There is a massive re-rating of native forest going on, even as world resolve to tackle climate change crumbles. Deforestation accounts for roughly 20 per cent of our greenhouse problem, on the ‘‘sink’’ side of the ledger (because it’s not just about how much gas we pump up into the atmosphere - by clearing trees we damage the planet’s ability to suck it back down).
The world’s forests are huge carbon stores and Australia’s native forests have among the highest carbon density in the world. They have their doubters, but programs such as the UN’s Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation and Australia’s Carbon Farming Initiative aim to give a marketable value to the carbon sequestration in standing forest.
Climate change lifts the value of standing native forest, but the economic benefits of logging it have fallen dramatically for two reasons: there has been so much clearing for plantations, which have matured, that there is a ready alternative resource; and when given a choice, consumers prefer not to buy the products of forest destruction.
Hence the woodchipper Gunns Ltd’s historic concession last year that it would get out of native forest logging because the environment movement had ‘‘won the debate’‘.
Hence, according to figures compiled by the consulting economist Naomi Edwards, state forestry agencies are losing taxpayer millions each year propping up a barely viable industry: Forestry Tasmania ($8 million loss); Vic Forests ($1.8 million profit, after a bailout); Forests NSW ($14.3 million loss); WA Forest Products Commission ($43.5 million loss).
There appears to be scant commercial justification for native forest logging in Australia and a new environment group, Markets for Change, (On Tasmanian Times, HERE) is moving to reinforce that view.
With anonymous private funding, and working alongside campaigners from traditional environment groups such as Greenpeace and the Wilderness Society, Markets for Change is targeting major retailers of forest products, highlighting exactly where that ream of paper at Officeworks, bit of timber at Bunnings or piece of furniture at Harvey Norman has come from.
The chief executive of Markets for Change, Tim Birch, a former Greenpeace campaigner, says local retailers are way behind the eight-ball, pointing to a recent announcement from Britain’s Marks & Spencer - which aims to become the world’s most sustainable major retailer by 2015 - that it would give shoppers full ‘‘raw material to store’’ traceability on every single clothing product it sells.
In an April report, Retailing the Forests, Markets for Change said that more than 30 of our largest retail chains stocked furniture, flooring and home improvement or paper products that had originated in native forests. The report argues Australia could be self-sufficient in forest products, relying on its existing plantation base and forgoing imports altogether - a missing piece in the jigsaw puzzle may be the kind of pulp mill Gunns has proposed for Bell Bay.
The organisation argues that companies such as Harvey Norman - the subject of rolling protests over the past month, including the unfurling of a huge ‘‘No Harvey No’’ banner at a logged forest coupe in Tasmania (Pix Below) this week - could get a market advantage if they positioned themselves as native forest-free. Markets for Change traced Australian native forest timber exported by companies such as Gunns, Auswest and Britton Timbers, through traders to Chinese furniture manufacturers, and shipped back to Australian retailers for sale.
According to a report in the Burnie newspaper The Advocate, the chairman of Harvey Norman, Gerry Harvey, was about to stop dealing with the Smithton sawmill, part of Tasmania’s Britton, which would have caused the sawmill to close. He relented after intervention from the state and federal governments and the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union.
The mill’s owner, Glenn Britton, told the newspaper that up to 70 per cent of the dining furniture in Harvey Norman stores nationwide came from Tasmanian timber and if he’d lost sales worth $3 million a year, ‘‘I’m not joking, I would have had to have closed my plant’‘.
Harvey himself - copping it from the greenies on one side and industry, unions and government on the other - wouldn’t comment for this article.
Overseas, the stakes are arguably even higher. Earlier this month ABC TV’s Foreign Correspondent documented the destruction of Sumatran forest by the paper maker Asia Pacific Resources International Ltd (APRIL), describing it as ‘‘ecological armageddon’‘. If you didn’t see the report, you can watch it on iView (Or read the transcript of Paper Tiger, ABC Foreign Correspondent, HERE)
One familiar brand rolled off APRIL’s paper mill: Paper One, sold by Officeworks and Fuji Xerox in Australia, and clearly stamped ‘‘Paper from 100 per cent plantation fiber’‘.
Almost immediately after the program was aired, Fuji Xerox suspended all business with APRIL. In contrast Mark Ward, the managing director of Officeworks - which is owned by Wesfarmers - told the website Stationerynews.com.au the company took environment issues seriously, that it had sought information from APRIL and had engaged with environment groups, ‘‘as is our practice’‘.
The responses were different again after Greenpeace filmed the gruesome death of a Sumatran tiger booby-trapped near an Asia Pulp and Paper logging operation in July, where the jungle was being destroyed to make Black and Gold toilet paper for the IGA supermarket chain. The video went viral; IGA’s parent, Metcash, said it would find an alternative toilet paper supplier and an APP subsidiary, Solaris - advised by the public relations firm PPR - took out full-page ads in Australian newspapers defending itself.
When the media and marketing website Mumbrella picked up on the story, its comment page was overrun with postings attacking Greenpeace ‘‘scum’’ and berating IGA for a ‘‘lack of testicles’‘.
Those responses prompted Mumbrella to do its own digging. It discovered that most of the comments - people who named themselves ‘‘Lover of Country’‘, ‘‘Crusaders.Fan’’ and ‘‘Act Responsibly’’ - were posted from the same IP address, which was registered to office.solarispaper.com.au.
• Kim Booth: Forestry industry in collapse before forests IGA
Status Quo Will Not Help Workers, Families, or Economy
Kim Booth MP
Greens Forestry spokesperson
Saturday, 20 August 2011
The Tasmanian Greens today said that those rallying in support of forestry workers may have valid concerns over impacts being felt by those struggling within the State’s timber industry, such as contractors wanting to exit with dignity, but they are focussing on the wrong target and should instead be demanding answers from the vested interests who are advocating no change.
Greens Forestry spokesperson Kim Booth MP accused timber company representatives and the Liberal Party of deliberately spinning misinformation and fuelling a fear campaign to exploit workers’ concerns in a crass attempt to further their own vested interest, without offering a viable Plan B for those on the ground.
“The frustrations held by many forestry contractors, subcontractors and their families are understandable as, through little or no fault of their own, they are stuck between a dying industry and vested forestry company interests who want to maintain the status quo,” Mr Booth said.
“All Tasmanians who care about forests and having a viable sustainable timber industry need to give the Forests IGA process a go, as neither the timber company advocates nor the Liberals have a real Plan B but just want to further their own vested interests as demonstrated by today’s rank display of political opportunism.”
“It is outrageous that the representatives of the timber barons, such as FIAT, and the Liberal Party are peddling misinformation and distortions in an attempt to exploit workers’ frustrations, when at the same time they want to prevent those same workers from exiting a dying industry.”
“Will Hodgman clearly is prepared to risk forestry contractors and their families going bankrupt and losing their homes, all in the name of political expediency.”
“Let’s be clear, the Statement of Principles process, which has resulted in the Forests IGA, was prompted by recognition across a variety of industry, union and conservation stakeholders that currently the timber industry is failing forestry workers, failing Tasmania’s economy, forests and future.”
“Forest contractors have been calling for exit assistance for years, falling on the deaf ears of both Labor and Liberal at the time, who voted against Greens’ moves to provide exit with dignity assistance.”
“These workers deserve better than big company self-interested distortions and untruths. They deserve an explanation from industry representatives and the Liberals why they shouldn’t get the $45 million for exit packages, $40-plus million for training and employment support, or why Tasmania should be denied the federal $120 million for dedicated regional development opportunities as allocated in the IGA.”
“Forestry workers also deserve an explanation as to why a document which guarantees that all current contracts will be honoured should be ‘torn-up’, as advocated by the Liberals, FIAT and others. That appears counter-productive from their perspective at best.”
“All Tasmanians should be demanding where the Liberals intend to find $270 million dollars to secure a transition to a viable timber industry, and why they are so hell-bent on jeopardising the federal money pledged, which may be the last time the Commonwealth ever bails out the Tasmanian forestry sector again.”
“Even should the full eNGO identified 572, 000 hectares of high conservation value forest be protected for all Tasmanians, that is approximately only one third of the entire State forest estate, which clearly leaves the remaining approximate two-thirds outside the conservation zone.”
“The IGA, while not perfect, presents all Tasmanians with a once in a generation opportunity to both protect high conservation value forests fur future generations as well as put the State’s timber industry onto a viable footing, and receive Commonwealth financial assistance to underpin the transition,” Mr Booth said.
Mr Booth also said that the Greens are not signatories to either the Statement of Principles process or the Tasmanian Forests Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA).
• Bob Brown: Hodgman won’t pay their bills
Audio of Bob Brown’s doorstop today responding to loggers’ rally:
20 August 2011
Hodgman won’t pay their bills
Will Hodgman’s tearing up of the Commonwealth–State forests agreement means he wants $276 million sent back to Canberra, Greens Leader Bob Brown today.
“This is Will Hodgman leaving scores of contractors to financial ruin. He is offering no financial alternative.
“When the logging crowd chanted ‘save our mills, pay our bills’ Mr Hodgman offered to do neither.
“The forests agreement offers an option for both,” Senator Brown said.
Senator Brown said work was proceeding to give Tasmania a new set of national parks which would rival Muir Woods and the Redwood National and State Parks in the US in coming years, creating jobs and investment for Tasmania in the wake of the collapsing native forest logging industry.
• While the banner was going up “15 conservationists from Code Green are protesting at Harvey Norman outlets across the state’s north, calling for Harvey Norman to stop sourcing native forest products. Two protestors dressed as native animals have climbed light posts outside the Marine Terrace store in Burnie, displaying a banner reading “HARVEY NORMAN: PROFITING FROM ECOCIDE”. Inside the store a quoll is reclaiming furniture that is made out of its native habitat. In the Charles Street store in Launceston another quoll is reclaiming furniture made from its native habitat. “
Protester Karlien van Rooyen (above) spent two days in custody:
Media Update 15th August
Protester finally given bail after being held in custody for 2 days
Peaceful community protester Karlien van Rooyen, was granted bail when she appeared in the Magistrate’s Court at Burnie this morning.
Her bail conditions restrict her from loiting within 75meter of any Harvey Norman store in the state of Tasmania. No surety was imposed for her bail.
Protester, Colette Harmsen, who took part in the same protest at a different location on that day, was astonished to hear that Karlien was not released on bail as she had been. Considering that Colette had a prior trespass offence, she thinks that “... it is a concern that there is no consistency and Karlien‘s bail was opposed when she has never had any prior offences”.
The officer who initially opposed Karlien’s bail had later confessed that he had used her “as an example to other young activists protesting in the state” and that they were “wasting our time”.
“I never predicted I could end up in such a place, given the importance of such unique and beautiful Tasmanian native forests.” Said Miss van Rooyen
“Demonstrated again in court this morning, a disproportionate discretion, placed upon the shoulders of a young, shining example of an Australian citizen.” Said Mr Irwin
Karlien was represented by Vanessa Bleyer of Bleyer Lawyers.
• Richard Colbeck ...
SENATOR THE HON RICHARD COLBECK
Senator for Tasmania
Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Fisheries and Forestry
Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Innovation, Industry and Science
M E D I A R E L E A S E
20 August 2011
Tasmania’s forest industry must say “NO DEAL!”
It is time for Tasmania’s forest communities to stand up to the Prime Minister, the Premier and the environment groups and reject the dirty and deceitful Tasmanian forest agreement.
Federal Coalition Forestry Spokesman Senator Richard Colbeck delivered this message to hundreds of forest industry supporters who rallied on the lawns of Parliament House, Hobart, this morning.
“Over the last 20 years every time there has been a negotiation over Tasmania’s forests, the environment groups and the Greens have walked away and said they wanted more.
“They walked out of the 1989 Salamanca talks, and they walked out during the 1996 Regional Forest Agreement talks.
“Even during this year’s talks the Wilderness Society walked out because they weren’t getting what they wanted.
“At long last these environmental activists are being up front with their goal - they want it all.
“They want to shut down Tasmania’s forest industry. They want to close down our sawmills, our veneer mills, our fine furniture and design industry, our woodcraft sector and our wooden boat building businesses.
“It is now time for the forest industry to walk away. It is now our time to say to the Prime Minister, the Premier and the green groups “No deal!”.
“We don’t want your so-called independent assessor. We don’t want your mediator. We don’t want your dirty, stinking deal.
“The Intergovernmental Agreement is not just a bad deal for forest workers and businesses. This is a bad deal for our farmers, for our mining industry and for our furniture makers, our woodcraft sector, our wood design specialists and our wooden boat builders.
“This is a bad deal for Tasmania’s future and it is time to walk away,” Senator Colbeck said.
• The ABC Report:
Timber workers rally against forest agreement
Timber workers have rallied in Hobart against the $276 million dollar forest agreement.
Hundreds of people and dozens of log trucks made their way through Hobart city streets a short time ago.
Timber workers and their families chanted “we are loggers, we are proud” and “save our mills, pay our bills” as truck drivers blew their horns.
The crowd has gathered on the lawns of Parliament House where they are being addressed by politicians and industry representatives.
Liberal leader Will Hodgman ripped up the deal to the cheers of the crowd and called for an election to be held.
The $276 million forest agreement puts another 430,000 hectares into reserve.
• Mercury report:
Truckers rev up protest
MORE than 50 log trucks descended on Hobart’s CBD yesterday as part of a two-pronged protest against the State Government’s $276 million forestry deal.
Forestry industry workers and their families also marched through the city, with some of the trucks behind them, to Parliament Lawns near the waterfront for a rally.
The other trucks then drove around the city centre for about 30 minutes, beeping their horns, as curious Saturday shoppers looked on.
Inspector Glen Woolley, of Tasmania Police, said although it was normally illegal to sound a horn in such circumstances - the offence draws a $50 fine - no penalties were issued yesterday.
“We were pleased with the conduct of the march and the rally,” he said.
“It was well organised and everyone involved did the right thing and protested in a lawful and peaceful manner.
“A traffic management plan was put in place to avoid traffic disruption.
“The log trucks were all registered, legitimate road users.
“Only six were allowed to participate in the march.
“The rest were in a separate convoy, and all road rules were obeyed.”
Australian Greens leader Bob Brown said the log truck convoy was not a new idea.
Truck convoys were used on the West Coast during the Franklin Dam dispute in the early 1980s to voice support for the jobs the proposed Hydro project would have created.
“[And] it’s a long way short of the old days when they used to surround Parliament House in Canberra,” Senator Brown said at a hastily convened media conference after yesterday’s protests.
“It’s a bit of colour, a bit of air pollution, a bit of forest destruction on show in town.
“I think it will have more people than ever wanting to save our forests.”
The organiser of the event, Kelly Wilton, said it was a rally “by the people for the people”.
Word about the rally was spread through pro-forestry Facebook sites.
The Examiner Report:
Protest over forestry deal
CLOSE to 2000 people rolled through Hobart behind more than 50 trucks to voice their opposition to the $276 million intergovernmental forest peace deal yesterday, but were not able to convey concerns directly to Premier Lara Giddings.
A government spokeswoman declined to give a reason why Ms Giddings did not attend the rally but had offered to meet a delegation of six attendees.
Timber workers’ main objection to the $276 million agreement is that 430,000 hectares of native forest have been placed in an informal reserve.
Truck horns were blown in a short procession as families and workers chanted, waving placards which called for an early election and warned workers would not be “sold out”.
Westbury farmer Dimity Hirst, who helped organise the rally, said almost 2000 people from around the state had attended. “So many Tasmanians will be unknowingly affected by the deal,” she said.
“What is going to happen to our children’s futures and our small communities?”
The crowd has gathered on the lawns of Parliament House to be addressed by politicians and industry representatives.
Opposition Leader Will Hodgman described the deal as a “politically motivated sellout” by Labor to appease the Greens who hold the balance of power in Parliament.
“The deal will destroy an industry, decimate local communities and leave thousands unemployed,” he said.
“And the peace we were promised is just a mirage - environmentalists are still protesting and still disrupting logging shipments.”
Greens forestry spokesman Kim Booth said forest contractors and their workers were wrong to target the government over the forest solution and instead should direct their anger at timber industry heads and the Tasmanian Liberals.