Tasmanian Times

Democracy Tasmania

Forestry – letter to Kevin Rudd

Austra Maddox

Last week I discovered at short notice that Kevin Rudd was to be at an event in Hobart (no prior publicity – I wonder why !!??)
So I took the opportunity to skirt the police (I looked too respectable to be challenged I think !) and hand delivered the following letter. I did not get the chance to actually talk to Rudd but I think a polite but strong expression of concern is never wasted. Not the greatest letter of all time (and I was keen to keep it to one page) but I include it here so that you can see what I have been up to. I wish I could say that I expect a reply acknowledging that this is what Rudd needs to do, but more likely I will get a polite and content-less acknowledgment. Will let you know what transpires.

Mr. Kevin Rudd,
Prime Minister of Australia,

Dear Mr. Rudd,

I am writing to ask you to show leadership on the issue of stopping old-growth logging in Tasmania.

I have previously been a long-term and active member of the A.L.P. in Tasmania. However, after many years of trying to get the Party to adopt a more environmentally responsible and politically accountable position on forestry matters I reluctantly came to the conclusion that key members of the Tasmanian Branch of the A.L.P. were too close to forestry industry interests to allow for genuine rank-and-file debate and policy input. As a result I left the A.L.P. and have continued to work for better outcomes for the environment in other ways.

As I am sure you are aware, forestry industry issues continue to polarize the community, the Forestry Commission evades genuine public scrutiny and accountability, and there is no sign of state government response to continued community concern about old growth logging. For example, the Tasmania Together process highlighted the extent of support for the cessation of old growth and native forest logging, but benchmarks developed for many other issues addressed within the Tasmania Together process were not implemented for this critical area. This is just one small example of deliberate failure to act.

Many of us hoped that the current State Premier would adopt a more independent and rational stance, apparently coming into the position without the baggage of close links to the forestry industry. These hopes have been disappointed in various ways – for instance, he recently high-handedly dismissed independent academic work done on the “carbon sink” value of old-growth forests. Such actions highlight the impossibility of having a rational debate at the political level.

Given the long sad history of the forestry debate in this state I think it would take bold leadership from outside Tasmania to be the circuit-breaker needed to protect our forests.

This is your opportunity to show such leadership by calling for a stop to old-growth and native forest logging and putting in place a transparent process for dealing with the issues that follow from such a decision. Future generations will thank you for it.

Yours sincerely,
Austra Maddox
21st. January 2009.

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  1. Steve

    February 4, 2009 at 12:05 am

    Ho-hum wood-worker. Same old line? I have stood on a log landing with an ex-sawmiller and discussed the various logs passing by. Nearly every chip log, he was able to show how he and his father would have milled it into usable timber.
    Perhaps that’s why he’s now working for the man, or perhaps that’s exactly what’s wrong here.

  2. dave hobart

    February 2, 2009 at 10:40 pm

    I would like to say at the very outset that reading Austra’s letter made it is a most pleasant change from what all to often passes for comment in the forestry debate in Tasmania. It aimed to factual and above all else it demonstrated a natural politeness that was truly refreshing. Maybe some of the regular corespondents to the columns of Lindsay’s esteemed organ could learn from this former commonwealth public servant and trade unionist.

    Like Woodworker I have have known Austra for a number of years and it is true she was a long standing member of the ALP and the ALP Left. So were were Peg Putt and Peter Cundal and more recently Cassy O’Connor.

    However, unlike Putt and Cundal etal I don’t recall Austra as being an outspoken defender of trees or forests. I do however remember her as a strong defender of public service jobs she was for many years the State Secretary of the Commonwealth Public Service Union in Tasmania. Just why Austra forgot to list that as part of her political CV I don’t know.

    As state secretary of the CPSU Austra would have been required defend workers of jobs and that must have included jobs in forestry and in forest industries. Did she have a moral dilemma during those years? If she did she kept it well hidden from all those who knew her at the time.

    Perhaps, I’m wrong and this former trade union secretary, ALP member and Left convener struggled with this dichotomy for years until one day she like Paul of Tarsus was struck down and the light was shone upon her? If I am not mistaken Austra was also chaired several policy platform committees over a long number of years again I don’t recall any of these committee’s turning green under leadership.

    Nor did Austra have any difficulty meeting with or working with, when she was the Convenor of the Left in Tasmania, the CFMEU Forestry Division. If their had been conflict I would have heard about it.

    Austra, it is one thing to pen a polite and seemingly fair letter to a Prime Minister it is quite another matter to be so highly selective in the use of your memories when they are used to support your new position on forestry and forestry jobs.

    Regards davehobart

  3. George Harris aka woodworker

    February 2, 2009 at 12:35 pm

    Yes, Gerry, (#5), percentage wise, not very much. The overwhelming majority of sawn timber goes to the building and construction industry. Special Timbers as a percentage of sawn timber is small, and yes, all sawn timber is significantly less as a percentage of total timber harvested when compared to the volume of woodchips. I can’t and never have disputed that. I will say again that I don’t have a problem with woodchips as long as only the appropriate material is chipped, and not viable eucalypt saw log, or usable Special Timbers. Woodchips bring in hundreds of millions of export income into the state.
    What I do have a problem with is people saying we should have no timber at all, which in this case means no Special Timbers, unless you can show me where Special Timbers can come from if there is no old growth logging, and, as Austra Maddox is saying, no native native forest logging.

  4. Gerry Mander

    February 2, 2009 at 10:10 am

    ‘Who is Kevin Rudd?’ ….d.d.

    Shouldn’t that read, ‘WHAT is Kevin Rudd?’

  5. Gerry Mander

    February 2, 2009 at 10:08 am

    I see that woodworker has taken a machine gun to the messenger rather than deal with the problem. Usual tired forestry workers rhetoric but a refusal to quantify just how much fine timber is actually used by this industry in making bread boards, fine furniture and boats. Percentage wise, barely any! Certainly not much Huon Pine, as he implies and there is not much, if any, King Billy and Celerytop growing in the Florentine, for instance.

    Just another lot of Forestry and FIAT lies.

  6. George Harris aka woodworker

    February 2, 2009 at 3:57 am

    So there goes Austra Maddox. In her letter to Kevin Rudd, she tells us that she has been a long-term and active member of the A.L.P. in Tasmania. No dispute there, but then she goes on to say the following: “However, after many years of trying to get the Party to adopt a more environmentally responsible and politically accountable position on forestry matters I reluctantly came to the conclusion that key members of the Tasmanian Branch of the A.L.P. were too close to forestry industry interests to allow for genuine rank-and-file debate and policy input.” To this I say can anyone in the ALP with an equally long history of close involvement with running the state branch, (of which there are many), give details of any efforts by Austra Maddox to actually try to do any such thing in relation to adopting a different position on forestry? I might point out that any paid-up party member can attend any meetings of policy development committees and participate in debate, and contribute to the on-going process of policy development. Genuine contributors are welcomed with open arms. She then goes on to say that: “As a result I left the A.L.P. and have continued to work for better outcomes for the environment in other ways.” What she did not say is that she is the convenor of the Denison Greens. It’s Ok, Austra, your omission will become a task for me to put straight.
    She then goes on, in paragraph three, to misrepresent the benchmarks of the Tasmania Together process, as they apply to old growth and native forest logging. Her interpretation is presented as an example of a deliberate failure to act. In fact, the Tasmania Together benchmark related to the phasing out of clear felling in old growth, and certainly not the harvesting of old growth. The cessation of native forest logging, as her misrepresentation includes, would have consequences not just for the supply side of the timber industry in Tasmania, but also for the building industry and every other aspect of the application side of the industry, and the Tasmanian economy, in ways that I don’t think she realizes.
    The cessation of old growth logging and native forest logging would mean the complete cessation of the Special Timbers industry that so many of our artists, designers, furniture manufacturers, wood turners, boat builders and musical instrument makers depend on. How would she explain herself to all the craft shop and gallery proprietors around the state who occupy icon status in our tourism industry? What would she say to all the people who are about to enjoy the Wooden Boat Festival, who well know that most boats on display owe their significance to the fact that the three timbers most extensively used, that is, Huon Pine, Celery-top Pine and King Billy, are rated as three of the world’s best boat building timbers, and they only grow in Tasmania?
    It seems that, after many years involvement in the union movement, Austra Maddox’ support for workers is selective, and not universal. What about all the workers in the timber industry? Don’t they count?
    In her fourth paragraph she claims the Tasmanian Premier “recently high-handedly dismissed independent academic work done on the “carbon sink” value of old-growth forests.” If she is referring to the Green Carbon report from the Fenner School at the ANU, it is hardly independent, having been part funded by the Wilderness Society. It has been much criticised for some of the assumptions on which it was based, its lack of adherence to established peer review procedures, and the fact that its findings were based on a theoretical model which have not been verified by field sampling. She is another that I would encourage to have a close read of the article available on the following link: http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=8094
    Abundant leadership has been displayed by the Prime Minister, and his minister for Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry, Tony Bourke, in their close examination of policy relating to forestry since forming government, and also in the policy review process leading up to the 2007 election. I’m sure Austra Maddox’ letter will be recycled in the appropriate receptacle.

  7. Bob McMahon

    February 1, 2009 at 7:38 pm

    You may get a reply Austra. But it won’t, on past experience, come from Rudd. It will come from Forestry Tasmania, which calls the shots right up to the PM’s golden throne.

  8. Shirley Glen

    February 1, 2009 at 11:19 am

    Excellent Austra. (I agree with Dave #1)I am sure that you are aware that the Forestry Commission has been de-commissioned and made into a non accountable GBE, but I truly think re-commissioning would put some accountability back into the equation. Maybe Rudd could quietly suggest that to our David.

  9. Dave Groves

    February 1, 2009 at 9:06 am

    Who is Kevin Rudd?

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