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An editorial in The Australian newspaper today, Forestry conflict needs to end (Australian 23 Feb, (Reproduced below and online here) ), is a metaphor for the wider debate underway across Australia on achieving a balance between conservation and consumption. 

However, the conclusions of the editorial are incorrect.  The Editor suggests that “federal Forestry Minister Joe Ludwig is right to refuse to intervene by imposing a deal if an agreement is not reached”.  Rubbish!  The Federal government has stoked this conflict in so many ways and has an obligation to help broker a solution, not just for Tasmania, but all of Australia.

The wider issue, of which the Tasmanian forestry conflict is symptomatic, is that the capabilities of extractive technologies and markets – the globalised technical economy - have clearly outstripped the limits of the natural economy – the global economy limited by photosynthesis.  It is the technical economy that is being forced to adjust.

The Tasmanian forest wars cannot be resolved only in Tasmania, because Tasmanians are being asked to carry an unfair share of the national and global adjustment effort.  As evidence, the latest flash point in the Tasmanian war is apparently the wavering corporate conscience of Japan!

Forestry is a critical industry to Tasmania, as iron ore is to Western Australia and coal is to Queensland.  Comparatively, Tasmania’s forestry industries are generally well managed and sustainable.  Why shut Tasmanian native forests to legitimate forestry (as has been done with Federal intervention), but allow Australian consumers to enjoy the advantage of cheap imported wood products of dubious heritage and Japanese branded electrical goods, sourced from environmentally-challenged China, all funded with the environmentally tainted income generated by coal and iron ore exports? 

The quantity of federal compensation offered under the current Intergovernmental Agreement is a pittance compared with the long range economic losses to Tasmania that will be caused by the proposed adjustments to native forestry.  The regional adjustment strategy that the IGA funds are supporting – an expansion of intensive dairy and aquaculture - fail any comparative test of sustainability with long rotation native forestry.  The alternative forests industry salvation strategy proposed by the IGA Round Table, of an intensive plantation industry feeding a badly sited mega pulp mill, will be an environmental and social disaster for Tasmania. 

There is simply no point in calling a truce if these are the only options on the table.  The “Tasmanian” war should be allowed to continue, but in Tasmania, the rules of engagement need to change.  Tasmanian foresters and environmentalists should recognise that they are actually well-adapted allies in a much wider conflict.  They should direct their energy jointly towards forcing a more just conclusion to the global consumption-conservation debate that recognises Tasmania’s world leading efforts, not allow free-riders to use Tasmania as a salve for their environmental consciences.

The initial focus of their strategy should really be the two-faced bastards occupying Japanese board rooms.  After that, proceeds from Australia’s carbon tax should be factored in to options for native forestry management in Tasmania, before long-term solutions are agreed.  This is the game changer.

Ben Quin is a Tasmanian with a deep interest in global environmental politics and economics.  He stood for election in the Federal seat of Lyons in 2004 and 2007, first as the endorsed Liberal candidate, then as an Independent, after being dumped late in the 2007 campaign by the Liberals for his stand against the Tamar pulp mill.  He currently shares his time between China, where he is the Managing Director of a group of companies involved in engineering and food manufacturing, and Triabunna, where he enjoys the solitude of his fishing boat.

• The Australian editorial: *Forestry conflict needs to end

PEACE will not break out in the Tasmanian forestry wars until the industry and conservationists can make a deal stick. They can no longer count on government intervention to broker a way forward.

The long-mooted peace deal is teetering on the verge of collapse. The latest flashpoint is the decision by Malaysian-owned veneer maker Ta Ann to cut jobs after losing orders in the vital Japanese market. The industry claims it has been damaged by an anti-forestry campaign by activists while environmentalists point to the weaker global economy and the high Australian dollar.

In this uncertain environment, industry bodies such as the Forest Industries Association of Tasmania have no choice but to redouble their efforts to secure a long-term agreement. If failing to participate in these so-called peace talks is simply an attempt to magnify the uncertainty around the deal, then that will be a poor outcome for industry, workers and environmentalists. The challenge is to find the right balance between conserving areas of forest while guaranteeing timber supply to provide certainty for industry. The independent verification group, formed as part of the negotiation towards an intergovernmental agreement, backed by the federal and state governments, should help find the right balance. But federal Forestry Minister Joe Ludwig is right to refuse to intervene by imposing a deal if an agreement is not reached.

Any deal imposed from outside to end the bitter and protracted 30-year conflict over Tasmania’s forests will ultimately fail if all parties are not willing to accept such a deal. This is the key to securing a future for the Tasmanian forests industry, an industry on which the state’s economy depends. Ecological activists who put symbolic bans ahead of Tasmanian jobs must be exposed as the wreckers they are, the vandals prepared to destroy the livelihoods of hardworking Australians. Industry players must also change their ways and adapt to changing markets by managing their forests and their industry in a manner that respects the natural environment. The industry must boost productivity, innovate and invest in skills. They should recognise that increasing conservation areas will pay a dividend by giving long-term security to supply agreements.

As minister Ludwig recognises, all parties should put aside their differences and find a compromise that ends the conflict.

• FORESTRY TASMANIA CONTINUES CAMPAIGN TO UNDERMINE IGA

Nick McKim MP
Greens Leader

The Tasmanian Greens accused Forestry Tasmania of continuing its campaign to undermine the conservation outcomes in the Tasmanian Intergovernmental Agreement, citing an article published in today’s Australian newspaper (Here, also reproduced in yesterday’s TT wrap: Here).

Greens Leader Nick McKim MP said the agency is pre-empting the IGA verification process to prevent any meaningful conservation outcomes, while trying to distract from the mounting evidence of their gross resource mismanagement.

“Enough is enough.  Rather than front up and face up to the fact that they have clearly over-allocated and over-contracted the resource, Forestry Tasmania is attempting to blame the conservation and biodiversity regulations contained in the Forests Practices Code,” Mr McKim said.

“Once again Forestry Tasmania is seeking to pre-empt the Jonathon West Verification process.  Any attempt to pitch for a ‘trade-off’ between the IGA reserves outcome versus a Forest Practices Code with watered down biodiversity provisions is unacceptable.”

“This rogue agency is determined to be obstructionist and has to be abolished.”

• Senator Christine Milne, Greens Deputy Leader: Forestry Tasmania’s overcutting exposed. Forestry Tasmania board must go.

Forestry Tasmania’s over cutting of Tasmania’s native forests has been exposed in the leaks around the independent analysis of wood supply contracts as part of the Intergovernmental Agreement, Australian Greens Deputy Leader Christine Milne said today.

“What has become clear is that Forestry Tasmania has overcut and over allocated the forest to such an extent that even with the retirement of two thirds of its contracted volume via Gunns, Forestry Tasmania cannot meet the remaining one third of its obligations.

“With an annualised shortfall of 39,000 cubic metres of veneer logs, what would have happened if Gunns and TA Ann were both still in the market?

“Forestry Tasmania would have been hung out to dry and one or other or both of the companies would have sued for breach of contract.

“Forestry Tasmania must be disbanded beginning with the Board which has overseen reckless destruction of forests, overcutting, over allocation in contracts and financial failure with the $18 million losses over the past two financial years.

“It is time for the Board to explain why it permitted the over allocation of the forests and then the overcutting whilst pretending that the forests are sustainably managed.

“Forestry Tasmania and Ta Ann should apologise to the forest activists who have been telling the truth about the forest practices that underpin their contracts.

“Far from being sustainably managed, Forest Practice Authority chief, Graham Wilkinson has made it clear that Forestry Tasmania’s current practices do not meet scientifically based requirements for the protection of threatened species.
 
“Forestry Tasmania has argued throughout the process that, provided it can continue to ignore scientifically based requirements for the protection of endangered species, it could still meet its contracts until 2030 provided no more areas were protected.

“Now we know that is a lie. It cannot. Even with no reserves, and unsustainable practices, Forestry Tasmania cannot fulfil its contracts from native forests.

“Forestry Tasmania must go.”

• HANDS OFF REMAINING IGA $100M
Clause 41 Must Hold Fast

Nick McKim MP
Greens Leader

The Tasmanian Greens today demanded a public commitment from the Federal Labor Party that the remaining $100 million set aside for regional development under the Forests Intergovernmental Agreement would remain reliant on the passage of legislation to implement agreed conservation measures.

Greens Leader Nick McKim MP said that Federal Regional Development Minister Simon Crean’s announcement yesterday confirming that the initial $20 million available for investment this financial had now been exempted from the critical clawback provisions, was a disturbing watering down of a crucial component of the IGA.

“If Labor thinks it can rewrite the regional development funding conditions at will, without delivering a single conservation measure, then it can expect to increase the risk that the forest peace process collapses and the war in Tasmania’s forests escalates.”

“When I met with Minister Crean this morning, I stated that the Greens position is that Clause 41 should remain.”

“If the Commonwealth wants to argue that the initial $20 million is a ‘taster’ then they cannot give away the entire meal for free.”

“While Mr Crean is meeting with the Legislative Council, now is the time for a public commitment that the remaining $100 million is conditional on the passage of reserve legislation, as detailed Clause 41 of the IGA.”

“The Legislative Council must start to play a constructive role in progressing the reserve agenda.  Any failure to do this places Tasmania’s ongoing economic transition at risk.”

REFERENCE: [1] Clause 41 of the Tasmanian Forests Intergovernmental Agreement states:

“Subject to formal legislative protection by the Tasmanian Government of the areas of reserve identified in Clause 29, the Commonwealth Government will provide $120 million over a period of 15 years, including an initial payment of $20 million in 2011-12, to fund regional development projects which meet rigorous criteria for improving the productivity and income-earning capacity of the Tasmanian economy.  Any funding provided under this Clause will be repaid by the State to the Commonwealth in the event that the Tasmanian Parliament does not pass legislation to provide the protection referred to in Clause 29.”

• John Hawkins, Chudleigh:

Yesterday on the ASX Gunns share price has gone up to 20 cents and down to 17 cents finishing at 17.5 cents with 12.5 million shares traded.

The speculators are having a field day.

Chandler has not spent a cent. Those who bought an interest before the announcement somewhere in the world through some fund at under 12 cents, would have made a lot of money.

Today’s antics show this share to be very very speculative indeed.

Is the ASX taking note or even asking questions.