Image for The Black Flagging of Parliament

Welcome to another day where black is the colour and none is the number.

We have surrounded the front of this parliament building with black flags to commemorate the betrayal of democracy when the interests of one corporation became the sole concern of government. I am referring to the passing of the PMAA in March 2007. Today we are here to witness yet another attempt by the Greens to have that legislation repealed.

Welcome to the People’s Parliament.

I am not referring to the Rump that sits inside that building behind me. I am referring to the gathering outside here today, and in the broader sense, to the debate that is ongoing in our community as to the sort of Tasmania we wish to live in and leave to our descendants.

The debased Rump that postures as a parliament inside that building has provided no leadership and no vision for Tasmania except the dystopia of turning Tasmania into the Borneo of the Southern Ocean.

That Rump, with a handful of honourable exceptions, has forced the populace of Tasmania to defend itself against not only a parliament addicted to chaos and incompetence, ignorance and petty malice but a parliament bent on doing the bidding of one favoured company, Gunns, and one favoured industry, the logging industry as currently constituted.

The ironic outcome, if those Labor and Liberal politicians and their fellow travellers in the upper house would but wake from their sleep of reason to face reality for just this once, is that Gunns and the logging industry are on the brink of collapse.

So much for picking winners. And like the gambling addicts that they are they are going to back these broken down losers all the way to the knacker’s yard.

More than 7 years ago the Lennon Government, with the collusion of the opposition Liberals decided to do what had to be done to deliver for Gunns the dream of turning Tasmania into a world scale pulp producer. It wasn’t a dream. It was a nightmare and it unleashed a whole box full of horrors, the most despicable of which we are revisiting today.

THE most shameful episode in our political history took place here in March 2007.

None of the bit players in that scripted farce have ever expressed the slightest remorse for the crime they committed. Let us be absolutely clear what happened.

Coached by Premier Paul Lennon, Gunns withdrew from the RPDC. In short order Gunns produced a piece of legislation. They have never denied writing it. It became the Pulp Mill Assessment Act 2007.

Lawyers, heavies and lobbyists from Gunns, the industry and the CFMEU escorted the legislation, now commonly known as the ‘fast track assessment’, through THEIR parliament, for that is what it had become, to be rubber stamped by a bunch of impostors, a bunch of lickspittles and lackeys pretending to be parliamentarians.

That Labor and Liberal politicians and their fellow travellers in the upper house were the willing patsies of this gross abuse of parliamentary democracy should never be excused, glossed over, forgotten or diminished in any way. Their actions, in doing the bidding of a corporation, demonstrated a breathtaking contempt for the institution of parliamentary democracy by the very people whose sacred duty it was to uphold.

Of the original 21 members of the House of Assembly who did Gunns’ bidding on that day, only 9 remain. One deputy premier was destroyed by his involvement with fixing the pulp mill deal. Two premiers have fallen and a third will surely follow.

I had intended to recite the names of those who voted for the PMAA in 2007 – a roll of dishonour. But I will not waste my breath nor taint the air on this beautiful Hobart day.

Today the Greens will yet again argue for the repeal of the PMAA. Does anyone doubt the outcome? The Labor squeal and the Liberal rant. 

No doubt the new members of the Labor and Liberal parties in the House of Assembly, the ‘fresh blood’, will endorse and repeat the disgraceful behaviour of their predecessors and favour the interests of Gunns ahead of the best interests of all Tasmanians.

The merging of business and government. Say it quickly and the heart rate barely quickens. But this is a very serious matter. The merging of government and business is where fascism starts. The merging of government and business has caused a great disruption in Tasmania.

For at least 7 years Tasmania has been held back by the manic obsession of both the Labor and Liberal parties with facilitating a world scale pulp industry in Tasmania on behalf of one favoured company.

More social conflict and disgust with politicians and the political system will be the outcome of today’s predictable vote for a continuance of the systemic corruption that has beset this parliament. Another outcome will be a continuation of the unwillingness to invest in this state by those who live here and those who do not.

My appeal to the ‘new blood’ in parliament is to stand up to the puppet masters in your own parties and bring about a separation of business and government without which there cannot be a functioning democracy, and without which Tasmania’s social, economic and environmental future is in jeopardy.

I will address my next comments to one member of parliament and I have chosen David O’Byrne. David are you listening? Is anyone in there listening?

I have here an email from Japan. But first the background. Several weeks ago I had a job escorting a Japanese business delegation around Tasmania. Representatives of an old family company, their trip was to determine the suitability of Tasmania for the location of a vertically integrated agriculture and aquaculture business, a business reliant on clean air, clean water and clean soil. This is precisely the sort of business producing an exportable quality product that Tasmania should be attracting.

However, the proposed pulp mill for Tasmania, caused consternation. Here is the text of an email from one of the delegation about that very subject.

“This kind of economic temptation (pulp mill) seems to hap[pen everywhere in the world.

If the environment of Tasmania was torn, the island will lose its biggest strength: the Tasmanian brand, and there will be just another small island (en)slaved by a(n) economic entity. I am sure there will not be a synergy between Tasmania and such a company, and therefore the partnership between them is not sustainable.

In my opinion, a foreign company must think first if there will be a synergy and co-prosperity in investing in Tasmania. If the answer seems to be no they should look somewhere else.

And my decision may be affected by a pulp mill advance in Launceston since we learned having a pulp mill degrades aquaculture through Kawanoe city’s case, didn’t we?

As you know, the accessibility to pure and safe agriculture and aquaculture is the key factor in our investment plan this time.

So this potential investment (the pulp mill) may jeopardize Tasmania brand/strength and it affects the validity of my plan.”

There you have it in a nutshell David O’Byrne. If you, as a representative of the ‘new blood’ in Labor, and as a potential future leader, don’t begin breaking the chains that tie Labor to the dreadful old paradigm of subservience to the interests of one company and one industry, you will be presiding over an impoverished Tasmania.

Minister Fails to Ensure Commercially Viable Contract Between Hydro Tasmania and Gunns Ltd
Kim Booth MP
Greens Energy spokesperson
Thursday, 26 May 2011

The Tasmanian Greens today called on Minister for Energy, Bryan Green, to explain whether Mums and Dads would be footing the water bill for the proposed Gunns Ltd pulp mill.

Greens Energy spokesperson Kim Booth MP said under the water supply contract between Hydro Tasmania and Gunns Ltd, 40 billion litres of water will be provided annually to the pulp mill.

Mr Booth also said that the Minister effectively conceded that the price Gunns Ltd is required to pay for water does not include the full cost of energy lost to Tasmanians from the diversion of Hydro water. 

“The Minister effectively conceded in Parliament today that Hydro Tasmania is not only charging Gunns Ltd a below competitive, or ‘mates rates’ for water, but is also expecting the mums and dads to foot the price of electricity lost to the Tasmanian energy sector,” said Mr Booth.

“The Minister was unable to give me an exact figure for the cost of water but based on information previously received on this matter, Gunns Ltd would be required to pay $27 per megalitre of water.

This is clear favouritism as farmers in the South East have been asked to pay $2700 per megalitre for water received under the irrigation scheme, for which the same Minister is responsible.”

“Labor and Liberal both maintain their grossly biased positions that the Tasmanian economy needs Gunns Ltd pulp mill.  Clearly Gunns Ltd needs Tasmanians to foot their energy bill.”

“The Cost of Living February 2011 report released by Dr David Adams stated that fuel and power prices are higher than the national average: 3.7% compared with 2.6% nationally.  The report also stated that electricity costs have increased by 27.1% in the last three years and are likely to rise by up to 32% over the next three years.”

“Hydro have handed 40 billion litres of water to Gunns rather than generating power with it and as power prices rise so too will the electricity bills of mums and dads who will pay through their electricity bills for cheap water for Gunns.”

“The Minister was unable to explain to the House how much higher Tasmania’s electricity prices will rise due to his failure to oversee a fair and reasonable water supply contract between the Hydro Tasmania and Gunns Ltd crumbling and feeble mini-empire that relies on hand-outs rather than standing on their own two feet,” Mr Booth said.

State and Federal Governments Must Work Together to Secure Industry Exit and Reserve Package
Kim Booth MP
Greens Forests spokesperson
Thursday, 26 May 2011

The Tasmanian Greens today called on the State and Federal Parliaments to recognise that Tasmania’s native forest industry is financially unviable, and to work together to provide a fair and equitable support package to industry workers.

Greens Forests spokesperson Kim Booth MP said the financial stress placed on forest workers and contractors as a result of the collapse of the forest industry is a direct result of the financial unviability of the native forest sector and through no fault of their own.

“The State and Federal Labor continued to support an unviable native forest industry for many years, and now need to work together to provide a fair and equitable support package to the workers of the industry who will ultimately bear the brunt of poor policy,” Mr Booth said.

“The financial stresses put on Tasmanian families who now face financial ruin as a result of the collapse of the native forest industry, are unfair and has caused economic hardship for the families of these industry workers.”

“The industry can not survive in its current form, and this should have been recognised years ago for industry transition to protect Tasmanian workers.”

“Contractors should be provided an exit package that secures their future at the same time as securing the quotas and contracted volumes for reservation.”

“It is clear now that a fair and equitable support package needs to be developed to assist Tasmanian forest industry workers transition into other areas of work,” Mr Booth said.

Resources Should be Provided to Support Economic Development in Regional Communities
Tim Morris MP
Greens Member for Lyons
Thursday, 26 May 2011

The Tasmanian Greens today congratulated the Triabunna community for its determination to identify business opportunities in the Triabunna district following the closure of Gunns’ woodchip mill, such as a Marine Discovery Centre, which will enable the local economy to transition and provide employment opportunities.

Greens Member for Lyons Tim Morris MP said the public meeting at Triabunna on 25 May 2011 brought many members of the community together to start articulating possible futures for the district following the closure of Gunns’ woodchipping facility.

“Hats off to the Triabunna community for taking a positive and proactive response to Gunns’ need to move away from native forest woodchipping, by looking for economic development alternatives such as a Marine Discovery Centre,” Mr Morris said.

“The community meeting at Triabunna showed just how the community intended to turn this industry closure into a positive and new regional economic development projects for the area.”

“The Greens believe that there should be close consideration to providing financial and other support for regional economic development for Tasmanian regional communities, through opportunities such as the Kelty process,” Mr Morris said.

• ABC Online: Herr: Pay rise for MP unnecessary

A Tasmanian political analyst has questioned the need to pay $40,000 for the deputy leader in the upper house.

The Premier, Lara Giddings, has defended the new Labor MP Craig Farrell’s $40,000 pay rise for taking on the Deputy Leader role, saying it carried an increased work load and responsibility.

Ms Giddings says the $40,000 extra being paid to Mr Farrell to take on the role is miniscule compared to savings the Government has made.

She says Mr Farrell will be called on to help the Leader answer questions on behalf of Government.

But political analyst Richard Herr says the job did not necessarily need to be filled.

Mr Herr says because Mr Farrell is not a minister, he can only deliver other ministers’ pre-written answers to upper house questions, not answer them himself.

“They can only be the post office, the delivery messenger for questions that have been given 24 hours in advance to the Government for the minister responsible to write out a response,” he said.

“Now, reading out the answer is not the same responsibility as being without notice answering a question on behalf of the Government.

“Reading out the answer is not the same responsibility as being without notice, answering a question on behalf of the government.

... as Lara plots Public Service cull plan

Tasmania’s Premier has outlined her plan to cull the public service, including sacking workers who are not performing.

Lara Giddings told Parliament the size of the public sector was too big and changes were needed to improve its efficiency.

Mass redundancies will not be offered but employees in programs identified by departmental heads as no longer required will be laid off.

The State Service Act will also be amended to allow the Government to sack under-peforming public servants.

A wide-ranging investigation into the productivity of the public service has also been commissioned.

It comes three weeks before the state budget is to be handed down.

S. 44 Amendment on ‘Economic’ Redundancies Scrapped
Nick McKim MP
Greens Leader
Thursday, 26 May 2011

The Tasmanian Greens today outlined their policy position which they took into State Budget negotiations with Labor over Public Sector Reforms, which has seen proposals to amend the State Service Act 2000 to facilitate forced redundancies on economic or operational grounds be withdrawn.

Greens Leader Nick McKim MP said that the Greens were not prepared to accept that mass job cuts was the solution to the budget woes highlighted by the 2010-2011 Mid Year Financial Report, but instead required that improved performance management opportunities for employees, and efficiency and productivity measures were prioritised.

Mr McKim also said the Greens have consistently stated that in power-sharing Parliaments not any one Party can presume to get its own way all of the time, and that good faith and genuine negotiations rely upon constructive compromise to deliver a workable way forward.

“The Greens do not support public sector forced redundancies on operational and economic grounds, and it is a significant breakthrough that Section 44 of the State Service Act will not be amended to facilitate this happening,” Mr McKim said.

“This is a position the Greens took into our negotiations, held to, and still hold to today.”

“We have also consistently maintained that just cutting the public sector in the tough times, while letting it balloon in the good times is false economy, which risks services to the community, and reduces capacity to strategically rebuild.”

“Implementing improved efficiency across the public sector, such as the centralisation of ICT, and strategically providing for greater productivity, and improved employee development through consistent performance management practices have been key areas where stakeholders, including unions, have advocated for reform.  This was a key plank of the Greens’ negotiating position.”

“The common-ground secured through these negotiations include a professional development and performance management focus, mechanisms for improved efficiency and productivity, the removal of proposed amendments to Section 44 to facilitate forced redundancies on economic or operational grounds.  But it also includes accepting the timeframe change to the provisions already in place in Section 47.”

“At the time talks were entered into there were proposals for the current Section 47 of the State Service Act to be amended to truncate the current timeframe of 12 months to three, whereas now the compromise of six months has been agreed to.”

“Tough times require tough decisions to be made.  The Greens accept our responsibility to make the difficult decisions, rather than hide behind the populist options.”

“Tasmania’s history demonstrates repeatedly that it is always power-sharing Parliaments which face up, and take head on the tough decisions needed to balance the budget books following years of majority government fiscal mismanagement.”

“Here we are again, here we go again. The Greens are committed to doing our bit to work in a positive, constructive manner to find the common ground, an deliver real workable solutions to assist Tasmania and Tasmanians face the upcoming budget challenges.”

“On behalf of the Greens I wish to thank the stakeholders, union representatives and Labor representatives who worked with us, and entered into good faith negotiations over the last five months which we believe have delivered a sensible and workable balance when facing the budget challenges ahead,” Mr McKim said.