Tasmanian Times

Forestry

Michelle’s menu

Peter Henning
The point is this. The grotesque nature of what O’Byrne is doing is the deliberately contrived promotion of an image of Tasmania which obscures the truth. This applies to the tokenism of the campaign to save the devil at the State political level (notwithstanding the huge efforts of committed, but under-funded researchers), but also the continuation of policies which are wrecking the habitat of the devil (and a huge number of other threatened and endangered species) everywhere throughout Tasmania.

The same applies to the food industry. Most of the niche food producing enterprises in Tasmania have developed and prospered despite government policies, not as a consequence of them. It is no secret that the Tasmanian government has no interest in the encouragement of high-quality food production. The fact is that most of the high quality, diverse food production in Tasmania is increasingly under threat from government policies.
TASMANIA of our times has a well-known and well-deserved reputation for the politically bizarre, politically grotesque and politically tragic-comic.

If one were to try to identify “the latest episode” in this sequence of unmitigated irresponsibility, appalling mismanagement and failure in governance which is the hallmark of Tasmanian politics, one would be out of date by the time “the latest episode” was in the public domain.

So let me just say, in reference to one of the latest episodes of political inanity, that it involves Tasmania’s newest “Minister for Tourism”, who has just reported proudly of her latest foray on the international stage at our expense, but ostensibly in our interests.

She would like us all to know that she has been busily raising money in New York, at the Waldorf-Astoria no less, on behalf of efforts to save the Tasmanian devil.

According to her press release of January 23, “efforts to save the endangered Tasmanian devil received a huge boost … with US$13,200 raised…”. Huge boost? Amazing. To be fair, let us put the “Minister for Tourism’s” priorities in her official role on this matter of the devil’s survival in proper perspective. Unless I am mistaken, the Hawthorn Football Club’s claims on the public purse, as part of the tourism portfolio, are far in excess of those diverted to saving the devil. The “Minister” would object that Hawthorn’s weekend fly-ins would spend more than the subsidy, but they’d spend it without the subsidy, so I’m not buying that.

But there’s more. What an opportunity was thus presented to the “Minister”, in the performance of her arduous duties, to spread the message of a clean, green, food-producing nirvana that is Tasmania, where high quality, cool-climate, niche agricultural and marine produce thrive under her auspices and her encouragement and nurture.

So it came to pass. If we are to believe Michelle O’Byrne, Tasmania’s future as a producer of fine quality food and beverage is assured. Our image of pristine, clean, green quality is preserved intact in New York. Tasmanian fish, cheese and other products were “a feature” on the menu, and “working in partnership with leading Tasmanian wine makers… Tourism Tasmania secured wine exclusively for Tasmania”.

What’s wrong with that? That’s all good news, right? No one with Tasmania’s interests at heart could find fault with such a worthy endeavour, could they, unless…?

Unless you know what’s really happening, unless you know the truth. Truth is not relative. Truth is on the ground, here and now. As I write, news (a “latest episode”, as it were) is being posted about the clear-felling of native forest on the east Tamar valley’s Mt Dismal towards the end of 2008, an operation which completely obliterated the native habitat of some of Tasmania’s threatened species – including the Tasmanian devil. ( The Scalping of Mt Dismal )

The point is this. The grotesque nature of what O’Byrne is doing is the deliberately contrived promotion of an image of Tasmania which obscures the truth. This applies to the tokenism of the campaign to save the devil at the State political level (notwithstanding the huge efforts of committed, but under-funded researchers), but also the continuation of policies which are wrecking the habitat of the devil (and a huge number of other threatened and endangered species) everywhere throughout Tasmania.

The same applies to the food industry. Most of the niche food producing enterprises in Tasmania have developed and prospered despite government policies, not as a consequence of them. It is no secret that the Tasmanian government has no interest in the encouragement of high-quality food production. The fact is that most of the high quality, diverse food production in Tasmania is increasingly under threat from government policies.

Michelle O’Byrne’s voting record, at both a federal and state level throughout her career, has been opposed to diverse and high quality food production in Tasmania, but in support of corporate forestry practices, MIS plantation and agricultural schemes, clear felling of native and high conservation forests, destruction of high value water catchments, the establishment of a pulp mill in the Tamar valley, and other policies, which by their nature are destructive of water and land resources, sustainability and diversity, the potential future of all agricultural and fishing enterprises in the greater Launceston area, and the continued high quality of Tasmanian food production.

It was no surprise that among the five “leading Tasmanian wine makers” which Tourism Tasmania is marketing in the US, Tamar Ridge was included. Tamar Ridge is owned by Gunns. It is difficult, at this stage, even for the craven Tasmanian government, to not include Tasmanian wines other than those owned by Gunns on an international promotional of Tasmania, clean and green.

Perhaps the day will come when all Tasmanian wine is just “Gunns wine”, just one variety that everyone can recognize. But is that the case already for the wines available at Launceston’s Australian rules football venue, home away from home of the Hawthorn Football Club? After all, if we are going to be the only State to subsidise an AFL team to play in Tasmania (rather than the AFL paying us), and pay them five times the amount we are prepared to fund an effort to save the Tasmanian devil, when you fly here from Melbourne what you really want to drink in your corporate box in Launceston’s premier football ground, paid for from Tasmanian taxpayers, is cool climate Tamar Ridge wine.

Right?

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13 Comments

13 Comments

  1. Dr Kevin Bonham

    February 8, 2009 at 1:25 am

    David (#13), devils were booming beyond belief despite all the factors you mentioned before DFTD came along. Indeed as sources of devil demise the causes you list are all either statistically trivial (esp. when compared to DFTD) or else not even close to established as fact. Furthermore, where on this thread have I mentioned plantation or endorsed conversion to plantation?

    Of course the claim that plantations have no biodiversity or wildlife is an uneducated nonsense that I have ripped to bits innumerable times on here. Well established plantations in bushland areas also provide plenty of cover. Whether devils ever actually do “hunt” in mature plantations (and bear in mind that although devils do hunt they are primarily carrion feeders) is unknown to me but I would be surprised if they avoided such environments entirely. After all, not much else appears to!

  2. David Leigh

    February 7, 2009 at 1:02 am

    Oh Kevin,
    We are back on that track again are we? Of course forestry are not responsible for the devil’s demise; how could they be? Devils squashed by log trucks running 24/7, burnt by hot burns, poisoned by 1080, after ingesting the poor creatures that ate it in the first place. Natural habit destruction is only a small part of this animal’s problems, when compared to chemical sprays and wetting agents. It also pales when one realises that the change in the habitat yoiu talk of is from native forest, or farm land, to plantation. No cover, no biodiversity, no wildlife to hunt and an environment, which would make the heathiest of creatures sick.

    DL.

  3. Maria Fletcher

    February 4, 2009 at 9:48 am

    It would be interesting to know how the Minister illustrated her cause; does the Tasmanian public have access to the presentations or other public forums made on their behalf to see just how the cause was actually presented to an international audience? Did we have good clear photographs or other film on display that showed the extent of the suffering and the tragedy? Was there a documentary presentation showing the animals suffering in their environment? In campaigns to raise funds for research, the Tasmanian Devil would be better served by honesty and truth in the depiction of its suffering – that is what, as human beings, the Minister should be appealing to in her campaigns overseas. By not being afraid of showing the truth, the Minister may have illicited a more compassionate and therefore more financially meaningful response. All of which, in the global communications era, can and in situations like this, should be done online. Perhaps the Minister should have considered a bi partisan screen tasmania funded hard hitting campaign on youtube? It would have reached a wider audience, and have used funds already allocated by the public purse.

  4. Dr Kevin Bonham

    February 3, 2009 at 11:32 pm

    The debate about whether the money that was raised is significant or whether this is all a pretty token contribution is quite interesting. To call $13K a big deal sounds like hype, but to say whether the trip was bad value for money we would really need to know more about what other government business aside from devil-disease fundraising occurred on the trip.

    What is not so interesting (or useful) is yet another attempt to tie the devil disease issue into the bugbear of so many so-called “articles” on this site, namely forestry.

    Until this disease hit, the devil population was dense and booming, perhaps even to a point of overcrowding since human modifications to devil habitat quite often worked in devils’ favour. So many devils have now been lost to the disease that it is hard to see why those left over would be having any trouble with lack of habitat, some amount of logging of same notwithstanding.

    Logging is not a significant known threat to the devil’s survival in the wild as a species. The overwhelming threatening factor is a contagious disease that currently has no known cure, and that appears to spread through areas of any land use one cares to mention. Whether you log or don’t log its habitat (and much of the wet forest logging that is happening is not the devils’ core habitat anyway) won’t have any significant bearing on that.

    All this said, we don’t know for sure that this disease is capable of wiping out the animal, or even eventually placing it in a situation where its extinction in the wild is likely. We may still find that this species has acute boom and bust cycles (as have been suggested, although not rigorously proven, to have occurred in the past.)

    We can judge how serious the government is about the situation by the amount of effort and funding that is devoted to:

    * captive breeding
    * monitoring
    * research towards vaccination
    * isolation of uninfected populations (where viable – and viability and practicality need to be considered very carefully here)
    * if absolutely necessary, insurance populations on offshore islands. (I am very cautious about these given the potential impact on the ecology of those islands, though in some cases such as Maria that impact might very well be beneficial).

    If you really think devil conservation is a big deal, then focus more on these things that matter instead of focusing so much on the relatively irrelevant forestry issue – a focus that makes it clear that the name of the game isn’t saving the devil, but using the devil as a stick to bash the old enemy, Tassie forestry.

  5. Ian Rist

    February 3, 2009 at 4:24 pm

    Before anyone jumps on me here I am not referring to Minister O’Byrne, I have quite an amount of respect for Michelle O’Byrne.
    It is a certain DPIW Minister I am referring to.
    Finally spend as much on the devil as is necessary to find a solution to the problem…but spend it with people that are genuine and do know what they are doing.

  6. Ian Rist

    February 3, 2009 at 3:55 pm

    It was ever thus David; Thylacines,foxes,poor old Devils,rabbits,Macquarie Island…these people have to be paid every day.
    The fourth estate also know this all helps to pay some of their bills.
    Until we get a Minister that will allow due process,it will be ever thus.

  7. David Obendorf

    February 3, 2009 at 2:01 pm

    Grandious schemes to rescue and recover the island’s ever-lengthening list of threatened (and near extinct) wildlife from the fragmented and damaged wild habitats that we human created in just over 200 years and now expect them to live in…is a cosmic joke.

    The difficulty all along has been the State government’s control over the research and the science underlying this wildlife disease – a socially transmissible cancer.

    For the Tasmanian Government propaganda machine the diseased devil population has become the baited-hook to burly for stake-money. “SHOW ME THE MONEY” writ large.

  8. Charles and Claire Gilmour

    February 3, 2009 at 12:47 pm

    But the Hawks are ‘forest friends’, aren’t they? Woops, sorry, that’s Honorary Forestry Friends. Bought and paid for to give a huge boost to the falsified impression of Tasmania.
    http://www.forestrytas.com.au/news/2009/02/hawks-fly-like-eagles They obviously represent Tasmania’s unnaturally fiddled forests with their Forestry bestowed status of being (undoubtedly) more Tasmanian than a Tasmanian and can now enjoy the free ride of their lives courtesy of Forestry Tasmania. I’m afraid the political/forest destroying spinning machine fiends have not only stolen the tassie devils habitat (and all that is clean and green) but already given away the hawks jumper to Forestry to sully. All’s normal in Tasmania then.

    The question is WHO set up the high flying idea for the hawks to be part of Forestry’s propaganda unit? Was that Michelle killing two birds with one stone? Both the environment and tourism?

  9. Peter Henning

    February 3, 2009 at 11:59 am

    Good to hear from you about this James. Change the ALP from within? In the first place, you’d certainly need to increase the rank and file branch membership by a huge amount to do that.

    Secondly, just look at the frantic feeding frenzy of hate and bile that was launched at Terry Martin when he left the tribal back-slapping group-think warren – and he wanted to stay within! Austra Maddox is now copping it as well. Makes the blood run cold. If there’s anything the ALP caucus conformity mentality hates with a particular viciousness (apart from their own factional rivals and caucus colleagues, each and every one a competitor for the gravy train of ministerial advancement) it is any departure from the latest leader’s mantra. The wolf-pack mentality of the ALP caucus is the most rigid in the world, except for aunthoritarian regimes – “tell me how I vote on that again”.

    Thirdly, the ALP position on these matters of Tasmanian policy, which you hope to change, are demonstrated loud and clear on TT by George Harris, as you know, accompanied when he feels like it with gutter language and personal insults honed by years of “cultural empowerment” in the ALP.

    Do you really want to be part of that?

    We need a new coalition of political forces James, incorporating a policy vision which expresses the inextricable interlocking relationships between the social-environmental-economic.

  10. james crotty

    February 2, 2009 at 11:29 pm

    Peter and Jane, I reckon you are both right but what you say is comment and not necessarily constructive to attempting to fixing something which is expensive and difficult; the survival of a species. First it is deplorable to anyone with a modicum of sensibility that we pay lip service to the redemption of the devil while we support the destruction and poisoning of its environment. Second, it is insulting to defend a junket with having raised US$13,000. That amount wouldn’t even cover the daily expenses of the junketeers. Third, we promote, as Peter points out, the product of a company that has in an incredibly foolhardy and unnecessary way set in train the popular sentiment that it is out to destroy the basis of the unique selling point of Tasmania; green. That being said, what do we do. A first step is to point out, by this web site and anything else that will post you, that the continued treatment of the electorate as ill informed and stupid, as was exemplified in the material of which you complain, is counter productive to their chances of attracting a vote. And tell people. Tell your politically disinterested friends, relatives, neighbours and people you bump into on the street. The government media unit, read propaganda, has an huge influence on public perception. But personal contact has more; at least on the individual. Last, the Hare Clarke system allows preferential voting within a party ticket. Let the candidates know how you feel. Neither of you two are shrinking violets. You both know I am hoping to be a Labor candidate in 2010. And for the very reasons you express. How long can you sit useless and be treated like an idiot.

  11. Jane Rankin-Reid

    February 1, 2009 at 11:40 pm

    To have only raised $13,000 at a Waldorf Astoria benefit sounds ludicrous to me. O’Byrne has clearly beaten the lowest of all known fundraising totals ever attempted at this venerable institution, creating very bad PR for the venue in her devil’s bargain. What a blindingly silly waste of the Tasmanian taxpayers money her cross promotional exercise turned out to be. Jane Rankin-Reid

  12. Brenton Head

    February 1, 2009 at 3:53 pm

    This is typical Labor politics! Make sure that you are at the cute and cuddly animal photoshoot or the fundraiser for animal diseases, but the real truth is that the Labor Party and their right-wing union buddies are all about the massive destruction of the Tasmanian and Australian environment!

  13. low carl

    February 1, 2009 at 9:40 am

    sounds comfortably sane to me.

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