It has become perfectly clear to me over the past 12 months that a lot of Tasmanians are addicted to pain and conflict. Is it our convict heritage again? Can’t we live without a ball and chain around our ankle and a whip at our backs?
Much of the debate and anguish concerning the forest peace talks, from all points of view, has demonstrated a singular lack of ability to recognise and appreciate an opportunity for change. No not a perfect opportunity, but given the past 30 years, anything is better than nothing. These opportunities are not common. Thankfully at least some in the conservation, forest industry and union movements have been able to recognise this.
But still most Tasmanians seem to want to keep the hostilities going. We want all our demands met, plus a bonus trip to Disneyland! Oh please! Some politicians certainly seek to gain from continuing the hostilities. Conflict is an easy weapon in the game of politics. More people should be supporting the negotiations simply on the basis that it prevents the politicians from continuing to manipulate us. After 30+ years there is now so much baggage attached to the forestry debate, we need a aircraft carrier to carry it all, not to mention a congress of mediators to disentangle the mess. But I think the problem is not as complicated as many make it to be.
I personally want to thank all the people involved with the forest peace negotiations for having the courage, vision and stamina to get this far. Yes I think they could have done some things better. But never mind that. What they have achieved is remarkable. And still people want to pull them down, while offering no reasonable alternative. Suggesting that the process must involve more people, resolve more issues (to everyone’s total satisfaction), be more transparent, and be directed by politicians, seems like wishful fairyland to me.
The forest industry may walk away from the TFIA, but they know they have no place to run to. They may think that the conservationists have gained too much, but when you play a defensive strategy that is the only possible outcome. Bringing down the Giddings Government and replacing it with a minority Liberal Government will bring no relief for anyone. Quite the opposite. Another 10 years of forest conflict is almost guaranteed, and the forest industry will be decimated. Never mind the continuing damage to the Tasmanian community and body politic.
The forest industry wants legislation to continue to guarantee a minimum supply of wood from the public resource. Why? When 80-90% of the wood harvested goes to the cheapest possible commodity. Why? When numerous reports including the Auditor General, have for years told us that Forestry Tasmania is technically bankrupt. In plain English this means that the industry has been subsidised by taxpayers. Why?
When the industry refuses to operate under normal commercial arrangements, allowing transparency, competition and real value adding, and a profit for the Government. As far as I am aware no other State in Australia has this legislative protection, and yet forest industries manage to survive there.
Why does the forest industry believe it deserves such privileged treatment? The only real security for the forest industry is to become more socially and commercially relevant.
Continuing to rely on political security is no security at all. It simply ensures that the abyss between the Tasmanian community and the forest industry will continue to widen. Is that a recipe for commercial success?
If the TFIA fails to gain support then the damage to the forest industry and the Tasmanian community will be severe. No investment, no security, no future. The pain and conflict will continue. Is that the future we all want?
• TCCI and TCA blame City ‘champagne sippers’ for forest deal
Opposition to Tasmania’s forest peace agreement appears to be growing, with the state’s largest business lobby and another industry group speaking out against the deal.
The $276 million agreement includes $120 million over 15 years for regional development.
The Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Timber Communities Australia have joined several organisations in criticising the final agreement, signed between the state and federal governments on Sunday.
The Chamber’s Robert Wallace says the $276 million deal sells out jobs and has been driven by outside influences.
“It’s the champagne - Green - sippers from Sydney and Melbourne that’s basically driving this agenda,” he said.
“Why aren’t they closing up their areas in Sydney, in News South Wales and Victoria - it’s because that would never be tolerated in their own states.”
“The $120 million over 15 years equates to a very, very small amount.”
“And yes, no state would like to knock back $120 million but what we’re talking about here is a $1.4 billion annual income from the forestry industry.”
“So if we look at $8 million a year - it’s a mere pittance.”
The Chamber says it has tried to stay out of the forest peace debate, but can not watch from the sidelines any longer.
Mr Wallace says there is strong demand for native timber and it is not worth selling off the state’s billion dollar a year native forest industry over the deal.
TCCI is planning to lobby the state’s Legislative Council to tear up the deal.
• Libs refuse to support deal
THE Tasmanian Liberals have vowed to tear up the inter-governmental forestry deal if they win government and to oppose legislation to support it in State Parliament.
Liberal forestry spokesman Peter Gutwein yesterday called the deal disastrous while forestry heavyweights labelled it an abomination, claiming they had been duped into believing they would still have access to 400,000 hectares. That land, they said, was now locked up in informal reserves.
Forest Industry Association spokesman Terry Edwards said the agreement had been altered without consultation and the industry could no longer access land it had been assured it could.
Mr Edwards said the resource security the industry was seeking was in the draft document he saw on Thursday night, but was not in the document signed on Sunday morning by Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Premier Lara Giddings.
He has called on the Federal Opposition and members of the state and federal upper houses to block legislation for the deal.