Tasmanian Times

Bronwyn Williams

Syrupy Gutwein’s ode to Rauma … and the truth

On a chilly Hobart afternoon, a middle-aged, unemployed woman talked her husband and kid into attending their very first, real-life protest rally.

This is what happened. We sighted the forest – is that a pun? – of black flags, and heard the dulcet tones of young Mr McKim bouncing around the Parliament House lawns, extolling the many virtues of his bill to repeal the Pulp Mill Assessment Act 2007.

We ventured closer, and merged into the well-behaved crowd. Earlier in the day, we had seen a gaggle of men in orange flouro sweaters huddled in a circle near the fountain in Franklin Square, talking quietly among themselves. As we approached, they moved off, and re-assembled outside 24 Murray Street. We observed the Gunns Timber Products logo on their collective garments, and considered the possibility that they might be planning a counter-protest later in the afternoon. A bit of verbal biffo, perhaps.

Apparently not.

The rally reminded me of a genteel garden party – without the warming sun, or the pretty cakes and cucumber sandwiches. Everyone was on their best behaviour, especially Messrs Green and Gutwein. They were both as neat as a pin, polite, deferential, and reasonable – their everyday ill-humour and belligerence modified by the prospect of an easy victory, and possibly an appropriate dose of behaviour altering medication with their lunch.

The Grand High Poobah of chopping down trees, Mr Bryan Green, announced that ‘he could have got all worked up’ about the bill to repeal the PMAA, but he decided not to. Instead, he chose to bore everyone senseless with a half-arsed attempt to read some lackey’s analysis of the statute, its relationship to some other statute, and its likely interpretation by the courts. A load of mumbo-jumbo, but at least he didn’t tell anyone to shut their face while he was speaking.

Next up was the disturbingly restrained Opposition attack dog, Mr Peter Gutwein. Mr Gutwein opened with some thoroughly charming stories about his decision to support the PMAA back in 2007. He told a folksy tale of the little town in Finland that just dotes on its pulp mills. A beautiful little town with a wonderful old timber village cocooned within its boundaries as a monument to history, and a thriving tourism industry. All within a stone’s throw of a pulp mill. Excuse me, but it really was that nauseatingly syrupy.

The town is Rauma, on the west coast of Finland, and I took the trouble to check it out on the web. It does have an ‘old town’ of timber buildings, and it looks chocolate box pretty in the close-up tourist photos. A wider shot, however, shows an uninteresting, but functional city with a portside area dominated by heavy industry. Locals say that the smell of the pulp and paper manufacturing plants permeates everything in the town. They are probably immune to it to some extent, and, in fact, the pulp mills are the least of their worries.

Rauma is also home to the largest nuclear power plant in Finland – one of the largest in Europe. It’s just 15 kilometres from the town centre, and it’s expanding. And, to add insult to injury, the parliament of Finland has recently decided the area is to be the dumping ground for all nuclear waste produced in their country. I don’t know about anyone else, but I wouldn’t live there on a million dollar bet (unless Bryan had a mate who could get me some really good odds).

Then, there was the Brazilian pulp mill manager who had a swag of degrees, spoke five languages and happily raised his large family in the shadow of a pulp mill. He was the sort of highly-skilled person who gets paid a truckload of cash, and will most likely be imported into Tassie, along with teams of experienced mill workers, to man the project in the Tamar Valley. You could try to explain that a sophisticated, highly mechanised production facility requires a skilled, industry specific workforce, but I don’t think any of our politicians, least of all Messrs Green and Gutwein, can wrap their one track minds around anything remotely resembling common sense.

The incessant chanting about ‘jobs’ as the ultimate justification for the pulp mill is diabolical. Tasmania does not have a highly skilled workforce – we can fell the trees, and feed them into the chipper, but beyond that, we’re screwed. We don’t have a clue. And, those folk in George Town who are hoping to enjoy the employment largesse of the mill need a serious wake up call. The Tasmanian government has systematically shafted the public education system for years, and the worst effects of their neglect are seen in the George Town area. The schools there trail national averages in all learning areas by an appalling margin. Not the best breeding ground for a skilled workforce.

Anyway, Kim Booth put in a fairly consistent heckling effort, and eventually it paid dividends (Bryan had a bet each way) – either that, or the pills wore off. The real Mr Gutwein was back – his brow was furrowed, his teeth were gnashing, and his voice was heading towards a shrill crescendo. And, then suddenly, it was all over. The Speaker called time on the debate, they rang the infernal bells, a bored and disinterested Miss Giddings and Mr Hodgman presented themselves for the vote, and the bill was summarily rejected.

After a few brief speeches the crowd dispersed. We had trouble moving, because our feet were frozen to the spot, but eventually we ambled home, wondering if anything had been achieved.

But then we remembered – Sturgo’s coming back! We must fight on, or we’re doomed!

Dave Groves, Karl: HERE

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  1. Tinker

    May 26, 2011 at 12:40 pm

    And Gunns claimed they would lose a million dollars a day… No wonder they’re bankrupt!

  2. Mike Adams

    May 25, 2011 at 9:40 pm

    Apologies: filibuster is it. (Also has connotations of piracy.)

  3. max

    May 25, 2011 at 6:58 pm

    Peter Gutwein spoke about the pulp mill expert who could speak 5 languages and could get a job any where and if this mill was so bad would he work at this mill and endanger his family. Did he ask this man where his family was, did he ask if he could get better money elsewhere, did he ask where else a pulp mill expert would work but at a pulp mill. You really asked the hard questions Peter but what were you doing while Ruth Forrest was doing the hard yards and asking the real questions about wineries and people in the areas and why she voted against the mill.

  4. salamander

    May 25, 2011 at 2:10 pm

    Why is it that Gutwein and the misnamed and benighted Green were the ones to speak in support of this? Is the LibLab consortium so confident of success, or do they no longer care, just supporting the issue for appearance sake to save their worthless hides?

  5. Robin Halton

    May 25, 2011 at 1:56 pm

    #1 Brian, Very interesting comments, I am a strong supporter of forestry in the State and I was always puzzled why Gunns were never persuaded to look at Hampshire as an alternative site for the Pulp Mill!
    Had former Premier Lennon followed the RPDC assessment path, the Tamar site probably would have been rejected on environmental grounds, Gunns may had a fall back position for Hampshire anyway, they were just keeping that to themselves at the time.
    The problem as we all know that Lennon put his foot in the process and the RPDC never had the chance to test the Gunns project in the first place!
    The Tasmanian forestry industry rejected the Latham $800 forest buyout.
    Paul Lennon who at the time was on good terms with former Prime Minister John Howard could have extracted a Federal cash carrot to encourage to make the Hampshire site more attractive for Gunns investment.
    In my opinion enhanced rail or roading infrastructure leading from the Central North from the back of Ulverstone -Nietta hence through the Leven Valley past Foggs Flats( between the Loongana Range to the north and the Black Bluff Range on the south side) directly onto Dempster Road on the Surrey Hills block close to Hampshire within Gunns Eucalypt plantation estate.
    John Gay former CEO of Gunns continually used his 1960’s style bluffing the Premier who was too blinkered to sit down with Gunns along with Eric Abetz as John Howards Special Minister for the state and negotiate a deal that may have secured a pulp mill investment at the more appropriate Hampshire location.
    What have we got now, a divided and confused community who is tangling up the entire forest industry and FT because of political interference with the pulp mill process!
    A golden opportunity lost forever.

  6. BigEars

    May 25, 2011 at 1:39 pm

    #3 — filibustering, I reckon, not gerrymandering — though he has been known to push the boundaries of debates all out of shape.

  7. Kadeco

    May 25, 2011 at 1:31 pm

    #3 – I think you mean filibustering rather than gerrymandering.

  8. Garry Stannus

    May 25, 2011 at 1:00 pm

    #3 Mike: Gerrymandering or Filibustering?

  9. glennis

    May 25, 2011 at 12:53 pm

    Re#3 I guess the reporters could all have gone to school where maths isn’t a worthwhile subject, maybe down the river!

  10. Miss MoneyPenny

    May 25, 2011 at 12:34 pm

    Jobs, jobs, jobs! This imbecilic mantra is increasingly frail. One only has to consider the Ta Ann mill in the Huon, with its imported Malaysian workers, to have an idea of the jobs bounty of any potential mill. Even the tradies much vaunted construction jobs will be off-shored. This isn’t about jobs, or even saving bankrupt Gunns, it’s about our political representatives serving their big business masters.

  11. Mike Adams

    May 25, 2011 at 10:57 am

    I could wish that the Speaker had the power, or if he has, used it, to cut short members’ speeches once they have stated a point and maybe repeated it for emphasis.
    Mr Gutwein was simply gerrymandering in the latter part of his speech against the repeal of the PMAA to the very evident frustration of Kim Booth and Nick McKim who had time called before they could respond to his continually repeated remarks.

    And on another subject: the Estraminer estimated around 100 TAP supporters were there. TAP counted: we always do, and on the lawns were 303, with more upstairs in the public gallery.

  12. Dave Groves

    May 25, 2011 at 9:49 am

    The Liblabs are as one with the proposed pulp mill.

    They see this proposal through some kind of misty magical goggles where the pulp mill becomes the only thing left on the planet that will save our state from endless misery and ruination.

    Someone, somewhere, really has the wood on the Liblabs….how else can stupidity be justified?

  13. Brian Khan

    May 25, 2011 at 9:27 am

    I wrote this Letter to The Examiner before yesterday’s rally. They did not print it. But i think it still relevant:

    Reference the letter by Peter Ranson May 12th. What he states about the Gordon below Franklin Dam is correct , one only has to review statements by former state Premiers who endorsed then Premier Robin Gray who stated we would need this clean non carbon energy for the future he has proven to be correct.

    At least Mr.Ranson is committed to his cause as it his democratic right , and critics of him in your columns should respect that.

    I was at the rally i.e 14th. May and the main issue is that the democratic right of individuals was trampled over by the passing of section 11 of the ” Pulp Mill Act ”

    Had the R.P.D.C. been allowed to complete their deliberations , free of political interference , and had the proponents gone to Hampshire the mill would have been completed and it would have been supported by the proponents bankers.

    Tasmanians must be made aware we only have 5. seats in the House of Representatives and the picture painted on mainland Australia is not a pretty one , we are a medicant state , already Western Australia is raising this over G.S.T. funding.

    Mr. Ranson is calling for support but those who have been in receipt of MIS . tax concessions will be noticeable by their lack of support for him.

    Reason being The Financial Review of the 11th.June 2009 stated MIS tax breaks don,t stack up .

    The MIS. tax concessions should be consigned to the compost bin of history by the Henry Review. {end of quote }

    Swan should have done exactly that in the budget , but did not. , whilst if you earn $150,000 you are rich , be consistant treasurer?

    Like wise Peter Cundall at the rally was unfair over section 11 fair enough have ago at those members of parliament who passed it , but those new members elected to parliament can be judged on how they vote when the Greens attempt to remove section 11 from the statute.
    Brian P. Khan

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