Image for Dear Nick. Booth’s no-confidence threat. The responses to ‘Dear Nick’

Dear Nick,
As long-time supporters of The Greens, and as people who have very much appreciated the support of The Greens during our difficult battle with Gunns Ltd, we are dismayed by the current support, by The Greens, for the State Government to loan precious taxpayers’ money to a $24 start-up shelf company to buy a wood-chip mill; a wood-chip mill that was unviable for Gunns Ltd and which a cashed-up tourism consortium had made a higher offer for, with the stated intent of keeping it running, with the resultant continued employment of its workforce, until a transition out of wood-chips into tourism could be achieved. 

We find it difficult to comprehend how The Greens can support such a deal and so would appreciate if you could answer the following questions to better understand The Greens’ position.

Are the Greens going to stop the state government giving Aprin taxpayers money?

Do you think you and the Greens have a moral obligation to stop this deal?

If you and the Greens are not going to stop this deal, can you explain why not?

Can you please explain what you and the Greens think are the benefits, to the Tasmanian taxpayers, of this deal?

Do you and the Greens think that the details of this deal should be released to the Tasmanian taxpayers, and if not why?

Were proper processes followed in the granting of this loan and was a viable business plan for the wood-chip mill supplied by Aprin as part of that documentation?

Is this type of deal part of The Greens’ policy?

Will this type of deal become a future Greens’ policy?

We do not support this deal as we believe that taxpayers’ money should not be used to prop up such an unviable, destructive, extractive industry through a private company.

What makes it even more outrageous is that the Government, which The Greens are part of, is going to close schools and sack frontline services’ personnel, such as nurses and police, at the same time. 

It is unconscionable, immoral and totally unacceptable in our minds that a Government could be so cavalier with scarce taxpayers’ money while at the same time cutting and removing basic services that are part of the Government’s primary role; to provide basic services with the use of taxpayers’ money. 

The government is not there to act as a bank for its preferred businesses.  The propriety of this deal is highly questionable and the manner in which it came into being should be investigated before a Commission of Inquiry.

We realise that The Greens, as a political party, have a long term strategy for effecting change for the better in Tasmania and Australia but at present we cannot see how by supporting this deal, those objectives are being met.  In fact, we think that the continued support of this deal will do The Greens more harm than good and will damage the Party in the long term.

The continuance of our support for The Greens will be determined once we have received your answers to the above questions.

Yours faithfully,
Christopher Purcell    

Long-term Greens supporters, Christopher Purcell, Jaymie Brown & Stuart Young, have an organic farm ‘down the Channel’.  After buying the property in 2001 & moving from Canberra, they discovered that a neighbouring property had been logged & roaded for forestry, without approval.  Gunns had plans to 1080 bait browsing wild-life, aerial spray with herbicides & pesticides & then turn the clear-felled area into a nitens plantation.  During the subsequent dispute that ended in the Supreme Court, out of the three political parties, only The Greens would give any sort of support to the men in their battle.   

• For the latest on Aprin, schools, use the TT News Dropdown menu. ABC Online updates regularly (9-5; weekends off) 

• ABC Online: No confidence threat over mill loan

Tasmanian Greens MP Kim Booth is threatening to bring on a no-confidence motion in the minority State Government if it lends money to a company to buy Gunns’ Triabunna woodchip mill.

Mr Booth says he will bring on the motion if Fibre Plus Tasmania receives a Government loan to buy the east coast mill from Gunns.

“I would regard such a move as gross malfeasance and corruption and therefore I would be happy to move a no confidence motion against the Government were they to proceed along that path,” Mr Booth said.

“On that basis, it would invoke my pledge to the Government that I would only provide supply and confidence to the Government on the basis the basis that there was no malfeasance or corruption and, so in this case, that’s exactly how I would view it.”

Mr Booth has told the ABC’s World Today program that he is confident all of his Green colleagues, including cabinet ministers, would not support public money being used to help buy the mill.

The Economic Development Board is finalising loan conditions after the Treasurer and Premier, Lara Giddings, accepted a recommendation for its approval.

The Tasmanian Liberals are not ruling out supporting the motion.

Political analyst Richard Herr says the Liberals would lose economic credibility if they supported the motion.

“I think they’d have a hard time carrying through with that because clearly what they’d be indicating is that they’re prepared to consider destabilising economic confidence in Tasmania for the sake of a grab for power and I don’t think they actually believe that themselves,” he said.

The Government will not disclose the size of the loan.

ABC Online HERE   

First published: 2011-07-04 04:00 PM

• TUESDAY: The Greens respond ... and Christopher replies

(This response to Chris was written early Monday afternoon)

Hi Chris,

Thank you for your email to Greens Leader and Franklin MP Nick McKim regarding Aprin.


I don’t know where you got your information, but the Greens absolutely do not support the Government approving this loan application.

I should also point out that this application is, at this stage exactly that - an application, which hasn’t been approved or rejected.

In fact, the only reason everyone knows Aprin approached the Govt for a loan was because of the question we asked in Parliament recently.

The Minister for Economic Development, David O’Byrne MP, was forced to admit as much, in response to a question from the Greens Deputy Leader Tim Morris MP in Parliament last week:

http://mps.tas.greens.org.au/2011/06/aprin-asks-state-for-funding-taxpayer-funds-should-not-be-used-to-export-high-conservation-value-woodchips/

The Greens certainly do not support even more taxpayer money being used to keep this unviable industry afloat, especially during these tough economic times.

And the Greens have subsequently called on Labor to reject the loan bid.

http://mps.tas.greens.org.au/2011/06/aprin-asks-state-for-funding-taxpayer-funds-should-not-be-used-to-export-high-conservation-value-woodchips/

What would make a Govt loan even more contentious is that there is a group of investors prepared to breathe new life into the area - without using a cent of Government money.

However, our two Greens ministers will be using all the advantages being part of Government brings, including lobbying behind the scenes. This is something we could not do when in Opposition.

We will keep you informed of any further developments.

On the other issues you raise, the Greens are not “going to close schools & sack frontline services’ personnel, such as nurses & police”.

With regard to 20 schools, the fact is that no decisions have been made. The Minister is simply considering the case for each one.

With regard to the public sector, as you may know, we took to the 2010 State election a position that we do not support forced redundancies on economic or operational grounds. 

That was the basis of our negotiations with Labor, after the Premier announced the State Public Sector reform package during the last sitting week in May. This was negotiated between Labor and the Greens.

We don’t accept that mass job cuts is the solution to the Budget woes highlighted in the 2010-2011 Mid Year Financial Report, but instead believe that improved performance management opportunities for employees, and efficiency and productivity measures should be the priority.

At the time we entered negotiations, Labor’s proposed plan included:
1.    Amendments to the State Service Act 2000, (section 44)  to introduce new measures to enable forced redundancies on economic and operational grounds;
The Greens secured the abandonment of this proposal – and any new provisions to enable forced redundancies on these grounds has been rejected.
2.    Reducing the current available timeframe measures to terminate employment (section 47) from 12 months to three months;
This has now been expanded to six.

These came about thanks to the Greens’ negotiations.

There has also been comment about the proposed new professional development and performance management system. 

The Greens, as well as workers and unions, have long recognised this as being neglected by successive governments, and we advocated this be addressed as a meaningful reform.

We sought clear commitments from Labor that this could not be used as a ‘stalking horse’ to terminate employment as a cost-saving measure. 

The Premier placed this commitment on the public record in the Parliament, and we will be scrutinising the proposed legislation to ensure it reflects that commitment.

We share the concerns in the community about the treatment of all public sector workers. At the same time, we need to ensure that we invest in an effective, viable and robust public sector to ensure it is better positioned to withstand future pressures of the unpredictable economic cycle. 

There are tough budget challenges ahead, which require tough decisions to be made. These circumstances also require constructive negotiation to find common ground for the common good, which is the responsibility of a power-sharing Parliament.

GREENS POSITION ON PUBLIC SECTOR REFORMS:

As taken into Budget negotiations with Labor, in response to the 2010-11 Mid Year Financial Report, and the preparations for the 2011-2012 State Budget.

The Greens do not support forced redundancies on operational or economic grounds.

The Greens have long been on the record urging real public sector reform, to maximise skill retention, innovation, capacity building in the community and service delivery, and stimulation of the local economy.

AGREED NEGOTIATED OUTCOMES

That there will not be a sole reliance upon a jobs reduction, but that a formalised commitment to improve public sector performance management, efficiency and productivity is to be implemented simultaneously,

•       Section 44 of the State Service Act 2000 will not be amended to facilitate involuntary redundancies on operational or economic grounds.
•      Proposed amendments to Section 47 of the State Service Act 2000 to reduce the current 12 month period to 3 months, revised to 6 months. 
•      The independent State Service Commissioner will still oversee the redeployment process, and will have an active ‘check and balance’ role in ensuring due process, and natural justice have been adhered to.
•      Public Sector Efficiency and Productivity reforms will also be implemented simultaneously with the proposed redeployment strategy.
•      Performance management measures will be prioritised across all agencies for all public sector employees. Employees will be consulted, and union representatives will still be consulted in the development of the proposed Performance Management Plan Criteria .
•      All personnel responsible for implementing the redeployment and professional development reforms to receive appropriate management training as soon as is practicable.
•      Secondment schemes with the private sector will be maintained and developed where feasible (to maximise skill retention and development).
•      Provision in a timely manner of explanatory materials for all public sector employees outlining the Reform Program, including the role and responsibilities of the State Service Commissioner, the Public Sector Management Office and the new Central Vacancy Management Group, and the mechanisms by which employees and union representatives can contribute to the process.
•      Public Sector reforms involving amendments to the State Service Act 2000, will not be incorporated in the Consolidated Fund Bill (Budget Supply Bill).

I have also attached a list of the Greens policy wins in the past year of this power-sharing Government - achievements which far outweigh what we achieved in the last seven years in Opposition.

http://mps.tas.greens.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/Apr21_Greens-in-Cabinet-a-Year-On_N-McKim_ATTACH.pdf

I hope this helps. Thanks again for writing and please feel free to contact me.

Warm regards,

Tom

Dear Tom,

Thank you for your prompt reply to my questions to Nick.

Our information that The Greens support this deal has been gleaned from the media in the absence of Nick categorically stating, in the media, that The Greens do not support this deal.  I apologise if he did as we must have missed that announcement.

It is admirable that The Greens exposed this deal through questions in Parliament, as would be expected of them, & that they have called on Labor to reject the loan bid.  Perhaps though, Nick & Cassy’s behind the scenes lobbying could be a little more public so that voters can be confident that The Greens are doing what they were elected to do.

I realise that Nick was just following orders when he embarked on the process to look at the possible closure of 20 schools & I am relieved that he & the government have just decided to abandon that process & keep the schools open.  We wait to see whether or not other services targeted by the government in the budget will be so lucky.

Thankyou also, for your detailed explanation of The Greens’ Public Sector policy & the link to The Greens’ list of excellent achievements of the past year.

Several of my questions to Nick & The Greens remain unanswered however, Tom, & I realise that you may not be able to answer all the questions fully, but an attempt would be of assistance.  I have expanded some questions to better help you understand my concerns.

Are the Greens going to stop the state government giving Aprin taxpayers money, (even if it means The Greens leaving cabinet or fully withdrawing support for the minority Labor party)?

Do you think you & the Greens have a moral obligation to stop this deal, (as we & other people voted for The Greens because of their opposition to what many perceive as the corruption of our State parliament by the Labor Party, especially when involving the forestry industry, as this deal does)?

If you & the Greens are not going to stop this deal, can you explain why not?

Do you & the Greens think that the details of this deal should be released to the Tasmanian taxpayers, and if not why?

Will The Greens be releasing the details of this deal to the Tasmanian taxpayers?

Were proper processes followed in the granting of this loan & was a viable business plan for the wood-chip mill supplied by Aprin as part of that documentation?

Power sharing with a Labor government bent on doing as it pleases, for the benefit of a limited number of Tasmanians, as it has done so for many years, must be extremely difficult & must cause the continual searching of their consciences for everyone involved.  However, as part of that government, The Greens also have to take responsibility for the all the decisions of that government.  Either that or stand again as a fully separate party & let the Labor Party survive or collapse on each policy put to the Parliament.  This ‘possible’ loan to Aprin is an issue that we feel The Greens should make a stand on & demand that their Labor partners in government reject the deal immediately or the Greens cease being part of cabinet & the coalition.

Regards,
Christopher

Further response, Tuesday, July 5, PM:   

Tom,

Thankyou for your prompt answers to my questions.  I realise that you must be extremely busy with this being the last week of Parliament sitting, so it is very much appreciated you taking the time.

Your honest answers have raised excellent points & made several areas of concern, much clearer.

However, I have to disagree with you about The Greens not having to accept the responsibility for all decisions that the government makes.  The Greens are part of a coalition government & as such are responsible for all the decisions of that government while ever they support it & remain a part of it.  I don’t think that coalition partners in a government can pick & choose which decisions they want to make solely theirs.  A political party in Opposition may not be able to stop government decisions but they are able to maintain their independence &  integrity, which will hopefully gain them votes & lead them to be in government at a future election.  Sometimes it is better to be on the sidelines, shouting loudly, instead of being in the game getting covered in the same mud as the other players.

We will consider your points carefully & of course continue to watch the developments around this deal, very closely, before making any decisions.

Thanking you,

Christopher