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Try and meekly discuss climate change, evolution or the earth being round at your average Tea Party shindig and you’d quickly experience mob wrath, probably fatally.

It’s best to just try and ignore the loudly ill-informed. Engage them and you’ll just encourage them. But sometimes, despite the oxygen of your attention, you just can’t help it. The misguided with an axe to grind and just enough information to be dangerous are really… annoying. But there you go. There but for the grace of Will Hodgman etc etc…

This is also true of one Kelly Wilton, who (observation edited) is doing the rounds, at least via email. Poor Kelly is “tired of living in a dictatorship [sic]” and wants a rally at Parliament lawns (where else?) against the Forests Intergovernmental Agreement. Sigh.

Her ‘media release’ is a master class in misplaced rage. Before wading into some of the sorry misinformation, Ms Wilton overlooks the fact the forest industry, especially its native logging sector, has been going to the dogs for years and has ignored countless warnings of the same.

Need I remind you – yes, Kelly, I do - of (MP and former saw miller) Kim Booth’s 2008 call for a $20m fund to support an industry restructure after the Michael Cook & Associates report – for Tasmania’s Forest Contractors’ Association, no less! – which found contracts had been deliberately and artificially inflated by 30% to try and drive the contract price down. That was voted down by Lib-Lab.

My spider sense tells me Ms Wilton is not a fan of the Greens, who she says have naughtily been “dictating” policy to Labor. Yes, the Greens have been trying really hard to get as many Green wins as possible, but being a minority in Cabinet and Parliament makes that pretty tricky…)

But Wilton doesn’t seem to be aware that the Greens aren’t an IGA signatory and that they have not even endorsed the agreement. But why let the facts get in the way of a good rant?

Read Ms Wilton’s release (Below) and the IGA comes across like a ravings of one of the apocalypse’s four horsemen. But the IGA is only really about transitioning native forest logging to plantation. Other forestry industries can continue business as usual. 

The IGA would put about a third of Tasmania’s State forest into reserve – this still leaves two thirds as fair game. And that doesn’t even include the plantations FT is free to continue trying to turn a profit from.

As the average TT reader well knows, Forestry Tasmania has never really ever made a profit in its history. This is despite the fact it has been handed, ooh, about a billion dollars – and counting - of taxpayer dollars over the years by Liberal and Labor governments.

Recall those balmy (and barmy) days of 2005, when John Howard and Paul Lennon gave $250m to the industry to restructure under the Community Forest Agreement, in return for putting HCV forest into reserve? At the behest of Herr Abetz, they changed their minds. But the industry kept its money. And forgot about the restructuring bit… Feast your eyes on the Auditor General’s scathing report (HERE).

Ms Wilton would do well to read another report, Support for Tasmanian Forestry 1997-98 to 2007-08, by economist Graham Wells, on FT’s Government handouts (HERE).

Ms Wilton says “the Tasmanian Forest Intergovernmental Agreement locks up 430,000ha of working forest immediately and another 150,000ha are to be reserved next year.” But this simply isn’t true.

The IGA would take 430,000ha of native forest and put it in “informal reserves” – not locked up – only if legislation passes through Parliament.

If this legislation is passed, then 430,000ha of forest will not remain locked up for logging, it will be unlocked for public use, in perpetuity.

Wilton says “another 150,000ha [of forest, on top of the 430,000ha] are to be reserved next year” but nowhere in the IGA does the figure of 150,000ha appear and nowhere does it say that extra forest, on top of the 430,000ha, will go into reserve, informal or otherwise.

In fact, the IGA says, in Clause 26, that wood can still be supplied from within the eNGO nominated 572,000ha if it “is considered necessary under any circumstances” but in consultation with the Independent Verification Group. That means logging could continue within the 430,000ha. That doesn’t sound very locked up to me. 

And if FT believes it needs to take logs from within the 430,000ha to honour its contracts, the Government will pay up to $7m in 2011-12 (out of a $15m overall fund). More easy money.

Wilton says that the IGA’s economic development will take “many years… to plan”. In fact, Clause 38 instructs the Federal Government to release a Tasmanian Economic Development Plan by the end of this month, August 2011.

She continues: “The ‘immediate support’ that is being offered in return comes in the form of Centerlink benefits and training programs”. Again, not true. In fact, the IGA provides
• Up to $25m “to provide immediate employment and training”… to Job Services Australia and the Commonwealth’s ‘Connecting People With Jobs’ program;
• $15m to ForestWorks Ltd to administer and provide transition support payments
• $1m over two years to support Rural Alive and Well Inc
• $45m for voluntary exists from public native forest operations, in consultation with the contractors’ associations
• A 155,000 cubic meters saw log quota guaranteed by Government
• 265,000c/m peeler billets quota guaranteed by Government
• 12,500 speciality timber quota, guaranteed by Government (subject to verification)
• A voluntary sawlog contract buy-back program for saw millers wishing to exit the industry
• $120m over five years, including an initial $20m down payment, to fund regional development.

You can see why people outside the forest industry are scratching their heads at forestry’s continued special treatment. Does your average baker get free cash and a 10,000 annual loaf quota guaranteed by the Government? Does a TV salesman get compensation for still selling analogue TVs after the switch to digital, plus retraining to better understand the digital realm? 

The pissed-off Wilton says “Intensive training programs are not going to magically create jobs.” But this isn’t necessarily the role of Government, even though the $120m earmarked for regional develop should help do exactly that.

While the industry and its acolytes have been going all Chicken Little, the IGA maintains that contracts for native wood supply will be honoured. That means forest workers in the native logging industry get paid. And probably compensated, too, if they decide to exit the industry.

If anyone has let down the ordinary workers and contractors, it’s not the nasty Greens (who have incidentally been calling for industry exit packages for some time and supported aid for workers and contractors way back when the Statement of Principles was being negotiated and when it was outlined in the Heads of Agreement. And the Greens support it in this agreement too. Anyhoo…)

The industry and successive Li-bor governments appeasing the industry are squarely to blame. Despite the markets shifting for years and the need to restructure becoming increasingly apparent, the industry stuck its head in the sand. And it didn’t really need to change – as other industries have moved with the times – because it kept getting Government handouts.

Ms Wilton might also like to take a look at the Federal Government’s 2008 report, Economic Activity of Australia’s World Heritage Areas (HERE). This puts the value of our world heritage sites at $1.2bn – that’s a billion-dollar industry without the taxpayer handouts! – the report also puts the number of jobs that our heritage area sustains at more than 5,300.

Another report, released by ANU just yesterday, Potential carbon credits from reducing native forest harvesting in Australia, says “Australia could meet almost half of its 5 per cent greenhouse reduction target by ending logging of native forests” (HERE)

Convert that carbon saving into funds – and now there is a price on carbon dioxide pollution, we can - and our forests could provide an income stream simply by virtue of existing. Perhaps they will even prove more profitable unfelled than felled!

Before having “declared war” – and, yes, this language inciting violence is in bad taste - on a free and fairly elected Government just because she doesn’t like it, Ms Wilton should recognise the IGA for the watershed it is.

In the ongoing forest debate, it very fairly doesn’t put any one party ahead of another. It is the best thing the forest industry has got going for it. It’s got heft, thanks to the Commonwealth’s presence and it creates more wealth-generating forest reserves for tourism, the state’s largest industry and employer.

Instead, Ms Wilton seems too busy wailing in the wind to see the IGA for the achievement is it and just how much it could heal and improve our state.

What Kelly said:

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Derwent Valley resident Kelly Wilton has declared war against the State Government over decisions that will have disastrous long term effects for Tasmania.

She says,

“First they try to close down our schools, now they are putting thousands of people out of work. They are playing with our lives like we are pieces on a game board, except they can’t pack us up and put us away at the end of the day. The decisions they are making are ruining people’s lives here, in the real world. We are not play things and its time they were made accountable before they retire on big fat packages paid for, by the people whose lives they have destroyed.”

The Tasmanian Forest Intergovernmental Agreement locks up 430,000ha of working forest immediately and another 150,000ha are to be reserved next year. It is putting thousands of hard working, tax-paying men and women out of jobs.

The ‘immediate support’ that is being offered in return comes in the form of Centerlink benefits and training programs. Tasmania already has the highest unemployment rate. Intensive training programs are not going to magically create jobs. To make such hollow promises is just plain offensive, especially when you find out that it is means tested. The agreement is full of vague promises to maximise economic diversification but they lack substance and fail to address the fall out that businesses across the State are going to experience during the many years it takes to plan.

The ‘immediate’ assistance for contractors, haulage companies are in fact not immediately available, as the details are yet to be fine-tuned and finalised.  Employees in families like ours, who have another working parent are finding they are that they are not eligible for any ‘support’ if they earn a fulltime wage. We just have to suck it! Well I won’t. I am tired of living in this dictatorship and so are a lot of others. On Saturday the 20th of August the people of Tasmania will rally together on Parliament lawns for a future, for Tasmania. We are calling on the government to tear up the disastrous Forest Agreement, or Lara Giddings should walk away from its partnership with the Greens and call an election.”

Mrs Wilton vows that she will not let the government get away with the economic vandalism Lara Giddings is allowing the Greens to dictate and says she will continue to fight until common sense rules again in the form of a competent Government to lead the State.

For Further information call Kelly Wilton ...

And,

RALLY FOR TASMANIAS FUTURE

The people of Tasmania reject this minority Government and its decisions that are resulting in 1000’s of job losses, leading us into an economic black hole. We call for the Tasmanian Forests Intergovernmental Agreement to be aborted immediately, as the only thing it delivers for Tasmanians is an uncertain future. We have no confidence in this government and we call for an election.

SATURDAY
20TH AUGUST 2011
LAWNS OF PARLIAMENT
11am to 1.30pm

COME & JOIN THIS PROTEST BY THE PEOPLE, FOR THE PEOPLE.
TASMANIA – BE HEARD!