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Here’s the text of an interesting wikileak cable….

Reference id aka Wikileaks id #185794  ? 
Subject Tasmania: Controversial Pulp Mill Granted Extension
Origin Consulate Melbourne (Australia)

Cable time Tue, 6 Jan 2009 03:29 UTC

History First published on Fri, 26 Aug 2011 02:34 UTC
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Hide headerUNCLAS MELBOURNE 000002 SENSITIVE SIPDIS E.O. 12958: N/A TAGS: PGOV [Internal Governmental Affairs] SENV [Environmental Affairs] AS [Australia; Ashmore and Cartier Islands; Lord Howe Island; Macquarie Island; Tasmania]

SUBJECT: Tasmania: Controversial Pulp Mill Granted Extension Ref: A) 08 Melbourne 149, B) 08 Melbourne 144 Summary———-

¶1. (SBU) On January 5, federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett granted Gunns Ltd an additional 26 months to overcome ecosystem concerns surrounding its Tasmanian pulp mill. While financing the A$2.2 billion (US$1.57 billion) project is likely to be the more significant obstacle, the extension means that the controversial pulp mill may again become an important issue in both the 2010 federal and Tasmanian state elections. The announcement is also further evidence that the Rudd government is focused on the economy, even if that means offending environmental groups. End Summary. Conditional Approval Still Faces Important Obstacles

¶2. (SBU) Australian media widely reported on January 5 that federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett granted logging company Gunns Ltd a conditional approval to move ahead with its planned pulp mill in Tasmania. Before opening the mill doors, however, Gunns must overcome two obstacles. First, it must submit further reports to the federal government by March 2010 on the run-off impact of the mill on the nearby Bass Strait’s marine ecosystem. Gunns’ chief executive publicly stated that the additional studies will be completed within 15 months. Second, and perhaps more significantly, Gunns must secure financing to the tune of A$2.2 billion (US$1.57 billion). Tasmania-based contacts believe that obtaining financing in a market characterized by depressed pulp prices and tight credit will prove to be the mill’s largest challenge. Uncertainty over environmental approvals will no doubt add to Gunns’ financing woes

. ¶3. (SBU) Greens Senator Christine Milne publicly criticized Garrett’s decision, claiming that he did not have the authority to grant even a conditional approval without first knowing the full environmental impact of the mill. Other environmental groups complained that the conditional approval will extend a costly period of uncertainty in the Tasmanian economy. During an introductory visit to Tasmania in early December by Consul General, both Premier David Bartlett (Labor) and Leader of the Opposition Will Hodgman (Liberal) touted the mill’s economic benefits (reftels). Only Tasmanian Greens leader Nick McKim opposed the mill, but noted that he might change his position if Gunns agreed to refrain from old-growth harvesting.


¶4. (SBU) Garrett’s decision to grant Gunns additional time to procure environmental approvals pushes final decision on the controversial mill into the next federal and state elections. In the 2004 federal elections, the Liberal Party won northern Tasmania’s two swing seats by championing jobs over the environment. The Australian Labor Party won these two federal seats in 2007 after it backed the pulp mill. Garrett’s January 5 announcement means that the Gunns mill will likely figure largely again in the 2010 federal elections as well as in the state elections where the mill has become shorthand for a broader environmental debate.

¶5. (SBU) Comment continued: The decision to delay approval of the mill pending further evaluation illustrates not just the classic employment vs. environment conflict (the mill is a huge investment relative to the size of Tasmania’s economy), but also highlights the pressures on Environment Minister Garrett who is known as a former die-hard environmentalist. With frustration over the Rudd government’s climate change white paper still lingering in recent memory, the January 5 decision is further evidence that the Rudd government is focused on the economy, even at the expense of further alienating environmental groups. GRANT

ABC Online:

Wikileaks reveals McKim’s mill support, say Libs

Updated August 31, 2011 13:02:26

The Tasmanian Liberals have used a confidential US cable released by Wikileaks to question the credibility of the Greens leader, Nick McKim.

The 2009 US Consulate cable on Gunns’ Tamar Valley pulp mill says Mr McKim opposed the project but noted he might change his position if Gunns agreed to refrain from old-growth harvesting.

Deputy Opposition Leader Jeremy Rockliff says the pre-state election cable throws into question Mr McKim’s credibility.

“[It] reveals the true character of the Greens leader Mr McKim,” he said.

Mr Rockliff questioned where Mr McKim’s support for the $2.3 billion project was, saying Gunns had gone beyond ending old growth logging.

Mr McKim was not in the chamber when Mr Rockliff launched the attack.
Leaders’ spotlight

Leaked cables also show former Premier, David Bartlett, believed the Opposition was weak and only had a10 per cent chance of winning the last election.

The cable details conversations with Tasmania’s political leaders during an official visit by the Consul General in December 2008.

The cable says Labor had maintained popularity despite political scandals due to a relatively weak Opposition that struggles to differentiate itself from the Labor Government.

It also reveals Liberal Leader Will Hodgman did not take advantage of Labor’s scandals because he did not want the party branded as being “too negative”.

Mr Hodgman is also reported as telling the Consul General he did not see a long-term future in his present role as Opposition leader.

ABC Online here

• What Nick McKim says ...

Nick McKim MP
Greens Leader

The Tasmanian Greens Leader Nick McKim MP has today written to the United States Consul General in Melbourne seeking to correct inaccurate statements contained in a 2009 diplomatic cable.

Mr McKim said that the discussion in question took place in early December 2008, and touched briefly the issue of Gunns Ltd’s proposed Tamar Valley pulp mill.

“I can be really clear about this: I have never said to anyone, let alone the United States Consul that the Greens would consider changing their position on the pulp mill under any circumstances.”

“The proof is in the pudding.  Gunns have announced a withdrawal from native forest logging and we still oppose the pulp mill.”

“I have today written to the Consul General requesting that the record be corrected.”

Download: Letter to the U.S. Consul General from Tasmanian Greens Leader Nick McKim MP

• Mercury Thursday: Leaked cables slam leaders

  DAVID KILLICK   |  September 01, 2011 12.01am

US consular officials made scathing assessments of Tasmanian political leaders, leaked diplomatic cables reveal.

Paul Lennon was dogged by scandal, David Bartlett was fond of change for its own sake, Will Hodgman was resigned to electoral defeat and Nick McKim was open to backing the pulp mill, the cables claim.

Documents released by whistleblower website WikiLeaks reveal the US consulate in Melbourne displayed more than a passing interest in Tasmanian politics.

Former premier Mr Lennon came in for harsh assessment when he resigned in May 2008.

He was dubbed “abrasive”, “beleaguered” and “scandal-plagued”.

Mr Lennon could not be reached for comment yesterday.

While the cables describe his successor, Mr Bartlett, as “young and urbane” he is also described as “the last man standing ... whose record in the education portfolio was one of ‘change for change’s sake’,” the cables said.

A 2008 cable reveals Liberal leader Mr Hodgman was despondent about his electoral prospects before the state election in March last year.

“Will Hodgman, leader of the State Opposition, presented a grim outlook for the Tasmanian Liberal Party,” the cables state.

“He said that it has been a ‘long, hard grind’ in Opposition and acknowledged that his party has struggled to differentiate itself from the Labor Party.”

The cables suggested Mr Hodgman was contemplating stepping down before the poll.

They also suggest Greens leader Mr McKim was open to support the Gunns pulp mill.

“Tasmanian Greens leader Nick McKim opposed the mill, but noted that he might change his position if Gunns agreed to refrain from old-growth harvesting,” the cables said.

Mr McKim yesterday denied the claim.

Read the full story HERE

• First published: 2011-08-31 10:58 AM