Image for TWS, TAP and The Ides of March


Gunns didn’t take long to transform the round-table talk-fest agreeing to “a” pulpmill as meaning agreeing to “the” pulpmill.

I can’t understand how they did this.  But it does seem as if, while having stayed out of the talks, Gunns then wanted to take control of them, saying that they’d get out of native forests, if the restructure of the industry talks failed.  Such a failure would mean that they’d focus on plantations and on the mill.  That was an empty promise, merely noting that whether the round table succeeded or not, Gunns in their opinion are going to build a pulp mill.  And just why was Bill Kelty down at Gunns Lindsay St HQ the other day?

• There is only one pulp mill on the agenda (if that means that there is only one proposed pulp mill on the table – the proposed Tamar Valley pulp mill). 

• The majority of Tasmanians do not want this stinking mill. 

• The statement of principles were not partied to by the community.


Some time ago Peter Henning argued convincingly that in spite of his denials, Geoff Cousins would now agree to a Tamar pulp mill.  [I hope I’m remembering the details correctly]  Some say also that TWS has traded forests for the Tamar mill but I’m not convinced.  I checked out the Australian article for which Karl had provided a link, and which as I recall, he claimed showed that according to Alec Marr, TWS had accepted a Tamar Valley mill.  My reading of that article failed to present anything conclusive on that matter.  And so I’m still thinking about this distinction between ‘a mill’ and ‘the mill’.  And I admit that I’m less than happy with my own ambivalent position.  However, for me, the question still remains:  Should the TWS and ET ENGOs be believed when they have said that acceptance of ‘a pulp mill’ is not acceptance of ‘the pulp mill’ ?

What I’ve always understood to be the TWS position, is that their attitude to any proposition such as a pulp mill would be one based on reasons, which could be put out there in the public domain and which would serve as a credible basis for responding to such propositions.  I think they have not wanted to be seen as a negative organisation that would simply reject outright - without reasons - any proposal that arose.  In the case of ‘the mill’ I think their position is essentially that the Tamar mill fails on a number of grounds.  On the question of ‘a pulp mill’, I think they are saying that any pulp mill proposal anywhere else in Tas should be assessed on its merits and not accepted if it doesn’t meet satisfactory criteria.  I can’t be certain in any of this, because I’m not in TWS/ET and don’t know the inner thoughts of Paul, Phil, Vica etc.  Though everytime I have spoken to them personally, they have maintained their opposition to the mill. (I haven’t spoken to Phil about it though.)

So when acceptance of ‘a pulp mill’ was written into the Principles document, I understood it to mean that the Wildos and ET were saying that just as with any project, a mill should not be rejected out-of-hand, but that if one were to be proposed, it would still have to be judged against appropriate criteria.  Incidentally, with regard to plantations as the basis for a mill, it is still as far as I know, TWS policy for a halt to plantation expansion, for a return of some to native forest/agriculture, reform of plantation management regimes (aerial spraying, monocultures) use of plantations as timber, not just chip resource.  Once again, I note that I know less about all these matters than many others.  But it seems to me, that what I’ve just mentioned about plantation reform would mean that the Wildos would certainly not be using the second stage of the round table as a vehicle for the whole process to be parlayed into a pulp mill - let alone a Gunns Tamar Valley pulp mill.  I think that essentially the Round Table talks are not about the pulp mill, but I agree that Gunns have tried to hijack the talks and apparently last Friday at their own HQ were told to leave the room so that talks could proceed ... Gunns not being a signatory to the Principles agreement.

Here are three relevant elements of the Principles agreed to:

Create a strong sustainable timber industry including the development of a range of plantation based timber processing facilities including a pulp mill.  There will need to be stakeholder consultation and engagement with the proponent, ENGO’s and the community.
Support sustainable and socially acceptable plantations including agreed reforms and new agro-forestry outcomes, including pursuing certification.
Community Engagement:
Engage and involve the broad Tasmanian community in the development and implementation of a durable solution to the Tasmanian forest conflict.

This is the ACF’s take on matters relating to the Industry, Plantation and Community Engagement Principles: 

Environment and community groups remain opposed to the current proposed pulp mill in the Tamar Valley and emphasised that any future proposal for [a] mill must be based on a new and transparent public consultation process.

Have you read the document?  Here it is…

I would then beg the reader to consider whether:
1.  A sceptic has no mirror.
2.  A cynic sees the self.
3.  An idealist aspires to something better.

A few words about TAP:
“And it is very much lamented, Brutus,
That you have no such mirrors as will turn
Your hidden worthiness into your eye”.

(Cassius:  ‘Julius Caesar’, Act I, scene ii.)

It is very much in my mind that we were more than fortunate that in the aftermath of the collapse of the Tamar Residents Action Committee, TRAC, we witnessed the birth of TAP - Tasmanians Against the Pulpmill.  Am I wrong in thinking that its genesis was in Rowella, where the recent residents’ meeting was held?  Along the way it gave, and still provides us with a vehicle to continue to oppose the proposed pulp mill.  TAP has done much else, mostly good, but like any human enterprise, it has made some mistakes.  I write as a TAP expat. 

“Poor Brutus, with himself at war, forgets the shows of love to other men.”

What we see on TT is intense, yet flashes past so quickly.  Can I remind you, before it is lost to memory, that we have seen, in the space of days if not hours, successive articles from TAP members Karl, Peter, John and Bob MacMahon.  At the same time, in the comments, we have seen Bob Kendra provide covering fire - presenting what amounts to an ultimatum - demanding that Bob Brown intervene and cancel the forest principles.  What started out as a simple TAP movement against the pulp mill changed in 2008 to TAP Into a Better Tasmania, with a wider perspective - for example ... plantations.  All hell broke loose when TWS, calling for reforms in plantation management and an exit from native forests, was accused by TAP Mark II of having sold out!  Recall the “Eric B Johnstone” affair, played out on TT.  And what has it led us to?  I believe the purge of the TAP Coordinating Committee in 2010 and the imposition of a Board of TAP. - a ‘coup by management’.  The continued vilification of TWS, and the Greens.  And the irony is that we’ll all be there ‘on the same side of the barricades’ should push come to shove.

What to do? For a start, we could admit that while Gunns would have us believe that ‘a pulp mill’ means ‘the pulp mill’, it continues to be the truth that TWS and the Greens remain publicly and privately opposed to the one mill on the table … the Tamar Valley Pulp Mill. We should not be expected to accept that assertions can double as evidence, or to confuse rhetoric and accusation with truth, when they come from the mouths of comrades. What basis is there for accepting conjecture as fact, and seeing betrayal behind every bush?

“Men in general are quick to believe that which they wish to be true”. Julius Caesar.