand that “representation” is a two-way street, has broken down. Those Georgetown voters, more than 30% of the total, who scrapped their ballots rather than participate in the elector poll on the pulp mill, give some indication of the dimension of the problem.

Another indication is that Tasmanians in the 2007 federal election voted overwhelmingly for politicians who have no concern about any of the impacts of the pulp mill on them or future generations. They voted for politicians who have ignored all independent expertise and advice, from economists to scientists, from doctors to former members of the sidelined state RPDC, and of course they voted for politicians who have ignored hundreds of public submissions. Except for Bob Brown, not one of the other five elected senators and not one of the five MHRs has demonstrated any concern about the full range of issues, including resource sustainability, water usage, MIS schemes and plantations, affects on river catchments, agriculture, tourism, marine environment, health of people and other species, assessment process, subsidies to the proponent, increased logging and transport hazards, air and water pollution, climate change and competition with mills coming on line in Malaysia, South America and Russia.

A further example illustrates the nature of the problem. At about the time of the 2007 election, a recently retired senior teacher, who had held high leadership positions in Launceston secondary schools, a long-time resident of Launceston, well-respected, well-read and reputedly well informed, surprised several of his former colleagues by informing them that he had a “neutral position” on the pulp mill issue because in his view, and in his words, “I cannot see how it will have any effect on me”.

This “elector” goes beyond the boundaries of the timid and the easily spooked, as described by Pete Hay, and presents as selfish, uninformed, and lacking empathy, in some ways a neater fit with the dilemma of Leunig’s concern – perhaps one of those who will speak out when it is all too late and the damage is irreparable. But obviously in his case, only when his cosy suburban existence, such as the quality of his water supply, is under threat.

Now for the “elected”, or in this case, a sitting MHR about to be defeated. Michael Ferguson, Liberal member for Bass, was fond of lamenting in the weeks leading up to the election that the pulp mill issue was shaping as a personal disaster for him, because preferences from the predicted increased Green vote would likely flow strongly to the Labor candidate. This would destroy his “career”, as he put it, almost as soon as he’d begun it. Ferguson was already on record as saying to a British journalist, without irony or embarrassment, that he had not visited the site for the proposed mill, in his electorate. Ferguson’s failure to represent the interests of his constituents who might be adversely affected by the mill was absolute and complete. His main interest in the mill was the effect on his personal political career.

The dangers of this sort of political culture have become all too apparent in Australia during the Howard era, and in Tasmania they are no less obvious. It is a culture which promotes a narrowness of vision, a shutting down of alternative opinion and discussion, and a condemnation of dissent. In this culture politicians’ self-serving careerist ambitions can only be pursued within the cloying but comforting confines of the party system of caucus solidarity. Conscience and principle are best left out of the equation. The experiences of Ben Quin, on the Liberal side, and Terry Martin on the Labor side, in challenging the party line on the pulp mill, on grounds of principle, are testimony to that during 2007. Both were warned by their party hierarchy to conform, and when no longer party members, both were vilified by their former colleagues. Lisa Singh only preserved her “career” prospects within the ALP by agreeing not to vote as her conscience urged.

But if all courage is a form of constancy, courage of conviction is no less so. Once personal principles and ethical standards are compromised other betrayals come more easily. Quin and Martin have bolstered their standing and reputation within the community. They are highly regarded for their honesty. They are trusted because they have placed principle before personal career and the comfort afforded by “caucus solidarity”. They refused to abdicate their sense of individual moral responsibility by continuing an obedience to the dictates of party conformity.

Political careerism has merged with the gross ossification of caucus conformism to produce a culture where those who put their moral convictions above loyalty to party become exposed to a particularly vicious wrath of ostracism and abuse. Former Liberal Premier and Gunns director Robin Gray was vitriolic and savage in his public attack on Ben Quin, and Terry Martin was forced to endure a similar character assassination from the ALP leadership.

These political parties are nowhere more united than in their own narrow focus on self-preservation above all else, for it is that, and that alone, which sustains lengthy political careers and the rewards of office. Obedience to party has become more important than representation of the electorate, and this model has been strengthened during the Howard years and is now the dominant feature of Australian parliamentary practice at state and federal level. In this way democracy is subverted, diminished and threatened from within.

Once representation ceases to be the central focus of political activity, and loses its sense of mutuality between elector and elected, it becomes easy to ignore the needs of others and to dismiss their claims to equal value. It becomes easy for politicians not to look, or as Judith Wright has said in another context, “not to learn to look”, but to be blinkered by a self-protective evasion. Michael Ferguson saw no need to look at the Longreach site, others see no need to visit the valuable niche agricultural enterprises at Rowella just adjacent across the Tamar, nor to look at the clearfelling in the river catchments.

Just as disturbing, in stifling dissent and promoting its own narrow vision, it is a political culture which is equally as vicious towards critical voices from within the general community as it is to dissenters within its own ranks. When Richard Flanagan commented, in 2005, in an article on the close relationship between the Tasmanian government and Gunns, he was labeled a traitor in the Tasmanian Parliament by then Minister for Forestry, Bryan Green, and publicly informed that he was not welcome in Tasmania by the Premier. People who have raised legitimate concerns about the likely adverse affects of the pulp mill have been branded as “extremists”. Some people in northern Tasmania who oppose the mill are too frightened to speak out or reveal their identity because they fear retribution.

Perhaps most dangerous of all, it is a political culture which treats alternative visions with contempt and derision, gratuitously ignoring or rejecting any specialist or expert knowledge that contradicts policy positions. At the height of the controversy during 2007, after Gunns withdrew from the RPDC process and the Tasmanian Parliament arrogated to itself both the expert “planning” role and the decision-making responsibility, a clear abrogation of due process, all Tasmanian politicians of both major parties, both state and federal, paid no attention to any information provided by independent analysts.

One typically absurd failure of this kind occurred when Tourism Minister Paula Wriedt professed complete ignorance of possible negative impacts of the mill on the Tamar Valley’s lucrative tourism industry, including world class niche vineyards, restaurants and other enterprises, denying all knowledge of the warnings provided by Professor Eduardo Jaramillo, a Chilean academic experienced in the hazards of pulp mill disasters in estuarine locations, including leadership of a team of 30 scientists to investigate the environmental destruction caused by the Chilean Valdivian pulp mill. Jaramillo had visited Tasmania in December 2006, his recommendations were well publicized, and he was scrupulously ignored by politicians. Another politician, an “independent” MLC, responded to all communications from the public about their concerns with a copy of Gunns’ impact statement, a loud and direct statement of his allegiance and political alliance.

This total failure of political due diligence, from both Leunig’s “all-powerful Australian swinger-people” and all current state and federal Liberal and Labor politicians, well documented and described by writers such as Mike Bolan over the past year or so, has been aided and abetted by the most influential newspaper in northern Tasmania, the Launceston Examiner. The paper has adopted an unashamedly uncritical editorial stance totally supporting the proponent.

The editorial staff of the Examiner would do well to consider what they could learn by having a look at the clearfelling in the river catchments for Launceston’s water supply. After all, on 20 January 2008 they editorialized as follows: “Most of the silt that gets deposited in the Tamar comes from outside the municipality (of Launceston), either as result of historical flooding or increased forestry activity”. Their solution. Taxpayers should foot the bill for cleaning up the Tamar.

What of the clearfelling? The logic of the Examiner’s support for the pulp mill is that clearfelling continues, and in fact accelerates, and that taxpayers pay to clean up the mess, and not just for dredging the Tamar, but for cheap wood supplies from “government owned” Forestry Tasmania, for transport infrastructure and or for 26-40 million gigalitres of free water annually.

In 1946, Pulitzer Prize winning author, Robert Penn Warren, wrote his iconic book, All The King’s Men, perhaps the definitive novel of American political morality, its corruptions, power, privilege and guilt. It should be read by all Tasmanian politicians, especially those who cling to the notion that representation of the people and the protection of their environment, their health and well-being, is somehow secondary to their own career aspirations and the interests of their party.

Warren had this to say in 1946:

“There were pine trees here a long time ago but they are gone. The bastards got in here and set up the mills and laid the narrow-gauge tracks and knocked together the company commissaries and paid a dollar a day… Till, all of a sudden, there weren’t any more pine trees. They stripped the mills. The narrow-gauged tracks got covered with grass. Folks tore down the commissaries for kindling wood. There wasn’t any more dollar a day. The big boys were gone, with diamond rings on their fingers and broadcloth on their back. But a good many of the folks stayed right on, and watched the gullies cut deeper into the red clay.”

Which brings us to the well-known position of the proponent. It was neatly encapsulated at Gunns’ 2007 AGM in responses to two questions. The company directors were asked whether there had been “a cost-benefit analysis in relation to the impacts of the mill”. The answer was an unequivocal “Yes” from John Gay, not added to or contradicted by any other director or senior manager present. Gunns has not completed a cost-benefit analysis. It has done a benefits-only analysis. That fact has been underscored by several independent analyses, the latest by the National Institute for Economy and Industry Research, which has concluded that the costs to the Tasmanian economy will most likely outweigh the benefits, from between $300 million to $1 billion dollars.

The second question related to how air pollution could be avoided in the Tamar Valley, with its well-known atmospheric inversion character. The answer, from a senior manager, was that the volume, speed and heat of the emissions “would punch through” the inversion layer. Where it would then disperse was not considered worthy of comment.

The costs cannot be ignored, for whether they be defined narrowly as social, economic or environmental, they are all intertwined. They go to the heart of ecological responsibility, which is no longer an option, no longer an “inconvenient truth”. It is an essential, or rather, the essential.

Those who turn away from this most basic of fundamentals, for their various reasons, who refuse to look, who prefer not to look, who do not want to look, or just cannot see – whether they be voters, politicians, journalists, workers, business leaders, union leaders, institutional investors, bankers and others – are all deliberately or thoughtlessly promoting their own detachment, isolation, lack of connection and lack of empathy. Moreover, they are ignoring the costs.

Without an understanding of costs there can be no comprehension, no real capacity to see future consequences of all kinds, including the ethical and humane.

There are alternatives to this diminished and impoverished Hobbesian state of affairs. As Mike Bolan has said, “Denying responsibility neatly denies us a useful role in the development of our society”. Looking away produces by default a drift towards the kind of political system Hobbes advocated in 1651 in Leviathan, where the ruler owed no responsibility to those who chose him, except to keep the peace, and he had an absolute right to legislate whatever he liked.

Both the debate and action for alternatives are gathering pace and strength. There are increasing numbers of people whose vision for Tasmania’s future is not one which will abide the relentless degrading of our greatest assets, the irreplaceable and diverse assets of the island’s very ecology, and will not abide the relentless downgrading of health and education services, and will not abide the relentless destruction of our capacity to produce clean and healthy food.

The attempt by the Bacon government, with the support of a supine, surrogate opposition, to destroy such voices in the political domain by reducing the size of the House of Assembly, failed dismally. Lennon’s Labor government and its Liberal alternative are both deeply unpopular. Their neo-liberal model at federal level, the Howard “brutopia”, as Kevin Rudd has described it, has finally been rejected by a majority of the Australian people. This in itself is cause for hope, as is Rudd’s new rhetoric.

Rudd has written that “neo-liberals reject the legitimacy of altruistic values that go beyond direct self-interest. When costs… threaten to affect economic self-interest, however, they often seek to externalize them and transfer them to the state”. Rudd’s support of the pulp mill is in direct contravention of what he has written about the dangers of neo-liberal free-market fundamentalism. He needs to be continually reminded of this. Further, he needs to be reminded that the neo-liberalism in action which he condemns is exactly what is happening in Tasmania under the Lennon government, but with the government as instigator, as collaborator, in the transfer of taxpayers money in subsidies to corporate interests, to the detriment of – and let us use Kevin Rudd’s words again – “the identification of key public goods, including education, health, the environment and the social safety net”.

Many Australians voted for Rudd on the basis of hope for a new direction, not for more of the same, and in the hope that he would bring a new honesty to public life, that he could be trusted. Before the election he wrote that “there must be a new premium attached to truth in public life”. He cannot have it both ways. His government’s continued support for the mill will come at the cost of his credibility about his stated core political beliefs, especially his rejection of neo-liberalism.

But there is a new mood in Australia, a new sense of optimism that more inclusive, other-regarding opportunities are emerging. There is cause for hope, as a new generation of able Green political activists gain seats in municipal councils, and Greens continue to be elected to the other tiers of government with strengthened support, and as people like Ben Quin and Terry Martin provide models, in their courage to represent. There is cause for hope because a host of Tasmanians across all walks of life (for example in local community organizations such as TAP), are becoming more influential in shaping discourse and encouraging activism, and because the voices of prominent professionals, such as lawyers, writers – including a growing chorus of journalists, primary producers, and businessmen are now being heard, not just locally, but across the nation and internationally.

There will always be those with a Hobbesian will to impose silence and obliterate diversity and debate, as there will always be those willing to “sell their souls and live with good conscience on the proceeds”, to quote Leunig again. But, to repeat, those who would promote abdication of personal responsibility, abdication of mutual obligation and representation in political life, and abdication from a meaningful and humane social contract, are promoting an ill-informed, disengaged, disconnected, and uncomprehending citizenry, the antithesis to real democracy.

Such failure has been described by another Pulitzer Prize winning novelist, Cormac McCarthy, renowned for his uncompromising exploration of the extremes of human behaviour and morality. In 1992, in his epic novel, All the Pretty Horses, McCarthy had this to say:

“No creature can learn that which his heart has no shape to hold.”

Only an informed, active citizenry can overcome this dilemma. Let us conclude where we started, with some paraphrased wisdom from Pete Hay. Only an informed, active citizenry can promote “a vision of democracy that mandates ethically-imbued rather than merely selfish public activity”.

Peter Henning lives and works on the land in the Tamar Valley, sharing the place with diverse permanent residents, including wallabies, pademelons, bandicoots, swallows, wrens, parrots and other native birds. Four wedge tail eagles and other raptors are welcome regular visitors, signaling their arrival with their distinctive calls to each other

Earlier: Peter Henning

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30 Comments

30 Comments

  1. Ian Rist

    March 29, 2008 at 11:35 pm

    Yes Don, same game different pawns.

  2. don davey

    March 29, 2008 at 11:35 am

    Christ ! will it never end, some fruit loop asked bush if he considered and would call Rudd a “MAN OPF STEEL” (as he did little Johnnie ) “of course” quipped “the mouth from the south”.

    Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeell ! whats the betting on the jounalist being an Australian ! what,s more ! on Rudd’s entourage !

    Oh, dear ! the good old ” awwwstraylun cultural cringe” is alive and well !

    How bloody “embarrassment” is that ?
    heh,heh,

    d.d.

  3. don davey

    March 28, 2008 at 2:39 am

    (26)
    Well ! i could apologise for that one , but i won’t ! because obviously he had the intentions until he was shut down, now ! what’s the latest ? pray tell ! journalists now , have to get some sort of a govt pass in order to get on to aboriginal missions to do their job !

    No doubt about it Rudd lover’s ! he’s off to a flying start ! not withstanding Bush’s comments on his arrival in the U.S, then again ! who cares what that “Red Neck’s” got to say.
    d.d.

  4. ted Sands

    March 27, 2008 at 10:33 pm

    Just to advise response from the office of Erin Brockovich delay in responding to email dated 17.3.08 due to family crisis,response and email review will be delayed. I believe if Erin is able to assist as she is doing for the people in WA against alcoa it will be of benefit. Ted LCC

  5. don davey

    March 7, 2008 at 10:59 pm

    Well Rudd lovers, just over 100 days and he’s taking the carers bonus, and now the 500 dollar payment to pensioners , who incidently happen to be the most neglected lot in society ! so i don,t need to wait 12—-18 months before saying “i told you so” and believe me i derive no pleasure from that at all, Bloody typical labor! shit on the the most
    vulnerable !
    d.d.

  6. don davey

    February 26, 2008 at 10:47 am

    Well! i stand corrected ! assuming that the news reports can be believed, Rudd has stuck it to the Tassie Gunnerment in ensuring that they spend the $50,000,000 given for northern health ,to exactly to which it was earmarked ,now that is a step in the right direction from pollies who have for years disenchanted the population and have become used to taking these threats with a pinch if salt !
    One hopes it is not just an idle threat.
    d.d.

  7. Justa Bloke

    February 24, 2008 at 12:44 pm

    Tomas (#21), I’ve always believed that ‘Tasmania’s future is one as an oversized nursing home with crumbling infrastructure.’

    That’s the bits that aren’t covered with exotic plantation timbers (although there won’t be enough water for timber plantations to be sustainable in the really long term).

    I also think, however, that we can delay that sort of future by resisting the short-term, delusionary ‘development’ that the pulp mill is an example of. I want my great-grandchildren to have at least the option of working locally, even if they are smart enough to go elsewhere.

    The point is that when I’m ready for incarceration in that nursing home I want it to be a damn sight more pleasant to inhabit than the other places I’ve been incarcerated in over the years. I want the handful of remaining local vineyards, fishing boats, farms and gardens to provide me with quality produce.

    Oh, and it would be an added bonus to have air I can breathe and water I can drink.

  8. Richard Barton

    February 23, 2008 at 10:29 pm

    Tomas asks “Should a ‘good crowd’ thwart the will of State and Federal Government in their support of the mill?”

    Thwart the will of the government?

    What about representative democracy?

    What about the views of the people paying all the bills, the taxpayer?

    Your dictatorial ideas are part of the problem Tomas.

  9. Rocky

    February 22, 2008 at 12:45 am

    Thank you Peter for your effort and ‘to the point’ article. Your clarity and your factual presentation has given me a much needed lift in the light of the local devastion taking place here where I live. What you have written must go further and be presented to the wider public. How richer could our lives and community be if your ‘sword’ of truth were allowed to slice away the dross, collusion and corruption that riddles this State.
    As for Tomas, his credibility may gain some credence the day that he presents an equally succint and informative article as Peter’s.

    I won’t be holding my breath!

  10. Tomas

    February 22, 2008 at 12:16 am

    #20 – Steve – you are right, it really isn’t a small crowd motivated against the mill, but is it enough to stop it?, and will the wider masses care? Should a ‘good crowd’ thwart the will of State and Federal Government in their support of the mill? I personally feel the mill issue has done most of its dash, but I could be wrong. It makes not difference to me if there is a mill, smelter or power plant on the Tamar (or a number of B&Bs;and boutique wineries for that matter) – it is the one-sided, factually bereft and truth twisting that goes on that irritates me. Not so much for the poor residents of the Tamar (who would want a mill for a view?), but the variety of conservation forces and latte-sippers (Hobart is full of them) who are using the mill for a wider anti-forestry, classist and cultural campaign to turn Tasmania into a place for the ‘enlightened’ minority. Ultimately, it isn’t the wood-mill-trucks-etc issue that interests me, but the deeper cultural and class issues, driven by a bunch of people who believe they are remote from the bread-and-butter issues of the State’ s economy and productivity. And that is fine if you believe that Tasmania’s future is one as an oversized nursing home with crumbling infrastructure.

  11. Steve

    February 21, 2008 at 2:31 pm

    8; Tomas, I don’t think you are entirely correct in stating that opposition is to this mill is limited. In recent times I seem to have had a run of people happily paying me to visit other parts of Australia and everywhere I go the story’s the same. “Oh, you come from Tasmania; are you anywhere near the mill?” I’m not sure it’s vote changing stuff for people elsewhere but they all seem to know and they all have very negative opinions, both on the process and the concept. The difference is that they state their views freely without the nervousness exhibited by Tasmanians when discussing the subject.
    If for no other reason, this project should be canned for what it’s doing to free speech. It’s disgusting that people should be so nervous at expressing negative views of a private (or public for that matter) development. Mind you, I don’t deny they have just cause to be nervous! With your recent about face, perhaps you already know this??

    If you want the answer to the lack of votes, just look at the anti-greenie campaign that’s been run in Tasmania for years. Much of the population would cut their hand off before they’d vote Green. There’s a good reason why the mill promoters have consistently referred to anyone opposed as greenies, despite the obvious lack of justification for such statements. It’s an old tactic because it works.
    By the way, I don’t know if you were there, but there was quite a good crowd gathered in Hobart a while back objecting to this mill. Trust me, there was more than a “small group of opposed Tamar residents and associated tree huggers”.

  12. don davey

    February 21, 2008 at 2:14 am

    Nice piece Peter, what a pity it wont get a run in the local rags! not sure that i am a great supporter of the greens as they have done considerable damage in the past.

    In my opinion ,”EVERYTHING” cannot be locked up! i disagreed with their Peddar stance ,as i did the Franklin river, locking up the south west and indirectly putting the kybosh on the Mt Wellington cable car ! because if Tasmania is to survive it needs to put all of it’s energy into tourism ! an industry which takes NOTHING from the environment as compared to logging.

    There are problems with mining ! yet if it is carried out sensitively and correctly, it,s affects will be confined only ! to a relatively small area ,visible only from the air , and should be encouraged.

    The Wellington was a huge tourist attraction ,LOST ! due to a few chardonay swilling snivel libertarians . This attraction would rival many of the worlds best and would attract many cruise ships ! and would have no adverse affects on the environment, as has been the case for many years in other parts of the world.!

    In light of global warming and the water problems faced ,the Peddar result should now be seen as a good decision ,yet Brown would drain the thing ! and as i have stated before open the magnificent South West for everyone to see !(not just those few hiker’s who in the main spend Zilch!) with roads and or rail so that the state can be circumnavigated without the need to backtrack.

    Encourage the building of holiday destinations such as that on Bruny Island,and Coles bay etc ,as the objections to these things are usually by holiday home owners with vested interests, for instance, at Coles bay there is a considerable stretch of excellent waterfront which has been locked up for the exclusive use of those whose homes front the beach, this is not only selfish but i think illegal ! as to my knowledge no one can be denied access to waterfront where ever it may be.

    Of course Tourism can have some drawbacks! but we have to be sensible and take the path of least resistance and as little damage as possible, none of which will affect the state,s natural beauty which should remain essentially untouched.
    d.d.

  13. Charles and Claire Gilmour

    February 20, 2008 at 11:43 am

    (16) Tomas said, “I welcome you to our small but effective club”.

    Well there you have it folks, straight from the small club’s media spokesman’s finger tips.

    Thought your lot were trying to convince people you were a majority? Christ your lot have been changing tack so much in the last couple of years it’s no wonder that spinnaker keeps falling down and is getting ripped to shreds. Have to agree with you that your club has been effective in the past, effectively conning and beating the daylights out of any natural tendency to properly protect the natural world that sustains us all.

    But ladder climbing middle men live for the stroke. They can’t help themselves but stroke their own egos by sometimes telling their tales of associations, that phone call, that lunch meeting etc. As the saying goes, all comes out in the wash eventually. Be careful of those splinters on the way down!

  14. Justa Bloke

    February 19, 2008 at 5:56 pm

    The only clubs I’ve ever had anything to do with have been the ones with which police officers have hit me. I am opposed to Mr Cousins’s plans for Crescent Beach and I couldn’t give a stuff if he therefore changed his mind on the pulp mill, although I doubt that he’s stupid enough to change his mind because of what other people think.

    Stopping this mill will be a first step towards a turning point for the Tasmanian economy. What will be needed after that is a series of ventures that will genuinely benefit the state, not just be popular because a politician decided to spend millions of taxpayer funds on promotion.

    It’s not only a handful of green wankers that oppose the mill, and just because they do doesn’t automatically make it OK to support it.

  15. Tomas

    February 19, 2008 at 3:07 pm

    #14Rick – I welcome you to our small but effective club. We have yet to meet, of course, but be assured that when we do there will be scones and a cup of tea to help lubricate our dastardly plans to impose rational thought on our fellow Tasmanians.

  16. Charles and Claire Gilmour

    February 19, 2008 at 1:01 pm

    (13) Grappling at short straws Tomas. Not much left for the millatree boys club to argue with anymore. The science, the facts, the world wide reality, is a heavy cloud hanging over political forces. And it’s going to rain very hard on the ‘club’ in the not too distant future – regardless of how many of the general public are still deceived or can’t be bothered seeing the reality of Tassies situation.

    Crowds ‘pick leaders to follow’
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/main.jhtml?xml=/earth/2008/02/14/scisheep114.xml

    “The results published today show that it takes a minority of just 5 per cent of what they called “informed individuals” to influence the direction of a crowd of a minimum of 200 people. The remaining herd of 95 per cent follow without realising it”

    This is what the ‘club’ have been playing on for years. Using the same drill propaganda to try and indoctrinate the public to their way of thinking. (The reason they had to get the mates wipe their bums clean toilet paper and stick your head in the sand paper, aka the northern papers, on side). With some current leaders having marched people to the point the people are staring down an abyss, people are looking to other community leaders to lead them in a ‘safe’ direction, the right direction.

    Or are John, Paul and Mr Ringo the Lingo, more scientifically and intellectually worldly and thus more right in their backward thinking than so many other experienced and learned forward thinking people in the world? Apparently not, otherwise the ‘club’ would have put their eggs in different baskets, rather than a single rotten one. Just like their greedy plantation trees, the ‘club’ have become super suckers! Oh the joy of karma! Keep marching to your own out of date, desperate tune boys, you’re creating your own demise. Just look how often the ‘club’ have to back peddle, eat their own words, desperately try and reinvent themselves these days.

    Why do the ‘club’ fear the – in the light of truth, clean, green, natural side? Why do they keep canning and trying to roll everyone who speaks out against the ‘club’ as anti-development, treehugging greenies? Because the right side is their biggest threat. As the world comes crashing down on them, the ‘club’ is running scared that the truth in the reality has proven them to be so very very wrong.

  17. pilko

    February 19, 2008 at 12:29 pm

    Devastating thesis Tomas. Devastating. Your analysis is close to perfect and if you were K. Bonham you would be well within your rights to remind us of that. I am now convinced and presently I will be joining you and your brilliant colleagues on dark side.

  18. Tomas

    February 19, 2008 at 1:33 am

    The thesis of the original article was that the masses are either too stupid or indolent to have demonstrated their opposition to the mill in recent elections. I point out the counter argument – that the masses are not as motivated by the mill issue as a vocal minority. I think the evidence is in two recent state and federal elections Rick, as well as the lack of wide engagement as was seen with the Franklin dam.

    That the mill denialists resort to abuse as in 9, 10 and 12, and the anonymous hate e-mails I get, just further emphasizes the clubbiness when it comes to these kinds of issues, and, ultimately, while the opposers fail and will continue to fail. Any wonder the Mill has been largely dropped by the political forces who were seeking to exploit the situation for potential other gains.

    Meanwhile, the champion and financier of the anti-Mill brigade seeks to wreck the environment of the Tasman peninsula and nare a word is heard agin it from the Greens or Wilderness Society. Now, isn’t that odd?

  19. Mike Adams

    February 19, 2008 at 12:00 am

    Referendum, anyone?? WELL GO ON, B_Y WELL TRY ONE! And despite all of OUR money that the gunnerment can pay in adverts on subservient commercial TV, you’ll still lose.
    We don’t want any part of this polluting, poisonous, stinking, uneconomic mill or of its sponsoring mates. We want no part of the unauthorised conversion of the Tasmanian landscape.
    Let’s see a PRO mill demo with 15,000 unpaid people in it.
    Let’s see a petition with more than 20,000 signatures FOR the mill.
    Until that day, Mr/ Senor Tomas, one would ask you very kindly to stop mouthing off.

  20. PILKO

    February 18, 2008 at 4:30 pm

    #8 EVIDENCE PLEASE TIGER! YAWN

  21. Cathran

    February 18, 2008 at 3:15 pm

    Tomas, get back in your cave mate.

    Your presence on a thread of this calibre is merely an irritation to readers on this site. The intelligent folks are enjoying it and then ALONG COMES TOMAS!

    YOU have absolutely nothing worthwile to say – in fact I think you are just addicted to seeing yourself in print. A serial pest. Maybe you have threadomania! It must be so because you repeat yourself time after time after time after time after time. See how boring it is.

    All we need now is the usual diatribe from Dr Kev and bingo the threadomaniacs have taken over.

    Tomas O Threadus Ruinus GO AND GET A LIFE!!! OR, PUT ON YOUR RAINCOAT, GET BACK IN THE WARDROBE, AND DO IT ALONE!

    Moderator, could you please limit the number of times one can comment on a thread, otherwise it will just become the usual circus and lose all credibility. If commentors wish to carry on petty arguments they should do it via personal emails. The rest of us are just not interested.

  22. John Summerfield

    February 18, 2008 at 1:29 pm

    A fine article by Peter Henning that is well above the whining of apparatchiks like Tomas.

    And he’s using CAPS to explain to us because we’re not listening…therefore capital letters will overcome people’s very real objections to the entire sorry affair.

    At least thank everyone that you’re whole GMU is being paid by taxpayers and realise that the people you are bitterly criticising are taxpayers.

    Taxpayers are actually entitled not to agree with the government, or with you ‘Tomas’. You are paid to act as a cheer squad for Thuggo – go shake your tush somewhere else.

    And since you don’t live in the North and you’re living off the taxpayer, why should we care what you think?

  23. Tomas

    February 18, 2008 at 11:13 am

    There is a rather simple answer to the perplexing issue why the people don’t turn out in voting droves for the Greens and against the mill – it is simply that they don’t agree with the platform and/or the issue does not rate. There seems to be a small anti-Mill clique at work here who basically don’t get that they don’t have the will of the masses behind them. As stated before, this is no Franklin dam issue, most Tasmanians don’t give a rat’s, and the small group of opposed Tamar residents and associated tree huggers don’t get that they JUST DONT HAVE THE SUPPORT. I like to use CAPS to emphasize such points, as it seems that the Mill denialists have a problem with listening.

  24. Rick Pilkington

    February 17, 2008 at 11:54 pm

    Peter you are a gem. Wishing you a bumper crop mate.

  25. Neil Smith

    February 17, 2008 at 6:41 pm

    Yes, Peter. Congratulations on putting the effort into writing such a stirring article. Some might say it is stating the bleeding obvious – but clearly there are a lot of eyes (and hearts) which yet need to be opened. I hope that there really are, as he says, “increasing numbers of people whose vision for Tasmania’s future is not one which will abide the relentless degrading of our greatest assets….” and that it’s not merely fanciful that “both the debate and action for alternatives are gathering pace and strength”. Cynics will say pigs might fly – but history does show that the cynics are correct somewhat less than 99% of the time.

    I can’t offer a serious analysis of this article (except to agree with Peter on all points of substance), but if it’s any use I think there is a part explanation of the disparity between the 16% anti-mill vote in the federal election and the nearly 50% anti in the elector poll in Georgetown. Figures which would be repeated elsewhere, I am sure.

    And that is that amongst those desperate to get rid of Howard there were a lot who just simply do not understand our preferential voting system. That a 1 Green, 2 Labor vote is absolutely as good for avoiding the election of a Liberal as is voting 1 Labor. It’s not a particularly difficult concept, but there remain huge numbers of people who JUST DON’T GET IT. To them, to get rid of Howard you just HAD to vote Labor. That Rudd had come out in favour of the mill was a pity, but he had to be voted for all the same.

    And secondly, there was (and still is) the possibility and hope that Labor’s support of Gunns mill was an election tactic to avoid scaring the horses, and that Labor might still find a way to back-pedal post election. Still no reason not to put them at position 2 instead of 1 though!

    More basically (and this is not peculiar to Tasmania) the focus of politicians on their career rather than on representing their electors is the true failure of democracy. Perhaps we need a system in which no person (not even Bob Brown) can be elected for more than 2 consecutive four-year terms. That way politics would cease to BE a career, and would attract only those public-spirited enough to take time out to give their efforts to serving their community. They should be paid handsomely, and be profusely advised (and not dominated) by frank-and-fearless professionals, but when their time is up, it’s another’s turn.

    Referendum, anyone? Pigs might fly.

  26. Malcolm

    February 17, 2008 at 5:21 pm

    This is a superbly articulated article and gives us inspiration that there is an ever increasing number of like minded people who are sickened with the shameful shenanigans in this State.

    It should be compulsory reading for everyone in particular our abject, spineless Labor and Liberal politicians who spuriously claim to represent us.

    However the vast majority of them would lack the skills and be too feared of the backlash from their covert colleagues to comprehend its message let alone take it on board.

  27. John Biggs

    February 17, 2008 at 4:01 pm

    Yes, thoughtful passionate and obviously so correct. If only we could get stuff like this into the mainstream media and into the heads of those 30% who blindly vote for what they personally deplore.

  28. Frank

    February 17, 2008 at 2:34 pm

    Yes Peter, serious stuff- valuable findings.
    You have not been rewarded for your observations, this report is not funded by some public or industry funding, it is being provided with the intention to inform and educate.

    Sadly, history repeats itself, almost as humans insist of making the same old mistakes that others have behind them, political leaders of the day insisting to use the opportunity to be greedy and short sighted.
    The good thing is that you/ we are not alone in trying to make others look at the realities, calling for changes, it is good to know about others doing their best to provide the facts.
    According to THE MERCURY today, Tasmanian photographer Alan Lesheim: “I wanted to put it in their face and force them to look at what’s happening down here.”

    Lesheim’s love of wilderness and his anger over old-growth logging motivated him to enter the National Portrait Prize and show federal politicians the natural heritage value of Tasmania’s old-growth forests.

    …”These protesters are often shown in a negative light and I wanted to show them as they are, as humans. …” http://www.news.com.au/mercury/story/0,22884,23231492-3462,00.html

    Congratulations and thanks

  29. Valleywatcher

    February 17, 2008 at 10:28 am

    Thank God we have such articulate people as you, Peter, this is brilliant!

    Re your retired-principal friend’s attitude:”…perhaps one of those who will speak out when it is too late and the damage is irreparable….only when his cosy suburban existence, such as the quality of his water supply is under threat.” I wonder if this person knows that Launceston’s water supply IS currently under real threat of running dry?

    Esk Water has apparently been directed from ‘above’ not to impose water restrictions. The reason for this is probably because the backlash from angry Launcestonians would harm even more the pro-mill cause. Even the currently complacent might get a bit riled about this. Meanwhile, they pray for rain to fill the catchments, while the groundwater-sucking plantations quietly suck away.

    I wonder what they will do if their rain-dance fails and there is no significant rain before winter?

    Perhaps your retired, comfortable friend should be alerted to this. He might even change his position from neutral to at least having an opinion.

  30. Patricia Dasic

    February 17, 2008 at 10:15 am

    Congratulations, Peter. Wonderful stuff.

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