A guest post by Bernice.
Overnight, Turnbull, Federal Environment Minister, announced plans to spend $200 million, aiming to stop deforestation in Asia.
Mr Turnbull says a global response is needed and the $200 million project will be used to plant trees and reduce illegal logging in South-East Asia.
“The funding will go, given the nature of our geography, will largely go to South-East Asia,” Mr Turnbull said.
“The biggest deforesters in the world or the places where the most deforestation of tropical forests is occurring are in Brazil and Indonesia, they’re the top two so naturally our focus is going to be on our part of the world but we’re not limiting it to that.”
Timing is everything in politics, as The White Rabbitt knows. In a week where the issue of David Hicks has been neutralised, his government suddenly pulls this out of the hat. On the same day that Howard met Nicholas Stern. On the same day that Howard demonstrated his continuing skepticism regarding the impact of climate change. His comments about Stern were at the best patronising, at the worst downright insulting, but more importantly, he again demonstrated he simply doesn’t get it. It’s the environment, stupid.
His continual bleating about not costing jobs in areas of say, coal mining, are either misinformed or intentionally misleading. Coal contributes via its export earnings, but its employment to profitability ratio is much lower than service industries or manufacturing. And much of that employment is not ongoing, but occurs during construction and start-up of new mines, new facilities.
But it’s the breathtaking hypocrisy of this announcement that particularly draws my ire. Firstly Turnbull is fudging the issue as regards deforestation – yes the worst offenders in terms of tropical forests are Brazil and Indonesia. But in terms of deforestation anywhere on the planet, Australian agriculture is a world beater, despite posturing by state and federal governments over the last ten years.
And let us examine our own forest industry utilisation record. We could start with appalling and devolve to unscientific, short-sighted, brutish and reckless. We need look no further than the current state of play in Tasmania for a fine example of how we manage our forests.
Gunns, whose enmeshment in Tasmanian politics takes us back to the good old days of Eric Reece & the HEC in the 60s, is proposing a pulp mill to be sited toward the mouth of the Tamar River, at Bell Bay. The Premier, Paul Lennon, is an enthusiastic supporter of the mill. A very very enthusiastic supporter. To the point where he has happily abandoned the Resource Planning & Development Commission’s process of assessing the mill, a process intended to ensure that Gunns meet even minimum environmental standards.
Lennon in a press release of the 14th of March stated:
“The pulp mill assessment process started in November 2003 when the Government asked the Resource Planning and Development Commission to establish emission guidelines.
“Most people would have reasonably expected that this process would have concluded more than three years on.”
As members of the RPDC have pointed out, Gunns have been refusing to provide the Commission with the technical details concerning the mill’s outputs & instead has indulged in bullying the members, attempting to force the development through despite the fact that it is patently clear that Gunns current plan can not meet the most basic of requirements of emission controls regarding dioxins & air pollution, let alone the environmental devastation that removing FOUR AND A HALF MILLION TONS of woodchip ANNUALLY from the state’s forests would cause.
Gunns upped the ante earlier in the month, stating that unless they had full approval for the project by the end of June, they would pack up their ball & bat & go – where? John Gay, Chair of Gunns reckons Victoria would love them better. I think not. He’s bluffing – the battles between greenies and loggers are a thing of the past – they are now forming alliances as the loggers discover they are being exploited by the timber companies with no long term industry security. Pulling his 4.5 million tons out of Victoria is simply not possible. He has nowhere else to go, and Lennon would know. Or he’s extraordinary stupid.
Lennon’s response – sack the RPDC, draw up legislation to allow the development, rush it through the lower house. But its now lodged in the throat of the Legislative Council, where it is by no means certain it will automatically pass. The environmental standards & assessment processes laid out in the bill are laughable, breaching both state and federal legislation and practice.
Not only is Lennon willing to impose upon his state the horrendous environmental consequences of such a reckless and unregulated development, he is also more than prepared to undermine due democratic process to achieve this. If you can’t come to grips with the damage that that level of deforestation will cause, then the spectre of a government overturning due process with more than a whiff of corruption in the air should ignite your interest.
As it should to the Federal Minister for the Environment. Where is Turnbull’s statement demanding that Lennon follow due process? Where is Turnbull’s statement of concern at plans to accelerate deforestation in Tasmania? Where is Turnbull’s statement of concern as to the impact upon water catchments in a state currently drought-stricken? Or the plans to water the mill’s greedy water requirements by piping potable water from Trevallyn Dam to Bell Bay? At tax payers expense. Where is Turnbull’s statement of concern at the levels of dioxin emissions into the marine environment?
And before the Feds begin to bleat about Federal & state separations, let us remember that Howard has overseen a greater concentration of control and power in the federal sphere than any other Prime Minister in Australian history. But perhaps, just perhaps, we can make this play out to achieve the logical and sustainable result. Perhaps Howard could intervene, using his handy ministerial mouthpiece. He gets to slap a miscreant LABOR state government for abuse of parliamentary power and process, and he gets to trumpet his environmental warrior persona. Ripping up the Forestry Agreement woven with the Tasmanian Trades Hall would not be a problem for Howard.
This mill would be a disaster for the entire state as logs will have to cut & moved from all over the island. Gunns are insisting that they must have access to a minimum log harvest and future state governments will not have the power to adjust in any way the quotas demanded by Gunns. The figure of 2000 new jobs is highly dubious – Tasmania does have a problem providing long term semi-skilled employment. After construction, as pointed out elsewhere, a pulp mill employs engineers & technicians, not the unskilled or semi-skilled. And Gunns’ own record of dealing with their logging contractors is dreadful. But note the word long term. Gunns themselves are saying the mill has a likely life of 15 years before Tasmania’s forest resources are so depleted the mill become redundant. And that ‘s long term economic planning Mr Lennon?
This mill will also be a disaster for democracy, community and governance. A failure to intervene on the Feds part will be a tacit approval of corruption, mismanagement, poor planning and clear breach of duty on the part of public officers and elected officials. I look forward to Mr Turnbull’s statement of concern.
Cross-posted at Bernice Balconey’s Baloney