The Last Hurrah came and went. The Federal Minister came and went. The Signatories are in a huddle. Forestry are doing more modelling. Fine; we can all relax. Can we?
There in the first pic is the Observer Tree. In front of it is a Mac displaying the recent TT article by David Obendorf [http://oldtt.pixelkey.biz/index.php?/weblog/article/ta-anns-wood-supply-agreements/] who recently has been to the forefront in supplying information and an alternative viewpoint concerning the IGA negotiations. Looks like HVEC (Huon Valley Environment Centre) Peg Putt (Markets for Change) SWST and CODE Green were right in campaigning against Ta Ann. It seems as if Ta Ann’s wood supply contracts are one of the difficulties standing in the way of the final resolution of the IGA process.
The second pic is of Mt Mueller. This is just one of the many views of continuing encroachment of logging which looks like clearfelling and plantations. Miranda’s Observer tree is situated on the very right hand side of the Mueller pic. The approaches to it are similar to what can be seen in this photo, but are out of sight from this viewpoint. When you look at the road in the pic, you can see something like a remorseless drive upwards to take more and more.
Right now the Lady upstairs is on the Observer phone. The fight goes on. There are forests still being logged, in spite of the Moratorium, and in spite of the immediate protection given under the IGA. All individuals and all parties that are not participants in the negotiations, will be wondering whether there could be such a thing as a durable agreement. Michael Hirst, a recent visitor to the Tree, then a protest walker to Hobart, might not think so. And the forest defenders? It would have to be a pretty good agreement, wouldn’t it?
And the increased reliance on plantations. That’s not going to stop the public and groups from demanding a better management regime for plantations than we already have. It must not be seen as an endorsement of ‘more of the same’. Plantations have their problems – big ones.
And just a closing thought, while Miranda on the phone upstairs can be heard having her say to a phone link-up of colleagues: Her participation is sparked by the continued inability of the negotiators to produce an acceptable agreement. ‘Durability’? Doesn’t seem to be a two way street. It, according to my reading of the recent Interim Agreement, means that any protest or activity from activist groups in the future, if an agreement is actually signed, will mean that the Reserves won’t go through, but the industry and its members will still get the money and the wood.
It’s called one-way durability. There doesn’t seem to be a big stick out there to keep the industry from breaking the Agreement. And they are part of it, while the activists are not.
Following WW2 the German public forest estates had to supply timber for reparations to France and others.
This was a demand driven excercise and the forest management departments in the German states had to come up with the volumes that they had been instructed to deliver.
The impact and damage from the federally instructed timber mining was very visible when I began my initial forestry training program in 1975.
As soon as the legislated demand-driven reparations finished in the late 1950s, the Forest Managers were able to return to responsible forest management.
Responsible management is sustainable management, catering for the three principle requirements: commercial, social/community and environmental.
The IGA process was set up between 7 industry demand groups and 3 environmetal stakeholder groups.
The local and broader community and other industries in Tasmania are still excluded from the process prior to an agreement being signed.
The legislated demand driven volumes are unsustainable and irresponsible.
Forest management has to be based on holistic, whole quality management to cater for inter-generational needs.
There are real examples to be found in some countries that now attarct fast growing attention and suppport.
My first initiative to bring holistic forest restoration management to the attenion in Tasmania was as a co-author of the private forestry conference in Launceston’s Albert Hall in March 1994.
Anyone interested can find the paper via the ProSilva Ireland website, The title “ProSilva: quality management in our forests”.
Now more than 18 years later since the suggested paradigm shift was presented, (remember this was well before the RFA 1997, before the 1998 forest conversion policy and before the MIS disaster began) what we have is a divided Tasmania, trashed industry, trashed communities, unsustainable catchment vegetation management practices.
The extremists in the industry and in the environment movement had it all their way.
The war continued and they still refuse to realise that the practices have to change, not only in the forests but in the plantations as well.
The individuals and groups that refused the ProSilva approach since 1994 carry the shared responsibility for what we have to deal with.
• George Harris, aka Woodworker:
Let’s get a few things straight. Ta Ann came here for three reasons: the quality of the timber; certification of the timber in national and internationally recognised certification schemes; the availability of long supply contracts in a politically and economically stable state.
Ta Ann was invited and encouraged to come here. Remember seven or eight years ago, when whole log exports were being undertaken to test the market? They were logs that were below the sawlog specification as far as the local industry was concerned, and they were otherwise being sent to export as chips and a by-product of the existing integrated logging operations. In that context, the prospect of establishing rotary peel veneer mills to employ local people in local plants was a far better prospect than just exporting chips.
One of the main reasons Ta Ann came to a high cost destination across many sea miles was that the quality of the timber was far better than any of the timbers available in the more tropical locations. Blue gum in particular proved to be such a tough and durable timber when made into construction formwork and container floors that it was a major factor in setting up here, and still this was a log spec that was below local conventional milling viability.
Before all this nonsense started, Ta Ann was considering a $24 million expansion. It was going to do this without buying in any additional logs. It was going to do it by adding to the plant to do the next stage of laying up the veneers into panels. That has now been abandoned. The protesters have denied the local community of those extra jobs. Instead, Ta Ann has lost 50 jobs as their markets have been sabotaged. Remember, Ta Ann does no harvesting of its own in Tasmania.
In addition to this, a campaign of lies and dishonesty has been waged against this company. Some of it is laughable. Images of a mother and baby orang-utan were suggested to have been taken in a Ta Ann company logging area in Malaysia, but in reality the image was taken in a wildlife park in Indonesia in 1997! Images of a native Penan man raising his arms as a log truck passes were not taken where claimed, but several hundred kilometres away, in an area where Ta Ann has never had harvesting leases. The image had been reversed, and it was not of the man claimed, a known individual.
If the very reasons for which Ta Ann came here are removed, why would they stay? If those selfish people running this campaign are successful in closing down Ta Ann, what should the rest of the community say to them? What should the people who lose their jobs say to them? Some of those who have found jobs with Ta Ann are people who have never had jobs before, and some of them are pretty angry.
Ta Ann uses regrowth. The areas where its timber comes from are well known. Some are areas where harvesting has occurred previously, including by people who continue to live in the Huon Valley. The previous harvesting history of CM004c is one such example. Other areas have regenerated since the big fires of the 1930’s, and some of those were harvested as far back as the late 1800’s.
If Peg Putt’s response to the Interim Agreement is anything to go by, then no deal is possible. If that is the extent to which such a deal might be observed, then it is not worth signing, and certainly not worth giving up any existing resource.
In the light of this, I and others will work to ensure no deal is signed, and not one additional hectare, not even one additional square meter is added to the reserves we have already got. This can be dragged out for another 18 months, and by then the unusual political influence currently enjoyed by the Greens party will just be a bad memory.
• Richard Denniss, The Australia Institute in The Australian Financial Review:
The usual rules of politics don’t seem to apply to Forestry Tasmania. This government business enterprise has a long history of public support. But the facts are that Forestry Tasmania, which is 100 per cent owned by the Tasmanian taxpayer, has lost $435 million in the past two years, selling something it never paid for.
In 2010, the management of Forestry Tasmania lost $306 million. Admittedly, it managed to turn things around a bit in 2011, registering a loss of $129 million. That’s nearly $1000 per Tasmanian.
It gets worse. A closer look at Forestry Tasmania’s annual reports reveals a large, and steadily growing, unfunded liability for employee superannuation.
In 2011, the deficit stood at $122 million, up from $99 million in 2008. To add insult to injury, this month we learned that Gunns, one of the major beneficiaries of the unprofitably cheap logs supplied by Forestry Tasmania, has written down its assets by $800 million, as it cannot find an investor to back its pulp mill.
Over on the mainland, a lot is said about industry assistance, and support for the car industry in particular. In federal Parliament, political and ideological battles rage over support for “free trade” or “old-fashioned protectionism”. But not, it seems, in Tasmania.
Those looking for a more polite and subtle debate about industry assistance need only take a short flight across Bass Strait to a land where the ALP, Liberals and Greens all back big government outlays to support industries that employ small numbers of people.
Rather than offering matching grants for companies that make new investments in capital or skills, the Tasmanians simply underwrite the losses of their log supply business to prop up woodchip mills that would go broke if they had to pay the full cost of their raw materials.
Of course it isn’t just the Tasmanian government posting cheques to Forestry Tasmania – the Commonwealth, through Tasmanian Community Forestry Agreement Grants has tipped nearly $100 million into Forestry Tasmania since 2006.
Imagine if a company lost money selling something that it never paid for. Now imagine that company was owned by a state government.
In an environment in which state governments and oppositions are either crying poor or crying waste you might imagine that such expensive mismanagement would create a bit of political heat.
But the usual rules of politics don’t seem to apply to this particular government business enterprise. It might be because we are talking about such a long history of public support. It might be because we are talking about the logging industry. But whatever the explanation, the fact remains that Forestry Tasmania, which is 100 per cent owned by the Tasmanian taxpayer, has lost nearly half a billion dollars in the past two years.
In 2010 the management of Forestry Tasmania lost $306 million. Admittedly, they managed to turn things around a bit in 2011, chopping through just $129 million of taxpayers’ funds. That’s nearly $1,000 for every man woman and child in the state.
It gets worse though …
*Richard Denniss is executive director of The Australia Institute.
• Transcript by David Obendorf, Jim Adams, Phill Pullinger interviewed on Mornings with Leon Compton:
Sustainability, uncontested wood, ahhm… ahhm
Interview with the CEO of Timber Communities Australia, Jim Adams and Director of Environment Tasmania, Dr PhillPullinger – 16 August 2012 ABC 936 radio – State-wide Mornings with Leon Compton
Leon Compton: The Minister says the war in the forests is over. Is he right?
Jim Adams, CEO Timber Communities Australia: Well, we certainly hope so. Ahhm… we know that we still have, you know, ahhm… we have a number of issues ahhm… to deal with. But we certainly hope that ahhm… you know, we can strike a balance ahhm… which delivers and outcome which ahhm… you know, does ahhm… for all intents and purposes stop the war in the forests and allows ahmm… certainly our timber communities and our timber industry to get on. Ahhm…a sustainable future industry.
Leon Compton: And are you now certain… or rather, it is fair to say that you still don’t know though if you can agree on timber volumes versus the protection levels that environment groups are looking for. Is it fair to say that you don’t know if you can agree on them?
Jim Adams: Ahhm… look, there is still work to do in that space. Ahhm… no, it wouldn’t be fair to say that we don’t know whether we can agree or not. We certainly intend to try and arrive at an agreement in that space. Ahhm… but there is still work to be done in that space, ahhm… to come up with a final balance in that area.
Leon Compton: Why is there still work to be done in that space? Can you explain that to people?
Jim Adams: Yes, sure. Because ahhm… the main reason is ahhm… look, part of this process and part of the Intergovernmental Agreement ahhm… did provide for ahhm… the possibility for an industry restructuring package to be run… ahhm… that industry re… re…on a strictly voluntary basis… ahhm… and also on the basis ahhm… that some of that flexibility ahhm… could perhaps be used to deliver an outcome. Until you’ve actually run that process to determine how much flexibility there is or isn’t in that space. Then you really don’t know what your… exactly… (pause)… what your… within what rangeyour outcome could land. So, you know, we need to run that process now. Ahhm… we’ve exhausted, we believe, every opportunity… ahh… (pause)… to, to, to arrive at that solution… in the room without running that process. So we now need to run that process and see… and see whether that process provides us with any… any extra flexibility.
Leon Compton: Is, is fair to distil that into saying that you gotta work out how much of the industry you are prepared to ‘sell down’ or ‘sell out’ in order to get a deal from environment groups.
Jim Adams: No, absolutely not. Ahhm… I think those words are… you know, very unhelpful in fact. It’s not about absolutely not selling – out – anybody at all. Ahhm… it’s simply about providing ahhm… those people who… feel that they would prefer at this stage to take the option of exiting ahhm… you know, in a dignified way – with support for their businesses and their communities, and… and their workers – ahhm… the opportunity to do so.
It may well be that none do so. Ahhm… so there’s certainly, you know, strictly a voluntary process. So, so there no… ahhm… you know, elements of selling anybody out or forcing anybody out. It’s simply a step in the process, which provides people with a dignified… ahhm opportunity.
Leon Compton: Does it not though mean that when a deal gets done you’ll be shaking hands and letting those people who chose to stay in the industry, they might be dealing with a significantly smaller wood supplies being available to them in the future?
Jim Adams: Well again, that again is pre-empting ahhm… you know, the possibility… ahhm… the outcomes. Ahhm… and we’re not going to do so. Ahhm… we’re going to wait until this process is complete ahhm… look, the industry is already ahhm… looking at a very significant ahhm… reduction. It’s already moved ahhm… people seem to forget that its already moved from, you know, the ahhm… the original level at the start of this process which was 300,000 ahhm… cubic metres per… per annum. Ahhm, you know to considering a number ahhm… around about half that figure. Ahhm… so you know, there’s really been significant ahhm… movement ahhm… and ahhm… you know, that, that reflects ahhm… you know, the, the intent of the industry to… try and maintain itself at a sustainable level going forward.
Leon Compton: So that… are you going to seal that level as being the future ceiling for growth or for wood supply of out Tasmania’s forests, be they plantation or native?
Jim Adams: Absolutely not… (chuckles) no… certainly at, at on the native [forest] side ahhm… you can only supply ahhm… what the forests are capable of supplying. Ahmm… and our sense is that you know, that number is getting close to what’s possible from the native side. But on the plantation side, definitely not, there is significant capacity to continue to grow the industry – on the plantation side.
Leon Compton: [To Phill Pullinger, from Environment Tasmania] Do you agree with the Minister, that war in the forests is over? Is he right?
Phill Pullinger: (pause and a long sigh) Look, we’re getting ahhm… we’re getting I think, very close, but ahhm… the Interim Agreement that the signatories signed and released yesterday was a major breakthrough – a step forward. Ahhm… but as Jim [Adams] said we’ve still got some work to do. And really important work to do over coming weeks to really ahhm … finalise the critical wood supply and conservation ahhm… outcomes of the agreement. So that is obviously going to be really critical for this ahhm..whole agreement to work.
Leon Compton: Why was yesterday so significant given that what sits at the heart of this whole thing is the ability to shake hands on timber volume versus protection levels, and that’s the thing you can’t do yet?
Phill Pullinger: (pause and a long sigh) Well… (gasp)… what it did do… (gasps)… I think, ahhm… after ahh… a long process – like two years was ahhm… all of those organisations – from the three environment groups at the table, Timber Communities Australia, the Union [CFMEU] and the Industry organisations ahhm… (pause) … for, for the first time in 30 years – all signed up to a clear, shared vision for, for the future of the forestry industry in our forests. Ahhm… absolutely all signed up to and committed to genuine and lasting end to the conflict over forests in Tasmania. Signed up to the need for an ongoing, vibrant forestry in Tasmania… based on ahh… native and plantation… forests. And also ahhm… the significant additional protection of native forests in Tasmania… as well. Ahhm… so there were a range of really important things that ahhm… we all have agreed on ahhm..and locked down in that Agreement. And ahhm..we’ve got some critical work to do over the coming weeks to finalise (sighs)… ahhm… what has ahhm… yes, to be honest, been the most difficult ahhm… issues in the negotiations, and some of the most important. So we’re going to have to do that over the coming weeks.
Leon Compton: You say the significance of yesterday was this signing up to ‘a shared vision’. What about your constituents outside of the room? Have you secured their support for this… given how critical it will be to an ongoing durability if – if a deal’s to be done?
Phill Pullinger: (long gasp) Well, now I think that issue applies to everyone ahh… around the table. That, that ahhm… Tasmania has been a deeply divided community for 30 years and it is actually challenging to find a pathway through that division and to try and ahhm… find ahh… a landing point. And agreement that sticks, and that one of the things we’ve been acutely conscious of ahhm… ahhm… in this process and set of negotiations, is we don’t want to ahhm… sign up to an agreement that ahhm… that… (pause)… that we all go back to war ahhm… after it’s signed and delivered and it all goes back to ‘business as usual’, in that sense. We do want an agreement that genuine and lasting and so ahhm… that’s, that’s one of the things that’s in the forefront of our minds – as conservationists that are at the table, at the negotiations. We’re interested in showing that there is a conservation outcome that doesahhm… take ahhm… ahh the bulk of the contestationahhm… out of … out of the industry. The industry have been really clear that they want uncontested wood. They want security ahhm… around a wood supply and security and confidence in the market place. And what we’re trying to do is… actually… land a conservation outcome that does take contestation out of it. That does deliver in that regard, so that we therefore can… carry, carry the movement ahhm… ahh… the environment movement in behind this agreement and in behind a strong and sustainable future for the industry.
Leon Compton: Phill Pullinger, normally it’s a question we put to the other side; we’ll put it to you this morning. On residues, clearly for industry – critical that they have access to markets or uses for residues out of a viable future in forestry. So what have you agreed to? What, what will you sign up to as, as markets for that?
Phill Pullinger: (gasp) Yeah, It means it’s certainly something that (gasps)… like the (gasps)… Economics of the industry and how the supply chain works is something I’ve learnt a hell of a lot about over the last couple of years. And, and certainly … it’s clear that ahhm… ahhm… there… for the industry to be viable it needs every part of ahhm… their supply chain to work from the contractors, and cartage and haulage operators that take the logs out of the forests to the sawmills themselves and then to the issue of how they process waste. So it’s a critical… there’s basically, as we’ve looked at this issue of woodchips we tried to, as Signatories, separate it out in a sense from the short term… what’s needed in the short term to address the crisis, because there’s a real crisis at the moment. There has been ahhm… a collapse in the markets… ahhm
Leon Compton: Ok, look we’re running short of time… can you boil it down for me Phill Pullinger? What have you actually come up with in term of residues? What have you agreed to – short term; long term?
Phill Pullinger: In, in the short term and the long term. So in the short term, we’ve basically collectively looked at options to explore to help the industry with woodchip residues – which include the three woodchip processing facilities at Burnie and ahhm… Launceston [Long Reach, Bell Bay] is already operating and also Triabunna. And also things like short term wood stock-piling arrangements. So there’s an amount of work that still needs to be looked at… and what’s possible. And then in the medium term, ahhm… what we’re looking at and what we’ve agreed to ahh… collectively support is the governments working in partnership with community and or relevant commercial interests in, in how you can actually process woodchip ahh… waste and residues locally in Tasmania rather than rely on ahh… volatile export markets.
Leon Compton: Ok, so just briefly again. Biofuel, can you give that a tick? In other words, burning those residues to generate power?
Phill Pullinger: (gasps) Look, I mean that’s a really touchy one ahh… for us environment groups. So there’s still ahhm… there’s still ahhh… stuff to work through. I mean our preference around how you would process things like plantation ahhm… woodchips in Tasmania and (sighs)… certainly ahhm… the, the, ahh… volumes of native forest woodchips that occur in Tasmania. Our preference is for things like ahhm… the project for example that the… ahh… the saw-millers are working up around ahhm… engineered wood products. And stuff that ahhm… ahh (sighs)… ahhhh… ahhh… uses ahh… ahh modest volumes and creates higher jobs. So that’s our process… that’s , that’s certainly our preference in that space… (interrupted)
Leon Compton: A, a pulp mill. A pulp mill would of course be a useful potential was for this. Is that ahh… is that playing any part in discussions at the moment?
Phill Pullinger: Look, it hasn’t ahhm… it hasn’t really for, for quite a while, to be honest.
Leon Compton: [To Jim Adams] Let’s start with sawmills and the buying out of sawmills. How central is the buying out, or the money to buy out sawmills to an agreement in this deal?
Jim Adams: Well, look certainly at the moment ahhm… as, as you people are aware there is an impasse or a difficulty in resolving the supply and ahh… reservation equation. Ahhm… as discussed earlier the ahhm… opportunity to provide some flexibility in that space ahhm… through the voluntary industry restructuring program ahhm… could certainly assist. Ahhm… but I think, at the end of the day, ahhm… as I said, you know, there’s a possibility that that process delivers no flexibility and we will have to still ahhm… try and resolve that issue within the parameters we have currently got in front of us. Now that will be extremely challenging ahhm… obviously but in the meantime we’re exploring every other opportunities to ahhm… to generate flexibility in that space.
Leon Compton: What happens from here then? An interim agreement with a, a future handshake at a point down the track, so happens from here?
Jim Adams: So, so we’ve got that, that process to run. We…we’re also continuing, as I said, to explore ahhm… flexibility in the supply-reservation space outside of ahhm… you know, there being any further flexibility ahhm… from a restructuring process. So that work is ongoing. Ahhm… and we’ve got a number of other bits of work ongoing – there’s ahhm… there’s independent discussions going on with some of the third parties, who ahhm… we need to talk to in the ahhm… residue space.
Leon Compton: That’s Triabunna and Jan Cameron and others?
Jim Adams: Ahm… it’s, it’s, it’s… principals associated with that business [Triabunna woodchip mill] and also the business up in Burnie. Ahhm… and so those, those discussions are ongoing, at a level between those people and,and both Governments. So there are a number of ahhm… those kind of bits of work that are currently ongoing. Ahhm… we anticipate that ahhm… within… within about three weeks we will be in a position to get back around the table and say: ‘Ok, well this is where things have played out with respect of ahhm… the restructuring package and respect of these discussions, ahhm… can we… can we now see enough flexibility to bring this to a final agreement?’ Ahhm… and ahhm… at that stage hopefully we obviously we are all hoping that that will be the case and we’ll be able to sign… sign off on a final agreement. [14.58]
Leon Compton: I won’t use the word to describe, or the word Peter Gutwein, the forestry minister for the Opposition used to describe this deal, but I mean it can be abbreviated to ‘B S’ yesterday. What’s your response… what’s your response to that, I’m sure you heard the quote?
Jim Adams: No, I didn’t actually… that doesn’t surprise me entirely. Ahmm… look I think that’s very unfortunate ahhhhm… you know, the forestry industry for ahhm… a number of ahhm… election cycles, if you like, ahhm… unfortunately it does have to do with election cycles, but ahhm… the forestry industry enjoyed bipartisan support from ahhm… for a number of election cycles. Ahhm… you know, this issue ahhm… we now, we now appear no longer to enjoy that bipartisan support. Ahhm… that’s ahhm… very unfortunate because… (interrupted)
Leon Compton: Have the Liberals got a coherent strategy or a coherent… are they presenting a coherent alternative on this, in your view?
Jim Adams: (Pause) Ahhm… look, I haven’t seen ahhm… I, I, I know that at one stage there, there was a strategy or, or a… or a, I think a 15-point plan or something that Will Hodgman was putting up. I’m sure of the status of that document is at this stage. Ahhm…our assessment that stage was that didn’t really ahhm… address the issues that we were really needing to address. I think people really need to bear in mind ahhm… very clearly that, you know, the… the reason at the industry groups continued to participate in this process is because they are facing a range of significant issues ahhm… they do see this process as potentially delivering an outcome and a solution to those issues. Ahhm… and you know, we are going to continue to explore that opportunity ahhm… hopefully to a successful conclusion… but certainly ahhm… you know, to a conclusion of one sort or another.
Leon Compton: Thanks for talking with us this morning [Wednesday 16 August]. We appreciate it.[16.38 minutes]