Context: Here is the text of an email sent to the Greens members of parliament on 27 May. The answers received from Kim Booth’s office today are shown in bold italics – the email was answered in this format.
Dear Greens members of Parliament
Out of interest, I attended the rally organised on Wednesday 25 May to support Mr McKim’s bill repealing the Pulp Mill Assessment Act. The result of the vote on the bill was a foregone conclusion, with the Liberal and Labor parties obviously intending to vote together to defeat it. I was left wondering why the bill was presented in the first place.
The Bill was presented to provide an opportunity to the new Members of Parliament - who weren’t around at the time when the Pulp Mill Assessment Act 2007 was passed. The Tasmanian Greens and the public wanted to put it clearly put on the record all those who knowingly support such a corrupt project as this pulp mill. Whilst we had some faint hopes that at least some of the members from the Labor and Liberal Parties would listen to their conscience we did suspect that they would continue to the same old blind party line.
The Bill was debated, despite these suspicions, to also provide an opportunity for the Tasmanian community to rally together. Many people in the community have spent many years of their lives working and fighting against this pulp mill. They actively use all the political, social and environmental avenues that exist for public participation and it is important that they also see and know what their political representatives are representing them on.
The importance of rallying together, of re-affirming their stance against the pulp mill and feeling enraged by the callous disregard shown by the Labor and Liberal Party is an important action to take for many in the community. They’re not attending a rally out of idle curiosity but because they are dedicated to a cause and want to stand together on it.
I understand you will probably argue that the Greens needed to publicly express their opposition to Gunns Tamar Valley Pulp Mill, and the dubious process that saw it approved by the parliament in 2007, but I am not convinced that Wednesday’s proceedings were anything more than politically expedient posturing on your part. The Premier has announced in parliament that the Statement of Principles process is ‘about assisting Gunns to get their pulp mill up’, and yet you continue to support the Labor party minority government.
Obviously, the pulp mill is critical issue for the Tasmanian Greens. However, if you hadn’t already noticed, the Liberal Party is also pro pulp mill so even if we were to withdraw support from the Labor party we would just end up with a Liberal party who would also ram it through.
Exactly how important is the pulp mill issue? Important enough to table a doomed bill revoking its permits, but not important enough to persuade you to foresake the power, and income, you are now enjoying? Forgive my scepticism, but the ‘stable government’ justification is trite and unconvincing.
That’s a ridiculous question. The pulp mill is central to the Tasmanian Greens and all the Members have worked tirelessly to try and stop it.
A government, however, is more than just a pulp mill. When we talk about stable government we mean ensuring that the Greens can influence issues like stopping live animal exports, helping save a fishing industry near collapse, lower the energy prices going through the roof, try and get housing for people without homes, ensure that children receive adequate schooling.
The Greens are not going to storm out of the room every time we don’t get our way and when we first negotiated on having Ministers in government we clearly stated that we would not bargain on issues as there’s no way we could say that the pulp mill is more important than stopping the Brighton Bypass.
There are certain issues that the Greens can negotiate with government on. There are many others where we will have irreconcilable differences, such as the pulp mill. It is critical that particularly on these matters we work alongside the community who are willing to actively engage with their political representatives on issues rather than just stand on the sidelines and criticize.
I am frankly appalled by the systematic abuse of power that pervades all institutions in Tasmania - the parliament, the public service, the big corporations, and the environmental organisations. As we speak, individuals from all those areas are getting together behind closed doors, and making decisions that will significantly affect most Tasmanians. They appear to revel in the secrecy, and the giddy delight of believing in their ability to make the ‘best’ decisions for everyone.
Perhaps, for the sake of the ‘transparency’ you profess to support, you could answer the following questions -
Why does the parliament continue to support Gunns, when it is in imminent danger of collapse? What exactly does Gunns have on the individual members? Are they being blackmailed? And, don’t tell me you don’t know - you’re part of the ‘in-group’ now.
The Labor and Liberal party support Gunns Ltd pulp mill. The 5 MPs from the Green Party still do not. Insofar as what Gunns has “on individual members” – you will have to ask them. The Tasmanian Greens have two members who are in Cabinet and whilst they use this position to negotiate and inform the government position on some issues the Tasmanian Greens have their own policies and are not by any means part of any ‘in-group’ with Labor.
What are the forestry roundtable negotiators doing? Is the whole process all about helping Gunns out? Are the Greens and the environmental organisations committed, unequivocally, to the preservation of HCV forest, even if it means sacrificing the interests of Tamar Valley residents? Will those people, and their way of life end up being ‘collateral damage’? And, please don’t say that forest conservation and the pulp mill are two entirely separate issues. They plainly are NOT. They are both part of the overriding problem - a forest industry that is just not working. It would be despicable if a company on the verge of insolvency, and a dysfunctional government business enterprise, are assisted to continue on their evil way by a small group of environmentalists who refuse to abandon their hardline stance.
The forestry industry and it appears the Labor government hope that any re-structure of the forestry industry will lead to the Gunns pulp mill being built – Premier Giddings has stated this quite plainly. However, the Green Senators – who are having direct negotiations about any buy-out package for the industry and thus a say in how much money Gunns could get remain adamant that Gunns will not recive any money that would enable it to build the pulp mill. Insofar as the environmental organisations – they have all publicly stated that they are against the pulp mill.
Why is it that no-one involved in this long-running farce is capable of telling the plain, unadorned truth?
I hope that you can take what I have written at face value and that you will consider voting Green in the next election as an informal vote will not gain you very much representation in Parliament.
I do not expect an honest answer to these questions - mainly because politicians seem incapable of honesty. They seem to lose sight of reality once they start playing the juvenile games that pass for debate in the houses of parliament. It may serve you to remember, however, that there are intelligent people out here who take issue with being patronised and deceived by their elected representatives.
I look forward to hearing from you.
PS I vote informal, and have done for some time, such is the ‘quality’ of the candidates on offer at election time.