Saturday, March 13, 2010

Flogging logging in the age of Climate Change

December 2009

As the world’s leaders dithered in Copenhagen last week over the future of the planet, in Australia, Gunns, the CFMEU & other flat-earthers brainstormed ways to hoodwink the world into thinking that converting Tasmania forests into a sterile assembly line for photocopy paper is positive climate change action.

For as long as I can remember now the Tasmanian logging industry - a mob that is quite similar to the Japanese Whaling industry, has been trying to convince the world that slaughtering forests is good for the planet, a highly scientific business and our goddamn right!

That tree farms are forests, that animals like poison, that napalming forests is carbon neutral and pigs really fly.

However in the wake of Copenhagen punters and lovers of nature should take heart as the prospect of Australia’s most disagreeable union and Gunns - the logging company which shareholder activist Steve Mayne described as Australia’s most “ethically challenged”, raping and pillaging its way through Tasmania’s iconic forests en-route to a big nasty Pulp Mill in the Tamar Valley remains as on the nose as ever with Australians.
With the recent failure of the Copenhagen boffins to devise a planetary rescue plan, Australians will be in no mood to sit back and allow the forest fuckers in Australia’s most redneck union to build a taxpayer funded tree and water digester in prime wine country.
If lopping down more of Tasmania’s ancient forests, killing native flora, fauna and Tassie’s clean green brand is Australia’s response to Copenhagen, then the Rudd government will in the eyes of the world look about as committed to climate change action as Tiger Woods is to his missus.
Make no mistake; the eyes of the world will be on the Tamar Valley in Tasmania if Gunns starts building. It will be the environmental shit fight to end all shit fights.
And so, as another Gunns sawmill bites the dust, Tasmania’s numero uno corporate pariah continues to backslide away from any notion of low-impact, climate friendly, au natural timber production back to the world’s basest form of forestry.
Wood chipping and pulping.
Indeed, nowadays it is a complete misnomer to call Gunns a timber company.
Gunns is a big grumpy woodchipper. Woodchipping is, more than ever before, Gunns’ core business.
Clearfelling native forests and supplanting them with exotic tree species for woodchip, spraying poisons, pissing off the locals, killing native wildlife and buggering local waterways is de rigueur for logging companies the (third) world over.

In this respect, Gunns is no different.

Today despite the slick, misleading TV ads and dissembling PR, Tasmania’s woodchip industry is no more climate friendly than Japan is whale friendly.

Yet how ironic that as Gunns closes more sawmills and sacks more workers to position its bottom line for pulp mill finance – a project that had promised to feed poor starving Tasmanian families till the end of time, Gunns has probably now sacked more Tasmanian workers than the proposed mill will ever employ.
Who’d of thunk it?
If… and it is a big if, the pulp mill ever gets cranking the jobs slashed by Gunns to make the mill loan affordable will more than likely outweigh the few jobs Tasmanians may get from the mill.
So much for Paul Lennon’s promised 2000 permanent long-term Tasmanian jobs at the Gunns Pulp Mill.
Gee whizzers, how far fetched do Lennon’s promises sound now?

Now, one would reasonably expect that in the wake of these latest industry job losses that the CFMEU, Timber Communities Australia and FIAT might at the very least be seen going into bat for their members.

Penny Wrong.
Once again the silence is deafening.

Where is everyone’s favourite yokel Barry ‘chippers’ Chipman?
Where is the ‘smoking man’ Terry Edwards?
And where is Labor’s biggest and boofiest neophyte - Scott McLean?
The chronic failure of the goateed mates of Tasmania’s woodchip dependent communities to be seen or heard in times of Gunns job cuts is quite mind-boggling.
Too scared to bite the corporate hand that feeds them and too busy sucking from the mangled, cracked teat of their corporate master to fight for local jobs?
Only the Tasmanian head of Australia’s most disagreeable (because I’m not allowed to use the C word!) union, Scott McLean, went public over the latest round of Gunns job cuts and he unfortunately appeared about as angry as a puppy rolling over for a belly scratch.

What ever happened to big scary-assed union bosses?
The public statements of Mr Mclean, the preselected Labor candidate for the anti-mill electorate of Bass, amounted to nothing more than the regurgitation of the loose assurances given directly to him by Gunns.
Indeed, Mr Mclean sounded more like a corporate spokesperson for Gunns meekly telling the press …
“The job losses are part of a company restructure”
“Gunns had pledged to take on displaced staff at any of its operations around Australia”.
Since when did union bosses talk like that?
Probably around the same time they got into bed with conservative political parties and monopoly logging companies.

The passivity of Tasmanian logging unionists towards their bosses and their penchant for flip-flopping between left and right wing political parties (depends on which party is prepared to rort taxpayers the most) is not a uniquely Tasmanian phenomenon; however it does reflect how closely tied the fortunes of timber industry workers in Tasmania are to the fortunes of Gunns - and how closely Gunns fortunes are tied to those of Tasmania’s two major political parties.

Sounds a bit like institutional corruption really?

Indeed, just as you won’t hear any of Will or Barty’s parties saying nasty things about Gunns, neither will you see the CFMEU, TCA, FIAT or any forestry body in Tasmania taking to the streets and sticking it up Gunns.

No sirreeee.

You won’t see working families being represented in the way the AMWU did for sacked McCain’s workers in Smithton nor will you see politicians or boofy logging union bosses rallying to the sides of bankrupt logging contractors crying “boycott Gunns” and “a fair price for loggers contractors”.
What we do when we are in the CFMEU is blame the greenies and then run off begging to the Feds.
Rent seeking.
We appeal to the crooked political culture and narrow self-interest that has kept the Gunns proposed mill alive to this point.
Indeed, McLean and national secretary John Sutton have called for Federal Industries minister Kim Carr to tap Peter Garrett on the shoulder and get him to fast track the Federal Government’s Environmental process.
In the interests of nation building I, Kim Carr hereby command you Peter Garrett to wind up your environmental assessment and tick the boxes ol’cock.
Dress it up any way you like my friends but what the CFMEU are calling for is the continuation of the favouritism and the sheer abuse of power, which has thus far enabled Australia’s most unpopular and controversial project.
There may be no money in brown paper bags changing hands but the sort of intervention the CFMEU is asking for is tantamount to corruption.
When you are administering taxpayer dollars you can usually get away with rorting the taxpayer a bit here and there; however selling punters a nugget of gold that is in fact just a turd sprayed with gold paint is called fraud.
That is what the CFMEU are asking the Federal Government to do in redefining the Gunns Pulp Mill as “critically-important nation-building infrastructure”
Clearly Mr McLean hasn’t learnt a thing from the demise of his pulp buddy Mr 17% Paul Lennon.
Nor has Mr McLean give any credence to the notion that CFMEU members or Bass voters may have read the news lately?
Indeed, only a week or so back news broke that according to the construction industry union’s Tony Benson there is no workers available in Tasmania to build the pulp mill.
Benson declared that Gunns would struggle to find a workforce if it starts building the $2.5 billion mill within the next two years.
“I can see we’re going to have to bring labour into the state in order to meet the labour requirements on that.” Mr Benson said
Tell us something we don’t know Tone.
Mr McLean’s push for the construction of this mill is in fact completely unrelated to working class families, the public interest or nation building.
It is about maintaining Gunns monopoly and therefore entrenching corporate dependence in the Tasmanian logging industry and maintaining the ‘circle of life’ for the Labor mates.
Oh Gunns will continue to slash the jobs of CFMEU members and Scott McLean will probably jump ship from the union and move into an office at Lindsay St.
Oh come on, I hear you say. That’s so cynical.
Is it?
Scott Mclean and other CFMEU leaders have form when it comes to the flip-flop.
The CFMEU’s W.A branch has recently spat the dummy with the Labor Party.
As Christine Milne argued….
“Michael O’Connor (CFMEU national forestry division), in particular, appears to be playing a dangerous double game, being close to both Labor and Liberals, and McLean already threatened to disaffiliate his union from the Labor Party during the last Tasmanian election if it did not ensure that the forestry industry got what it wanted”.
Indeed, based on his John Howard man-crush of a few years back Scotty Mclean could just as easily be seeking preselection for the Liberal Party at the next election.
One cannot help but entertain such mutinous possibilities when we see the boss of Australia’s toughest and blokiest union acting as a mouthpiece for a company that is laying his members off.
I hear the Japanese Whaling association is looking for advisers.

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