And for those who have been expressing confusion over this deal – here are two responses, repeated with permission, from a staffer to questions I and other concerned people aasked bout the political response from the Greens to this deal. The bits in bold are my additions.
The Tas Greens have been consistent since it was first mooted that the Crown would need to buy back the Gunns sawlog quota so that it could be retired into conservation (see HERE).
As Kim said in today’s Examiner, “it is unpalatable for any taxpayer money to go to Gunns or Forestry Tasmania” however this outcome was overseen by an independent probity auditor, thanks to the Tasmanian Greens demanding this as a condition, and it is also the only way forward now to get the $276 million into this state and the forests into conservation.
This money will not be enough to clear Gunns debt or get them anywhere near to securing that pulp mill. It’s also useful to remember that Gunns thought they were originally going to get $250 million.
The reason why money had to go to Forestry Tasmania was because they are a rogue agency and are using the Forest Practices Act that has basically been re-written to make it almost impossible for a Minister to give direction to Forestry Tasmania. FT were threatening to sell Gunns’ sawlog to the next company that wanted to log native forests in Tasmania. As you’d know, the Greens have been attempting to legislate Forestry Tasmania away and there is Strategic Review happening now to try and get this to happen.
However, at this stage legislative change is more than unlikely to get Liberal support and certainly won’t pass the Upper House. So, we’re stuck with a forestry Tasmania for now.
**Please find attached the Letter to Treasury as well as the Probity Auditor Report that was only done because the Greens demanded it be an above-board commercial transaction.** (no attachment)
Amy: On behalf of Kim Booth MP and the Tasmanian Greens, I would like to thank you for your email.
Firstly, the figure of $48 million is incorrect. Gunns will receive $23 million and Forestry Tasmania will receive $11.5 million. Part of the $11.5 million that Forestry Tasmania will receive is to settle the debt owed to them by Gunns. However, the actual amount of that debt is unknown at this stage with Forestry Tasmania asserting it was $25 million but Gunns claiming a lesser amount. The amount being paid has been assessed by an Independent Probity Auditor (please see attached reports; no attached reports sent to TT).
The $11.5 million being paid to Forestry Tasmania is primarily because, as a rogue agency, they are unwilling to do what is commercially in their best interest - which is to abide by the IGA - and moreover refuse to do what their owners, the Tasmanian public, have demanded of them - which is to put the Gunns quota into conservation after the Crown has purchased it back.
Forestry Tasmania are able to get away with this outrageous behaviour because the Forestry Act 1920 (HERE) under which they operate, has basically made it possible for them not have to heed ministerial direction (check out Section 12C subsection 2(a)(b)(c)(d) of the Act, HERE).
The Tasmanian Greens are well aware of the legislative anomaly, that was legislated under the former Lennon government, which has allowed Forestry Tasmania to lose millions of dollars of public money and destroy our world-recognised forests. However, whilst we would ideally like to change this legislation so as to bring Forestry Tasmania back under parliamentary control, due to the Liberal Party blind faith in Forestry Tasmania and potentially Labor Party reluctance, we would be unable to get any legislative changes in time to ensure the IGA proceeds.
Also, it is unlikely the Upper House would pass any legislation that would bring Forestry Tasmania back to heel. At this stage, there is a strategic review into Forestry Tasmania which hopefully will include the Auditor-General’s Special Report 100, that concludes Forestry is a failed business.
Thank you for letting us know your intention to place Liberal before Labor. I would suggest that you get some clear commitments from the Liberal Party that they will not legislate to allow this pulp mill to go ahead, that they will agree to significant reform of Forestry Tasmania so that they have to heed Ministerial direction (at the very least) and that they will continue to allow the IGA to proceed along with the subsequent $276 million.
Finally, As Mr Booth said in today’s Examiner, “it is unpalatable for any taxpayer money to go to Gunns or Forestry Tasmania” however this outcome was overseen by an independent probity auditor, thanks to the Tasmanian Greens demanding this as a condition, and it is also the only way forward now to get the $276 million into this state and the forests into conservation.
Hopefully this clarifies the matter but please feel free to contact us if you have any further questions, suggestions or concerns.
The media wires have been buzzing today
And if you missed the action at Lindsay Street . . .
But surprise, surprise, Gunns failed to make its promised announcement today to the ASX.
• ABC Online: Gunns payout angers industry:
There has been an angry response to the $35 million dollar deal to extinguish Gunns’ native forest contracts in Tasmania.
Protesters have targeted the timber company’s Launceston headquarters and the industry is questioning why the payout is double the government’s original offer.
Gunns is pocketing $23 million, while Forestry Tasmania will be paid $11.5 million to settle its debt dispute with the timber company.
The funds going to Gunns will be drawn from $43 million set aside under the $276 million Intergovernmental Forest Agreement (IGA) to compensate sawmillers displaced by the industry restructure.
Terry Edwards of the Forest Industries Association has questioned why the timber company receives two-thirds of the compensation, when Treasury originally recommended it only get half.
“Well I think it was just a case of throwing money at the exercise until Gunns said ‘that’s enough,” said Mr Edwards.
He is also concerned about the impact on his members of the payout to Forestry Tasmania, as it is still unclear which sections of the IGA will be raided to find the money.
Mr Edwards is not optimistic.
“The sawmillers that do exit will get short-changed and get a much smaller amount of money than they would otherwise be entitled to,” Mr Edwards said.
• Code Green: Protesters stop work on pulp mill site
This morning protesters have stopped the illegal work that continues on the Gunns Ltd Pulp Mill site at Longreach.
At 6:30am 8 members of the group are attached to machinery to halt the earth works that continue despite the lapse of permits on the 31st of August.
Code Green are taking precautionary measures to prevent further interference with the evidence of lack of substantial commencement by Gunns Ltd at the mill site.
Following days of front gate actions, due to the inability of Governments and Gunns to resolve outstanding issues, activists have been forced to enter the site to witness and monitor the continuing contentious works.
“Gunns are renown for their blatant and demonstrable disregard for due process, social cohesion and ecological integrity. The company’s failure to act to resolve the current situation creates further misery for our communities who are bereft after years of having their state run by Gunns’ industrial forestry agenda.” said Code Green spokesperson Jared Irwin. “The group are reiterating their call for the government and regulatory bodies to ensure due process is observed and Gunns are accountable for their actions.”
Code Green are outraged to see more tax payer-funded money being offered to Gunns Ltd this week. “This is just another example of the government and Gunns’ complete lack of commitment to community consultation.”
The overnight remand of two members of Code Green, after last week’s stop truck action, together with this mornings stop work action, demonstrate Code Greens commitment to taking non violent direct action to support community groups and members of the Tamar Valley community who oppose the pulp mill.
Photos will be released later this morning.
• Media Release
Solidarity Vigil For Tasmanian Forest Activist in Prison
Where; Parliament Lawns Hobart
When; Today Friday 16 September 2011
Time; 1:15pm Press Conference with The Huon Valley Environment Centre and The Last Stand
A solidarity vigil will be held today at Parliament Lawns for Ali Alishah, a peaceful forest and anti-pulp activist, who is spending his second week in custody. Conservation groups including The Huon Valley Environment Centre, The Wilderness Society, The Last Stand, Tasmanian Conservation Trust and Still Wild Still Threatened, have rallied their support for Ali Alishah.
‘We are gathering together to show our support for Ali while he is custody. And we are standing in solidarity with the eight CODE GREEN activists who have taken action at the proposed pulp mill site this morning. Ali participated in non violent protests in Tasmania to bring attention to the ongoing logging of native forests in Tasmania and the current illegal work on the proposed pulp mill site.
Community members will today participate in a vigil to call attention to Ali’s brave stand for Tasmania’s environment and his subsequent incaceration,’ said Jenny Weber of the Huon Valley Environment Centre.
‘Tasmania has one of the world’s strongest traditions of non-violent direct action, and peaceful action has played a huge role in changing the way that society looks after our environment,’ said Liz Johnstone of The Wilderness Society.
‘Ali Alishah is an important part of that tradition, and his dedicated, articulate and passionate defense of Tasmania’s environment should be admired,’ said Warrick Jordan of The Wilderness Society.
‘Ali Alishah, who is one of Tasmania’s finest, bravest and most intelligent citizens, has been standing up and speaking out for Tasmania’s spectacular forests for many years. Ali has been instrumental in communicating the plight of our world-class forests, which are still being ripped apart by industrial logging operations every single day, to the Australian and global communities. In years to come, Ali will go down in the history books as one of the great heroes of the Australian environmental movement,’ said Ula Majewski of The Last Stand.
‘Ali has worked tirelessly to stand up for the protection of our precious high conservation value forests which are still being logged right now, despite the Intergovernmental Agreement. The state and federal government need to take action immediately to stop logging in the proposed high conservation reserve area. People in Tasmania like Ali will continue to stand up and protest against the logging of these forests until we see definitive protection,’ said Lily Leahy of Still Wild Still Threatened.
Contact for comment
Jenny Weber Huon Valley Environment Centre Ula Majewski The Last Stand Warrick Jordan The Wilderness Society