Friday, December 30, 2011

Out of Control: The tragedy of Tasmania’s forests by Richard Flanagan.

First Published in 2007 in The Monthly Here
This story begins with a Tasmanian man fern (Dicksonia antarctica) for sale in a London nursery. Along with the healthy price tag, some £160, is a note: "This tree fern has been salvage harvested in accordance with a management plan approved by the Governments of Tasmania and the Commonwealth of Australia." If you were to believe both governments, that plan ensures that Tasmania has a sustainable logging industry - one which, according to the federal minister responsible for forests, Eric Abetz, is "the best managed in the world".
The truth is otherwise. The man fern - possibly several centuries old - comes from native forests destroyed by a logging industry that was recently found to be illegal by the Federal Court of Australia. It comes either from primeval rainforest that has been evolving for millennia or from wet eucalypt forests, some of which contain the mighty Eucalyptus regnans. These aptly named kings of trees are the tallest hardwood trees and flowering plants on Earth; some are more than 20 metres in girth and 90 metres in height. The forests are being destroyed in Tasmania, in spite of widespread community opposition and increasing international concern.
Clearfelling, as the name suggests, first involves the complete felling of a forest by chainsaws and skidders. Then, the whole area is torched, the firing started by helicopters dropping incendiary devices made of jellied petroleum, commonly known as napalm. The resultant fire is of such ferocity it produces mushroom clouds visible from considerable distances. In consequence, every autumn, the island's otherwise most beautiful season, china-blue skies are frequently nicotine-scummed, an inescapable reminder that clearfelling means the total destruction of ancient and unique forests. At its worst, the smoke from these burn-offs has led to the closure of schools, highways and tourist destinations.
In the Styx Valley, in the south-west, the world's last great unprotected stands of old-growth Eucalyptus regnans are being reduced to piles of smouldering ash. Over 85% of Tasmania's old-growth regnans forests are gone, and it is estimated that fewer than 13,000 hectares of these extraordinary trees remain in their old-growth form. Almost half of them are to be clearfelled. Most will end up as paper in Japan.
In logging coupes around Tasmania, exotic rainforest trees such as myrtle, sassafras, leatherwood and celery-top pine - extraordinary, exquisite trees, many centuries old, some of which are found nowhere else - are often just left on the ground and burnt.
The hellish landscape that results from clearfelling - akin to a Great War battlefield - is generally turned into large monocultural plantations of either radiata pine or Eucalyptus nitens, sustained by such a heavy program of fertilisers and pesticides that water sources for some local communities have been contaminated by Atrazine, a controversial herbicide linked with cancer and banned in much of Europe. Blue-dyed carrots soaked in 1080 poison are laid on private plantations to kill native grazing animals that pose a threat to tree seedlings. The slaughter that results sees not only possums, wallabies and kangaroos die slowly, in agony, but other species - including wombats, bettongs and potoroos - killed in large numbers, despite being officially protected species.
In 2003 an ageing forester, Bill Manning, was subpoenaed to testify in front of an Australian Senate committee investigating the Tasmanian forestry industry. He methodically began to unravel a tale of environmental catastrophe, of industry connivance and government complicity. His detailed evidence suggested that the forestry industry was not only systematically destroying unique forests, but poisoning the very fabric of Tasmanian politics and life.
No greenie hardliner, Manning was a man who worked for 30 years in the Tasmanian forests and who believes they ought to be logged, but logged so that they remain for the future. Yet he alleged to the Senate committee that forestry management had been corrupted. At the hearing, he painted a picture of llegal destruction on a scale so vast that it was transforming the landscape of Tasmania. Branding what was happening "an ecological disaster", Manning talked of how an "accelerated and unaccountable logging industry" was destroying wholesale native forests "which are unique in the world for their flora and fauna". "The clearfelling is out of control," he told the senators. "The scale of clearfelling in Tasmania is huge."
A whispering campaign about Bill Manning's state of mind began, and in the four years since he ended a career that he loved, by standing up for what he believed, nothing has changed - except for the worse. Today, Tasmania is the only Australian state that clearfells its rainforests. While the rest of Australia has either ended, or is ending, the logging of old-growth forests, Tasmania is the only state where it is secretly planned to accelerate the destruction of native forests, driven by the greed for profit that can be made from woodchips.
As with any epidemic of madness, there sometimes seems no end to the horror. Among Tasmania's many unique plants and animals is the endangered giant freshwater crayfish, one of the largest invertebrates in the world. Although technically protected, its very future is threatened by the frenzy of logging surrounding the creeks where it lives. When a government-appointed expert panel recommended buffer zones of forest be preserved to protect the crayfish, these zones were reduced to a bare minimum, and the areas continue to be logged. "Clearfelling is going on at an incredible rate in their habitat," the crayfish expert Todd Walsh says. "It's going berserk."
Tasmania is an extraordinary land, one that many hoped might become, in the words of the legendary landscape photographer Olegas Truchanas, "a shining beacon in a dull, uniform and largely artificial world". Its remoteness, its wildness, its unique natural world - all seemed to offer the possibility of a prosperous and good future to a state that had for a century been the poorest in the Australian Commonwealth. Instead, over the past three decades Tasmania has mortgaged its future to the woodchipping industry, which is today dominated by one company: Gunns Ltd. And it is Gunns - not the Tasmanian people - that has been the beneficiary of the destruction of Tasmania's unique forests.
Though Gunns was founded in Tasmania in 1875, it was not until 1989, when it became part of the written history of corruption in Tasmania, that many Australians first came to hear of the company, then still one of several Tasmanian timber firms. In that year the then chairman of Gunns, Eddie Rouse, became concerned that the election of a Labor-Green Tasmanian government with a one-seat majority might affect his logging profits. Rouse attempted to bribe a Labor member, Jim Cox, to cross the floor, thereby bringing down the government and clearing the way for the pro-logging former premier Robin Gray and the Liberal Party to resume power. Cox went to the police and the plot was exposed; a royal commission and Rouse's fall from grace and imprisonment ensued. But Gunns continued. Today it is a corporation worth more than a billion dollars, the largest company in Tasmania, with an effective monopoly of the island's hardwood logging, and a darling of the Australian stock market.
Yet Gunns remains haunted by the Rouse scandal. The company's board continues to have among its directors former associates of the late Eddie Rouse. The 1991 royal commission found that director David McQuestin, whose friendship with Rouse it characterised as "obsequious", was not "unlawfully involved as a principal offender" with the bribery attempt, although his "compliance with Rouse's direction in the matter was ‘highly improper'" - a "glaring breach of the requisite standards of commercial morality". Robin Gray is also now a director of Gunns; the royal commission found that he "knew of and was involved with Rouse in Rouse's attempt to bribe Cox", and that while his conduct was not unlawful, it was "improper, and grossly so". John Gay, Gunns' managing director in 1989 and now its managing director and executive chairman, was cleared by the royal commission of any involvement with the bribery attempt.
In a dissembling world ever more given to corporate deference to a green image, the company shows an often-unexpected candour. Gunns makes no secret of its enmity towards conservationists and conservation groups. Gunns plans to destroy more, rather than less, Tasmanian native forest. Gunns makes no apologies for what this means. "How do you feel about protected species dying for your business?" John Gay was once asked on national television. "Well, there's too many of them," he replied, "and we need to keep them at a reasonable level." And while the figures for total woodchip production since 2000 are officially secret - like so much else in Tasmania - Gunns' own evidence in support of the pulp mill it proposes for the north of the state reveals that the company plans to double woodchipping, from its present annual levels of approximately 3.5 million tonnes to 7 million tonnes over the next decade.
To evade the ever-growing public anger, the woodchipping industry has had to exercise an ever-stronger control over Tasmanian life. Both major parties in Tasmania, and much of the state's media, frequently give the appearance of existing only as clients of the woodchippers. The state's interest and that of the woodchipping industry are now so thoroughly identified as one and the same that anyone questioning the industry's actions is attacked by leading government figures as a traitor to Tasmania. And it is not only the forests that have been destroyed by this industry. Its poison has seeped into every aspect of Tasmanian life: jobs are threatened, careers destroyed, people driven to leave. And in recent years, its influence has extended further, so that now its activities are endorsed nationally by both the prime minister, John Howard, and the Opposition leader, Kevin Rudd.
Huge money is being made out of destroying native forests, but to maintain what to many is an obscene practice there has evolved a culture of secrecy, shared interest and intimidation that seems to firmly bind the powerful in Tasmania. When the actress Rebecca Gibney, who moved to Tasmania two years ago to raise her family, said in a television interview that she would leave the state if Gunns' proposed pulp mill was built, the former Liberal Party candidate and bottle-shop owner Sam McQuestin made headlines by publicly attacking her as "serial complainer" whose family made no contribution to the Tasmanian economy and who had no "right to tell the rest of us how to live our lives". McQuestin's family is well known for its contribution: his father, David, is a Gunns director. The attack on Rebecca Gibney was but a public example of something far more widespread and insidious. I witnessed a senior ALP politician make it clear that yet another Tasmanian was no longer welcome in the clearfelling state when the local corporate-communications consultant Gerard Castles wrote an article in a newspaper questioning the government's policy on old-growth logging. "The fucking little cunt is finished," the politician said in front of me and my 12-year-old daughter. "He will never work here again."
To question, to comment adversely, is to invite the possibility of ostracism and unemployment, and the state is full of those who pay a high price for their opinion on the forests, the blackballed multiplying with the blackened stumps. It is commonplace to meet people who are too frightened to speak publicly of their concerns about forestry practices, because of the adverse consequences they perceive this might have for their careers and businesses. Due to the forest battle, a subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) fear has entered Tasmanian public life; it stifles dissent, avoids truth.
And how can it be otherwise? The great majority of Tasmanians appear to be overwhelmingly opposed to old-growth logging, and only by the constant crushing of opposing points of view, and the attempted silencing and smearing of those who put them, can the practice continue. And so, nearly two decades after its then chairman failed in his attempt to corrupt the state parliament, Gunns now seems so powerful that Tasmanians joke that their government is the ‘gunnerment', and leading national politicians of all persuasions acknowledge that the real power in Tasmania is not the government but Gunns itself.
This goes further than the sizeable donations Gunns makes to both major parties, both in Tasmania and nationally. It goes beyond Gunns' role in election campaigns, such as the $486,000 spent on aggressive political advertising in the 2004 federal election by the Forest Industries Association of Tasmania (FIAT), of which Gunns is the largest member. "A lot of people are intimidated by the employment side of the [Tasmanian forestry] industry," the prominent Liberal Senator Bill Heffernan, from New South Wales, has said, "including some politicians."
But who can blame even the powerful for being scared? The former Tasmanian Liberal leader Bob Cheek recalls how "the state's misguided forestry policy was ruthlessly policed by Gunns", how fearful the politicians were of the forest lobby and what he describes as their "hitmen". In a cowed society, the Tasmanian government often gives the impression of being little more than a toadying standover man for its corporate godfather, willing to undertake any action, no matter how degrading, to help those with the real power.
When, in 2004, the Wyena farmers Howard and Michelle Carpenter had themselves and their property directly sprayed by a helicopter with Atrazine meant for an adjacent Gunns plantation, poisoning their water supply, Gunns' only response was to send the couple two bottles of spring water. Later, when the story became a public scandal, they provided the Carpenters with a water tank which a few months later they removed, though the Carpenter's water bore remained poisoned. To reassure the public that there was no cause for concern, the then water minister, Steve Kons, fronted a media conference at which he loyally drank a glass of water tainted with Atrazine. Steve Kons is now Tasmania's deputy premier.
According to the former federal Labor leader Mark Latham, "They [Gunns] run the state Labor Government, they run [Labor Premier] Lennon ... and old Lennon there, he wouldn't scratch himself unless the guy who heads up Gunns told him to." Latham would know: after all, his own bid to be prime minister ended when he came up against Gunns in the 2004 election. Latham was no conservationist, but the growing national outcry over Tasmania's forests, driven by a long campaign by conservation groups, led him in the week before the election to propose a bold plan to end the logging of the island's old-growth forests, a plan that included an $800-million compensation package for logging workers. Quite extraordinarily, the package was rejected by Tasmanian Labor.
Two days later, the Liberal prime minister, John Howard, flew into Tasmania to announce the indefinite continuation of old-growth logging, along with more extensive subsidies to the logging industry and, as a sop to the green vote, the protection of some areas of old growth. A few areas were victories. Much was a con: areas that were either already reserved; or, as Terry Edwards of FIAT admitted about the north Styx, very difficult to log; or, as in the Weld or the Florentine, later - in an act of arch cynicism - to be logged anyway.
In the most extraordinary images of that election, Howard was cheered by 2000 logging workers at a rally in Launceston, supported by the powerful Construction, Forest, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU). Within the week Howard would be returned to government, and within a year some of those same workers would be forced out of the industry by Gunns breaking contracts, and looking for new employment in a workforce ravaged by the toughest anti-union laws in Australia's history - introduced by the man they had cheered on to victory.
"We seem to get on better with the Liberals than we do with Labor at the moment," Tasmania's premier, Paul Lennon, told a journalist a few weeks after federal Labor had suffered one of its worst defeats.
The conservationists had foundered and, with Howard's crushing victory, Gunns now had a federal government that felt electorally rewarded for taking the company's side. Gunns had too a state government so committed to it that seemingly no issue in Tasmania could be decided without first being held up to see whether it was good or bad for the old-growth logging industry. And it left federal Labor so terrified of ever touching the issue again that when Kevin Rudd assumed the leadership of the party in 2006, one of his first actions was to express support for the Tasmanian logging industry. But then, as Mark Latham ruefully admitted, "No policy issue or set of relationships better demonstrates the ethical decline and political corruption of the Australian Labor movement than Tasmanian forestry."
The dogs were off the leash and Gunns was now at its most powerful. Within months it made a move that was widely viewed as an attempt to cripple the conservation movement, the last remaining impediment to its ambitions. On 14 December 2004, Gunns filed a 216-page, $6.3-million claim against a group of conservationists and organisations who became known as the Gunns 20. The writ was an extraordinary document that sought to sue a penniless grandmother who had opposed logging in her district; a national political leader, Senator Bob Brown; a doctor who had raised public-health concerns about woodchip piles; prominent conservationists; Australia's leading wilderness-conservation organisation, the Wilderness Society; a film-maker; and several day protesters.
All were joined in what was alleged to be a conspiracy guilty of the crime of corporate vilification. The writ presented a tale of a group of people together seeking, through a series of actions as diverse as protesters chaining themselves to logging machinery to the lobbying of Japanese paper companies, to destroy Gunns' profits. The perversity of the action was staggering: with the immense fortune it had made out of destroying Tasmania's forests, Gunns had launched an action that would, if successful, have redefined the practice of democracy as the crime of conspiracy. An Australian would not have been able to criticise, question or campaign against a corporation, for risk of being bankrupted in legal proceedings brought against them by the richest and most powerful in their society, claiming damage to their corporate interest. No matter how a corporation made its money, be it from tobacco or asbestos or chemicals, all of its actions would have effectively been removed from the realm of public life. Gunns' action was compared with the legal standover tactics that prevails in such countries as Singapore, where those engaged in political opposition are bankrupted and then jailed through such a process of litigation.
If its legal ramifications were enormous but unrealised, its political impact was immediate. While the writ excited a national outcry, garnering comparisons with the McLibel case, in the short term it only served to further intimidate many in Tasmania, and tied up the leading conservation groups and conservationists in a difficult, expensive and all-consuming court case at a moment when Gunns was planning its most controversial action of all. Two days after it issued the writ, Gunns announced its plans for a gigantic $1.4-billion pulp mill, the biggest infrastructure project in Tasmania's history and one of the biggest pulp mills in the world, to be built 36 kilometres from Launceston.
At first, reassuring commitments were given that Gunn's pulp mill would be environmentally friendly: chlorine-free and primarily using plantation timber. Premier Lennon was adamant that the mill would only go ahead if Gunns could prove to an independent government body, the Resource and Planning Development Commission (RPDC), that their proposal conformed to the world's best environmental standards. The process was to be above politics and the RPDC's decision final. But public concern began to grow when it became clear that Gunns was planning something entirely different to what it had originally announced. Gunns now wanted to build a kraft chlorine-bleaching mill - the type that produce dioxins, some of the most toxic substances known to man - fuelled initially by 80% native-forest woodchips.
Then was revealed the shocking news that to feed the pulp mill's gargantuan appetite, Gunns had negotiated a deal (the exact details of which remain secret) with the then Tasmanian forests minister, Bryan Green, that would double the level of woodchipping and accelerate the ongoing destruction of Tasmania's native forests for the next 20 years. (In October 2006 Bryan Green was charged with conspiracy over another secret deal, this time with a building accreditation company run by ex-Labor ministers. He denies any wrongdoing and the case continues.)
At the same time, Tasmanians discovered that while the mill was being assessed Paul Lennon was using a wholly owned subsidiary of Gunns, the construction company Hinman, Wright & Manser, to renovate his historic home. It was a curious choice of builder. Hinman, Wright & Manser is known to be less than enthusiastic in its support of unionised labour, and to be a keen proponent of the Howard government's new workplace-relations laws, of which Lennon had publicly been a vociferous critic. More remarkably, the Gunns "construction division" as it is termed on Gunns' website, is an industrial- and civil-works company that advertises itself as specialising in "larger construction work" such as mines, warehouses, concrete plants, schools, courts, remand centres, nursing homes, hospitals, reservoirs, substations, wharf berths, road bridges and woodchip mills, but makes no mention of home renovation.
Lennon has never answered questions put at the time about what Hinman, Wright & Manser originally quoted for the job, nor whether there were other quotes. Lennon and Gunns have both subsequently said that Lennon paid for the renovations, though the precise sum has never been revealed. Lennon dismissed any questions on the matter as a painful attack on his family's privacy.
The revelations that have since ensued have not been so easily dismissed. In early January 2007, the head of the RPDC pulp-mill inquiry, Julian Green, and the inquiry's leading scientific advisor and a national pulp-mill expert, Dr Warwick Raverty, both resigned, both citing political interference. It has become public knowledge that the RPDC found Gunns' own evidence to be riddled with inaccuracies and errors; that levels of dioxins in the mill's outflow were initially underestimated by a factor of 45; and that the mill, as well as failing to address the concerns of the Australian Medical Association (AMA) about ultra-fine particle pollution, also significantly failed to meet at least three official air-pollution guidelines. Senior scientists questioned Gunns' claims that the 64,000 tonnes of treated effluent pouring daily from the mill into the ocean would not harm Bass Strait and its marine life. Gunns' modelling for air pollution in the Tamar Valley was so shoddy that it sometimes fantastically predicted that air pollution would be lower with a pulp mill than without.
Pointing out that "no other pulp mill in the world uses the process Gunns proposes," and that its noxious emissions would pour into a densely populated valley already subject to the worst smog in Tasmania, Raverty has since warned that "the risk of producing unacceptable levels of deadly and persistent chemicals known as organochlorines is too high." Raverty, who works for a subsidiary of the CSIRO and has consistently pointed out that he is speaking in a personal capacity about the mill's pollution risk, has claimed that a Gunns executive rang the CSIRO seeking to pressure the organisation into silencing him. The CSIRO has confirmed that Gunns "expressed concerns". Raverty has since said he would welcome the opportunity to appear before a criminal-justice commission or a royal commission into the process, because there needs to be public scrutiny of the "very unethical activities" of the Tasmanian government.
Though the Tasmanian chapter of the AMA warned Tasmania's political leaders that they would be personally accountable for any health problems resulting from the proposed pulp mill, the leaders were listening not to such dire concerns but rather to the Gunns board, with whom Premier Lennon and his kitchen cabinet met on 25 February. Two days later, Gunns told the Australian Stock Exchange it was "confident the necessary government approvals" for its pulp mill "will be obtained within a timeframe which maintains the commercial value of the project".
That same day, Paul Lennon handed the newly appointed head of the RPDC's pulp-mill assessment panel, the former Supreme Court judge Christopher Wright, a typed timeline laying out his demands. "It was plain as the nose on my face," Wright later said, "that he was trying to please Gunns." Describing it as a "completely inappropriate ... attempt to pressure" him, Wright rejected what he termed an "ultimatum" by Lennon to dump public hearings and wind up the assessment by 31 July or face the RPDC being dumped in favour of legislation fast-tracking the process.
And when a fortnight later Gunns withdrew from the RPDC assessment process, blaming delays which John Gay termed "commercially unacceptable", what was commercially acceptable to Gunns became a political imperative for the Tasmanian government.
That Christopher Wright said most of the delays were Gunns' fault was of no consequence. For in a manner that at least is understandable if onerous to Tasmanians, it is clear that in Tasmania Gunns more or less is the law. The woodchippers and their government cronies constantly use the courts against conservationists, but when the courts are used against them the government's response is admirably straightforward: change the law. They changed the law, for example, when Bob Brown sold almost everything he had and took both the Tasmanian and the federal governments to court to prove that under their own laws the logging industry in Tasmania was illegal, because it threatened the survival of endangered species, including the Tasmanian wedge-tailed eagle and the swift parrot. He won, but the government's response was not to enforce the Tasmanian Regional Forest Agreement to protect those species, but simply to alter it so that logging is once again legal.
Faced with the possibility that the pulp mill might not now meet the RPDC pollution guidelines, Paul Lennon simply rushed an act through parliament to establish an entirely new process that seems certain to ensure the mill will be approved by the end of August this year. Though this contradicted what Lennon had so dogmatically maintained for the previous two years about an impartial process that was above politics, the act (drafted with the input of a Gunns lawyer) tellingly allows for the mill to no longer meet the original pollution guidelines. Public consultation has been dispensed with and, most remarkably - and possibly without precedent in the annals of Westminster legislation - the act explicitly provides that the mill will still go ahead even if it is proven that the consultant assessing the project has been bribed.
It had been uncharacteristic of Lennon to even pretend a process mattered more than an outcome, and it seemed cynicism more of a piece with his predecessor, the late Jim Bacon. A one time Maoist, an upper-middle-class alumni of one of Australia's most exclusive private schools, Melbourne's Scotch College, and later, of one of its most infamous unions, the Victorian Builders' Labourer's Federation (BLF), Bacon was for several years a loyal lieutenant of the BLF's leader, the notorious Norm Gallagher. By the time Gallagher was jailed for taking bribes from developers and his union the subject of a Royal Commission that led to its deregistration, Bacon was ensconced in Tasmania, where the old BLF tactics of espousing a working-class rhetoric while cosying up to the powerful served him well. In 1997 he became leader of the Tasmanian Labor Party.
The following year Bacon was instrumental in brokering the deal that saw the very electoral basis of the Tasmanian parliament altered. Since the 1970s, when the world's first green party was formed in Tasmania, the Greens had been a powerful political minority in Tasmania, securing up to a seventh of parliamentary seats under the island's unique proportional representation system and with it, on occasion, the balance of power.
The 1998 deal was sold to the public as a common-sense measure to reduce the number of parliamentary members. But it was intensely political in effect, because having fewer parliamentarians meant that a higher quota was required by an individual to be elected, thus making it harder for minority parties to win seats and possibly destroying future Green representation - and with it the only real opposition to the woodchipping industry. The former Liberal leader Bob Cheek recalls how Robin Gray, the state's premier in the '80s and now a member of Gunns' board, lobbied him on the night before the vote on the reform. "We've got to stop the Greens, Bob," Gray told him. And they did.
The subsequent election in August 1998 saw the Greens decimated and Jim Bacon's Labor Party triumphant. The Bacon government quickly established itself as the most pro-big-business government Tasmania had ever had. Favoured companies received extraordinary treatment. The privately owned Federal Hotels group, who run the island's two casinos, was awarded a 15-year gaming monopoly - conservatively estimated by Citigroup to be worth $130 million in licensing revenues - free of charge.
But the greatest winner was Gunns. Its shares were languishing at $1.40 when the Bacon government came to power. The company's subsequent growth was dizzying. Within four years, it had recorded an increase of 199% in profits. With the acquisition of two rival companies, Gunns took control of more than 85% of logging in Tasmania. Five years after Bacon won government Gunns was worth more than $1 billion, with shares trading in excess of $12. It had become both the largest logging company in Australia and the largest hardwood-woodchip exporter in the world, its product flooding in from the state's fallen forests.
The state government, which a century ago paid people to shoot the Tasmanian tiger, now provided every incentive to destroy old-growth forest. One of Bacon's first acts was to make 85,000 hectares of previously "deferred forest" available for logging. Gunns paid only paltry royalties to Forestry Tasmania, the public body charged with getting a commercial return from the crown forests that were the very basis of Gunns' record profits. When in 2003 Gunns posted an after-tax profit of $74 million, Forestry Tasmania made a hardly impressive $20 million. By 2005, when Gunns after-tax profit had soared to $101.3 million, Forestry Tasmania's profit had slumped to $13.5 million. Its projected profit for 2006-07 is break-even: a return of zero dollars, nothing, to Tasmanian taxpayers on the estimated $700-million value of its publicly owned forest estate.
But it wasn't just that public forestry resources were being systematically handed over to a single company's shareholders; it was that much of Gunns' profits were coming out of taxpayers' pockets. On private land, Gunns made a second profit from the federal tax breaks that made tree plantations - with which clearfelled native forests were replaced - one of corporate Australia's favourite forms of tax minimisation from the late '90s.
On top of all this, Bacon's government accelerated a familiar pattern of ongoing handouts to an industry that constantly shed jobs, devastated the environment and sought to manipulate the political system. Between 1988 and the present, the Tasmanian forest industry has received a staggering total of $780 million in taxpayer handouts, $289 million of it since 2005, much of it being used to facilitate further old-growth logging. If an accounting were possible of the taxpayer-subsidised plantation schemes and added to this sum, the real subsidy paid by the Australian taxpayer to an industry that destroys the nation's heritage would approach a billion dollars.
But then, not the least shocking thing about the destruction of Tasmania's old-growth forests is that the state's logging industry is in the end not a commercially viable industry at all, but a massive parasite on the public purse, an industry as driven by ideological bailouts and hidden subsidies as a Soviet-era pig-iron foundry.
Worse still, at the moment when Tasmania was acquiring a global reputation as an island of exceptional beauty, the forces that would destroy much of the island's unique nature had been unleashed. This sad irony, denied in Tasmania, did not escape the more astute of the world's media: major features began appearing in the Observer, Le Figaro, Süddeutsche Zeitung and the New York Times - mounting evidence that what was happening in Tasmania was more and more recognised as an environmental catastrophe of global significance.What might be read about Tasmania's forests in New York or Paris, though, was not information found easily in Hobart or Launceston. Apart from a few brave journalists, a generally craven Tasmanian media rarely questioned or challenged the woodchipping industry during these years. The Launceston Examiner ran a four-page feature on Gunns' pulp-mill proposal directly lifted from Gunns' advertising. Necessary fictions were repeated until they became accepted as truth: that, for example, the industry's main concern is sawlogs, when even Forestry Tasmania had admitted that sawlogs are chipped, and had been since 1972. The government's own reports reveal that approximately 90% of Tasmania's logged native forest is woodchipped.
To this day, the forestry industry and the Tasmanian government withhold key information, fudge definitions of forest types and felling practices, and distort statistics to prevent the truth of old-growth logging becoming publicly known, diverting debate into the dullness of disputed definitions and clashing numbers. It's a familiar tactic of sowing semantic confusion that has worked well for the tobacco and oil industries. Beyond it, forests unique in the world continue to disappear.
Jim Bacon's nickname was ‘the Emperor', but the man perceived to be the power behind the throne was his deputy, Paul Lennon. Ill-tempered, badly behaved and brutally effective, his political capacity - like that of so many strong-arm leaders - was too often and too easily dismissed. Lennon made no more apologies for his thuggish behaviour (he once shoved a conservationist up against a wall in the middle of a meeting, an encounter he claims not to remember) than he did his enthusiasm for the old-growth logging industry, or his close friendship with the logging baron John Gay. Anyone taking a first-hand look at Tasmania would, he once said, "see a lot of fucking trees".
When Bacon retired in early 2004 because of terminal cancer, Lennon became premier, and any pretence that Gunns might be reined in within Tasmania came to an end. These days, Gunns is everywhere in Tasmania: there are Gunns shops, Gunns television advertisements, Gunns-sponsored weather bulletins. If you go to watch an AFL game at Tasmania's premier stadium, York Park, you pass through the main entrance, officially and aptly named the Jim Bacon Gates, built by - who else? - a wholly owned subsidiary of Gunns, and come to the Gunns Stand, the largest and most opulently fitted stand in the stadium, much of it paid for, equally aptly, by the Tasmanian government.
With the river of money that had poured in from Tasmania's destroyed forests, Gunns had diversified into businesses in New Zealand and mainland Australia. It set about becoming the main player in the Tasmanian wine industry, with the company itself the dominant producer. That the woodchippers' wines - Tamar Ridge, Coombend, Devils Corner - were not stocked by some shops, bars and restaurants in Hobart because of consumer antipathy was of no concern, for the venture's financial underpinning was the same as for its forestry plantations: tax-minimisation schemes, in which grape-growing qualified for a 100% tax write-off. Yet again, it was Australian taxes at work for Gunns.
Gunns now made no secret of what the cost would be for those who questioned the sanctity of old-growth logging, no matter who they were. During the 2004 federal election, plantation-softwood processor Auspine - a $200-million forestry company based in South Australia that runs two pine sawmills employing 313 people in the northern Tasmanian town of Scottsdale - incurred John Gay's wrath by having the temerity to put forward a $450-million plan in which old-growth logging would be ended immediately, but Tasmania's forest industry would be expanded by 900 new jobs. Gay made it clear that Auspine had been very foolish, saying, "Their comments have been extremely damaging to themselves and their future in Tasmania." Two months later Gunns' hardware stores stopped stocking Auspine timber.
Auspine's pine comes from land owned by Forestry Tasmania, but in 1999 a half-share in their trees was sold by Jim Bacon to an American global investment firm, GMO, for $40 million. In early 2007 it was announced that Auspine had lost its pine supply in a deal that saw the timber go to a new company, FEA, that doesn't even have a sawmill. In this manner over 300 people are to lose their jobs. Though it is the half-owner of the resource, both the state-owned Forestry Tasmania and the Tasmanian government refused to intervene in the negotiations to help Auspine or its workers. When Paul Lennon finally went to Scottsdale, four weeks after the initial announcement, sawmill workers turned their backs on the man who had always boasted that he stood for the jobs of forestry-industry workers. Increasingly, it appeared to many Tasmanians that the only jobs Lennon really cared about were his own and those of the Gunns directors.
Perhaps predictably, one of the last defences seized on in this battle by politicians on six-figure salaries is that they stand solidly with the working class. But Lennon's routine claim that 10,000 jobs are at stake if old-growth logging ends is without substance, and avoids the truth: jobs have been disappearing in old-growth logging for many years, not because of conservationists but because of mechanisation and Gunns' ability to transfer its losses onto logging workers. While woodchipping destroyed the older labour-intensive sawmill timber industry, the Hampshire woodchip mill in northern Tasmania, the biggest in the southern hemisphere, employs just 12 people. A report in the Australian Financial Review in 2004 revealed that the Tasmanian industry in its entirety had shed more than 1200 jobs since 1997.
Like Lennon's previously expansive claims - that, for example, ending old-growth logging in Western Australia had left more than 4000 people unemployed, something categorically refuted by the Western Australian government - the figure of 10,000 jobs is not supported. It is more than seven times the number given by the forest industry's own report on employment in the old-growth-logging sector, commissioned by the Forest Industries Association of Tasmania and written by pro-logging academics in 2004. Old-growth logging - as distinct from the rest of the (much larger) forestry industry - was estimated by a Timber Workers for Forests report in the same year to employ only 580 people. Both figures were arrived at before Gunns sent many contractors to the wall in 2006. Under Gunns' tendering system, contractors were already squeezed hard, with a large proportion of their income servicing debt on loans for the heavy machinery necessary for their work.
When it slashed logging contracts by up to 40% to offset a decline in woodchip sales, logging workers for the first time publicly expressed their growing bitterness towards Gunns and the hefty profits it made while their livelihoods vanished. In response, Barry Chipman of Timber Communities Australia (TCA) denied there was growing resentment within the industry towards Gunns. Presenting itself as the grassroots organisation of those it terms the "forest folk", the TCA has from its inception in 1987 actually been the vehicle of the National Association of Forest Industries (NAFI), which is financed by the logging industry. The TCA's support for the Tasmanian logging industry was once described by John Gay as an "invaluable alliance". Invaluable though it may be, the logging industry does put a price on it: in 2002-03, $723,154 of the TCA's total revenues of $836,977 came from direct industry contributions. In the same year, Barry Chipman's wages were directly paid by the NAFI.
It was "situations like this" Barry Chipman said of Gunns' slashing of contracts, that sorted out the "good operators" from the bad - further incensing those contractors who, acting on Gunns' promises of more work, had taken out bigger loans to purchase better equipment, and now were unable to meet repayments. "Everyone needs to tighten their belt a little bit," Chipman went on. "Any downturn will also be suffered by the company and its shareholders."
But they didn't seem to be suffering much that year at "Launceston's Lavish Lunch", the annual fundraiser of the Launceston branch of the Australian Cancer Research Foundation, held at one of Tasmania's most celebrated historic homes, Entally House. It seems to have been a splendid day for the island's clearfelling contessas, and the Launceston Cancerians - whose committee includes the wives of both John Gay and David McQuestin - later waxed effusively on their website about the event, extending "A big thanks ... to Mr John Gay for opening his house for the function."
Entally House isn't really John Gay's house, of course, just as crown forest isn't really his land. Like the forest, the historic house belonged to the Tasmanian people, but in 2004 the Tasmanian government terminated the National Trust's lease and gave a 20-year lease to Gunns. Plans by Gunns to plant a ten-hectare vineyard in Entally's historic grounds were immediately announced, John Gay declaring that the company was developing a "detailed marketing strategy" for the property, centring on the marketing of its wines. And in this way a unique piece of Australia's heritage became both John Gay's house and a charming marketing platform for Gunns. The public can still visit Entally House which, technically speaking, they still own. It only costs $8 per adult.
Meanwhile, log-truck driver Gary Coad, who in 2004 was found guilty of assaulting a conservationist and who cheered John Howard when he announced his ongoing support for old-growth logging, was forced out of the industry he had worked in for 30 years. Now, he told a local newspaper, contractors were at "rock bottom", unable to make ends meet. "The biggest problem in the industry," he said, "is Gunns' virtual monopoly", which meant that any contractors who criticised the company could be squeezed out of the business. "We came up [to the Launceston rally] and fought for John Gay's livelihood," continued Coad. "Well, now its time for him to turn around and do the same for us."
But no one - no Gunns director, no Labor or Liberal politician, no CFMEU representative, no ‘forest community' advocates - was going to fight for the forest workers, or speak to their feeling of betrayal. Instead, like Kevin Rudd on his ‘listening' tour in December 2006, they said that they supported the existing Tasmanian forestry industry - in order, as Rudd put it, that there be "no overall loss of jobs", ignoring the fact that supporting Gunns was exactly what ensured workers would continue to lose jobs, continue to be exploited under Gunns' pitiless tendering system, and continue to suffer.
There is in all this a constant theme: the Lennon government's and Gunns' real mates are not workers, but millionaires. Behind the smokescreen of statistics, beyond the down-home cant of ‘timber folk' peddled by the woodchippers' propagandists, past the endless lies, is a simple, wretched truth: great areas of Australia's remnant wild lands are being reduced to a landscape of battlefields, in order to make a handful of very rich people even richer.
Yet giving away such an extraordinary public resource as Tasmania's forests now threatens the state's broader economic prospects. A growing weight of financial analysis suggests that the economics of plantations (with which native forests are being replaced) are not assured, but rather are a huge gamble for Tasmania. The industry's future prospects depend on global pulp prices rising; the government, as the Australian Financial Review put it, has "tied the state's economic future to the success of Gunns and its tree farms".
If the future looks dubious, the present is already a failure. The reality is that logging old-growth forests brings little wealth and few jobs to struggling, impoverished rural communities. While Gunns makes its profits primarily in Tasmania, the great majority of the company's shares are owned by mainland institutions. It has been estimated that less than 15% of Gunns' profits remain on the island, where the largest individual shareholder is John Gay himself.
As a consequence of the forestry debate, Tasmania is an increasingly oppressive place to live. Just six days after conservationists had gone public about arson threats in 2004, the historian Bruce Poulson, a prominent opponent of plans to log the historically significant site of Recherché Bay, had the study behind his Dover house, containing decades of research, burnt down in what police described as a "malicious" attack. Ray and Leanne Green had displayed Wilderness Society posters calling for an end to old growth clearfelling in the Styx Valley in their Something Wild Wildlife Sanctuary, half an hour's drive from the valley. They received numerous informal threats, and then had their business burnt out. Cameraman Brian Dimmick was bashed by a log-truck driver who objected to Dimmick filming his vehicle. So it goes in the clearfell state.
It has never been suggested, nor do I wish to imply, that Gunns is any way responsible for such acts. But the workings of power are not always reducible to orders or even intentions. When a society becomes entrapped in a growing coarsening of public rhetoric, evil finds succour. When vilification is commonplace, when lies are the currency of the day and followers seek to rise through the vigorous anticipation of leaders' unspoken desires, where all are disenfranchised and the most powerless feel what little security they have will be destroyed by those who merely disagree, acts of dubious morality and even of violent criminality become justifiable and appear honourable.
Despite a few years of economic upturn between 2001 and 2006, Tasmania is once more technically in recession, and it remains the poorest Australian state, with the highest levels of unemployment and around 40% cent of its population dependent on government welfare. New key industries such as tourism and fine foods and wines trade as much on the island's pristine image as they do on the products they sell. There is growing concern in all these industries - in which job growth is concentrated - at the relentless damage being done to Tasmania's name by images of smouldering forest coupes.
It is little wonder that many Tasmanians now worry that the woodchippers' greed destroys not only their natural heritage, but distorts their parliament, deforms their polity and poisons their society. And perhaps it is for that reason that the battle for forests in Tasmania is as much about free speech and democracy - about a people's right to exercise some control over their destiny, about their desire to have a better, freer society - as it is about wild lands.
Of late, Gunns' fortunes have suffered. Its share price has dropped by over a quarter from its record highs of 2005, a reflection of having lost 20% of its market share to South American plantations. At the same time woodchip prices have dropped and a global woodchip glut beckons, all of which leaves Tasmania even more dependent on uneconomic woodchip production.
A recent rally in support of Gunns' pulp mill attracted just 50 people, including Paul Lennon. Gunns' own research shows only one in four Tasmanians supports the island's biggest company. Meanwhile, its pulp-mill proposal meets with growing fury throughout the state. The once-timorous Tasmanian media has begun showing courage in questioning the company's activities; the Gunns 20 writ has been rejected three times, and Gunns' projected legal costs - including the damages it must now pay - run into millions. On throwing it out a second time, Judge Bongiorno described the lengthy writ as legally "embarrassing". Still, Gunns persists with a fourth suit. The eminent QC Julian Burnside, one of the defence counsels, has said, "It leaves you wondering if the purpose is simply to terrorise."
Yet the hope for many Tasmanians of years past - that one or other of the major parties at a national level would act to end the madness of old-growth logging - vanished with Kevin Rudd's Labor Party green light to Gunns. No one could look to a political system now so hopelessly cowed by and enmeshed with the woodchipping lobby to effect change. After a decade of the most pro-corporation national government Australia has ever had, neither major political party has the courage or integrity to stand up to a rogue corporation.
And it is Gunns' determination to do whatever it must to continue old-growth logging that may just condemn both it and Tasmania to a savage vortex: given the history of dependence on government subsidies and the alacrity with which both major parties grant them, Gunns' ability to always shift losses onto others - the government, its workers - means that the company may well continue to prosper. But the price of maintaining the necessary political support is high and ever higher: it demands an ever more determined manipulation of public opinion, an ever more ruthless treatment of public opposition, and an ever more assiduous duchessing and policing of political parties.
For that reason, more Tasmanians are demanding a royal commission into the old-growth logging industry and its relationship with both major political parties. It may find nothing untoward has taken place. It may even find at heart something far more disturbing: that the boundary between what is illegal and what is unethical has now vanished in Australia, and that the spectre that now haunts the nation is not that of an omnipotent state but of a ruthless corporation, beholden to nothing but its own bottom line, inhibited by nobody, liberated by the failure of contemporary politics.
Nothing less than a major investigation with special powers can now clear away the stench that surrounds this industry and shames Australia. Without such an investigation nothing will change, except for the worse, and the rape of Tasmania will continue until one day, like so much else that was precious, its great forests will belong only to myth. Tasmanians will be condemned to endure the final humiliation: bearing dumb witness to the great lie that delivers wealth to a handful elsewhere, poverty to many of them, and death to their future as the last of these extraordinary places is sacrificed to the woodchippers' greed. Beautiful places, holy places, lost not only to them but to the world, forever.
And in a world where it seems everything can be bought, all that will remain are ghosts briefly mocking memory: a ream of copying paper in a Japanese office and a man fern in an English garden. And then they too will be gone.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Tasmania's DPP sticks it to the Keyboard Cowboys

Read it Here

Forestry Tasmania is a Mess - Tony McCall writes for the Examiner

Read article in The Examiner

Buck must stop with forestry management

FORESTRY Tasmania is a mess.
A once-proud organisation retains significant high-level skills, administrative and silviculture management capacity, research and product development at its district level.
But its management regime needs to be finally held to account for its failures.
This is the challenge for state cabinet.
Next week's Government Business Enterprise hearings wrap up our parliamentary year.
GBE hearings are significant opportunities to test the capacity of GBEs and State-Owned Corporations to meet their legislative requirements under enabling legislation.
In the case of GBEs, the 1995 Government Business Enterprises Act was a significant reform intent on delivery outcomes that included:
- A clearer commercial focus for GBEs.
- Greater accountability for financial performance.
- Increased return on investment from each GBE.
- Payment of financial returns to the state.
- Improved services to clients and consumers.
Two GBEs have been anchors of Tasmania's political economy for generations - Hydro and Forestry Tasmania.
In 2011 their futures could not be more of a contrast against the outcomes outlined above. Both GBEs should be well-placed in a post-carbon economy but only Hydro has a financial and asset competitive advantage that might allow it to reap future benefits and opportunities on behalf of Tasmanians.
FT represents one of the least attractive aspects of Tasmania's political culture, building relationships of dependency on the back of monopoly power over our public forest estate.
Ironically, FT is a protected political species, despite the compelling evidence for reform.
These observations are informed by the Auditor-General's Special Report No. 100 examining the financial and economic performance of FT (July 2011) and Vol. 3, Report of the Auditor-General No. 5 of 2011-12 in part examining government business enterprises.
FT has immediate financial challenges - its cash flow had collapsed to $9.4 million on June 30.
FT is operating with a financing cash deficit of $9.7 million.
The Auditor-General notes: ``It is not sustainable for FT to generate negative cash from its operating activities.''
FT at board level appears to consider its ``going concern basis'' to be largely dependent on ``letters of comfort'' from government to reassure markets and the ever-present expectations - up until now - that the state government will provide ongoing support and adequate resources to allow continuation of operations.
The Auditor-General notes that in relation to the appropriateness of adopting the ``going concern basis'' his ``audit opinion is not qualified in respect of these matters''.
There appears to be a dispute over the liquidity of FT.
FT did not offer a dividend return in 2010-11, nor in the previous three years. Its negative cash flow is unlikely to allow it to continue plantation development.
Its equity has crashed from $548 million in 2008 to $147 million in 2011. Its return on assets in 2010-11 was 0.2 per cent against a benchmark of 5.2 per cent.
FT's management has a tendency to be arrogantly dismissive of criticism and deflect blame for its failures - it's someone else's fault. This is a Tasmanian government disease.
I paraphrase the sage analysis of the Auditor-General's July Report (page 3): ``Between 1994 and June 2010, FT's business and funding model did not keep pace with changes in its operating environment.'' Surely, it is too late to continue to invest in a failed FT.
Dr Tony McCall is a senior research fellow in the Institute for Regional Development and a lecturer in the School of Government, University of Tasmania

Richie Porte TV interview


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Jerilderie Letter

Dear Sir,
I wish to acquaint you with some of the occurrences of the present past and future. In or about the spring of 1870 the ground was very soft a hawker named Mr Gould got his waggon bogged between Greta and my mother's house on the eleven mile creek, the ground was that rotten it would bog a duck in places so Mr. Gould had abandon his waggon for fear of loosing his horses in the spewy ground. he was stopping at my Mother's awaiting finer or dryer weather Mr. McCormack and his wife. hawkers also were camped in Greta the mosquitoes were very bad which they generally are in a wet spring and to help them Mr. Johns had a horse called Ruita Cruta although a gelding was as clever as old Wombat or any other Stallion at running horses away and taking them on his beat which was from Greta swamp to the seven mile creek consequently he enticed McCormack's horse away from Greta.
Mr. Gould was up early feeding his horses heard a bell and seen McCormack horses for he knew the horse well he sent his boy to take him back to Greta. When McCormack's got the horse they came straight out to Goold and accused him of working the horse; this was false, and Goold was amazed at the idea I could not help laughing to hear Mrs. McCormack accusing him of using the horse after him being so kind as to send his boy to take him from the Ruta Cruta and take him back to them.
I pleaded Goulds innocence and Mrs McCormack turned on me and accused me of bringing the horse from Greta to Goolds waggon to pull him out of the bog I did not say much to the woman as my Mother was present but that same day me and my uncle was cutting calves Gould wrapped up a note and a pair of the calves testicles and gave them to me to give them to Mrs McCormack. I did not see her and I gave the parcel to a boy to give to her when she would come instead of giving it to her he gave it to her husband consequently McCormack said he would summons me I told him neither me or Gould used their horse.
he said I was a liar & he could welt me or any of my breed I was about 14 years of age but accepted the challenge and dismounting when Mrs McCormack struck my horse in the flank with a bullock's skin it jumped forward and my fist came in collision with McCormack's nose and caused him to loose his equillibrium and fall postrate I tied up my horse to finish the battle but McCormack got up and ran to the Police camp. Constable Hall asked me what the row was about I told him they accused me and Gould of using their horse and I hit him and I would do the same to him if he challenged me McCormack pulled me and swore their lies against me I was sentenced to three months for hitting him and three months for the parcel and bound to keep the peace for 12 months.
Mrs McCormack gave good substantial evidence as she is well acquainted with that place called Tasmania better known as the Dervon or Vandiemans land and McCormack being a Police man over the convicts and women being scarce released her from that land of bondage and tyranny, and they came to Victoria and are at present residents of Greta and on the 29th of March I was released from prison and came home Wild Wright came to the Eleven Mile to see Mr Gunn stopped all night and lost his mare both him and me looked all day for her and could not get her Wright who was a stranger to me was in a hurry to get back to Mansfield and I gave him another mare and he told me if I found his mare to keep her until he brought mine back I was going to Wangaratta and seen the mare and I caught her and took her with me all the Police and Detective Berrill seen her as Martains girls used to ride her about the town during several days that I stopped at Petre Martains Star Hotel in Wangaratta.
She was a chestnut mare white face docked tail very remarkable branded (M) as plain as the hands on a town clock. the property of a Telegraph Master in Mansfield he lost her on the 6th gazetted her on the 12th of March and I was a prisoner in Beechworth Gaol until the 29 of March therefore I could not have Stole the mare. I was riding the mare through Greta Constable Hall came to me and said he wanted me to sign some papers that I did not sign at Beechworth concerning my bail bonds I thought it was the truth he said the papers was at the Barracks and I had no idea he wanted to arrest me or I would have quietly rode away instead of going to the Barracks.
I was getting off when Hall caught hold of me and thought to throw me but made a mistake and came on the broad of his back himself in the dust the mare galloped away and instead of me putting my foot on Halls neck and taking his revolver and putting him in the lock up. I tried to catch the mare. Hall got up and snapped three or four caps at me and would have shot me but the colts patent refused.This is well known in Greta Hall never told me he wanted to arrest me until after he tried to shoot me when I heard the caps snapping I stood until Hall came close he had me covered and was shaking with fear and I knew he would pull the trigger before he would be game to put his hand on me so I duped, and jumped at him caught the revolver with one hand and Hall by the collar with the other.
I dare not strike him or my sureties would loose the bond money I used to trip him and let him take a mouth ful of dust now and again as he was as helpless as a big guano after leaving a dead bullock or a horse. I kept throwing him in the dust until I got him across the street the very spot where Mrs 0'Briens Hotel stands now the cellar was just dug then there was some brush fencing where the post and rail was taking down and on this I threw big cowardly Hall on his belly I straddled him and rooted both spurs onto his thighs he roared like a big calf attacked by dogs and shifted several yards of the fence I got his hands at the back of his neck and trid to make him let the revolver go but he stuck to it like grim death to a dead volunteer he called for assistance to a man named Cohen and Barnett, Lewis, Thompson, Jewitt two blacksmiths who was looking on I dare not strike any of there as I was bound to keep the peace or I could have spread those curs like dung in a paddock they got ropes tied my hands and feet and Hall beat me over the head with his six chambered colts revolver nine stitches were put in some of the cuts by Dr Hastings And when Wild Wright and my mother came they could trace us across the street by the blood in the dust and which spoiled the lustre of the paint on the gate-post of the Barracks Hall sent for more Police and Doctor Hastings
Next morning I was handcuffed a rope tied from them to my legs and to the seat of the cart and taken to Wangaratta Hall was frightened I would throw him out of the cart so he tied me whilst Constable Arthur laughed at his cowardice for it was he who escorted me and Hall to Wangaratta. I was tried and committed as Hall swore I claimed the mare the Doctor died or he would have proved Hall a perjurer Hall has been tried several times for perjury but got clear as this is no crime in the Police force it is a credit to a Policeman to convict an innocent man but any muff can pot a guilty one Halls character is well known about El Dorado and Snowy Creek and Hall was considerably in debt to Mr L. O.Brien and he was going to leave Greta Mr O.Brien seen no other chance of getting his money so there was a subscription collected for Hall and with the aid of this money he got James Murdock who was recently hung in Wagga Wagga to give false evidence against me but I was acquitted on the charge of horsestealing and on Halls and Murdocks evidence I was found guilty of receiving and got 3 years experience in Beechworth Pentridges dungeons.
this is the only charge ever proved against me Therefore I can say I never was convicted of horse or cattle stealing My Brother Dan was never charged with assaulting a woman but he was sentenced to three months without the option of a fine and one month and two pounds fine for damaging property by Mr. Butler P.M. a sentence that there is no law to uphold therefore the Minister of Justice neglected his duty in that case, but there never was such a thing as Justice in the English laws but any amount of injustice to be had. Out of over thirty head of the very best horses the land could produce I could only find one when I got my liberty. Constable Flood stole and sold the most of them to the navvies on the railway line one bay cob he stole and sold four different times the line was completed and the men all gone when I came out and Flood was shifted to Oxley. he carried on the same game there all the stray horses that was any time without an owner and not in the Police Gazette Flood used to claim He was doing a good trade at Oxley until Mr Brown of the Laceby Station got him shifted as he was always running his horses about.
Flood is different to Sergeant Steel, Strachan, Hall and the most of Police a they have got to hire cads and if they fail the Police are quite helpless. But Flood can make a cheque single-handed he is the greatest horsestealer with the exception of myself and George King I know of. I never worked on a farm a horse and saddle was never traced to me after leaving employment since February 1873 I worked as a faller at Mr J. Saunders and R Rules sawmills then for Heach and Dockendorf I never worked for less than two pound ten a week since I left Pentridge and in 1875 or 1876 I was overseer for Saunders and Rule.
Bourke's water--holes sawmills in Victoria since then I was on the King River, during my stay there I ran in a wild bull which I gave to Lydicher a farmer he sold him to Carr a Publican and Butcher who killed him for beef, sometime afterwards I was blamed for stealing this bull from James Whitty Boggy Creek I asked Whitty Oxley racecourse why he blamed me for stealing his bull he said he had found his bull and never blamed me but his son-in-law Farrell told him he heard I sold the bull to Carr not long afterwards I heard again I was blamed for stealing a mob of calves from Whitty and Farrell which I knew nothing about. I began to think they wanted me to give them something to talk about.
Therefore I started wholesale and retail horse and cattle dealing Whitty and Burns not being satisfied with all the picked land on the Boggy Creek and King River and the run of their stock on the certificate ground free and no one interfering with them paid heavy rent to the banks for all the open ground so as a poor man could keep no stock, and impounded every beast they could get, even off Government roads. If a poor man happened to leave his horse or bit of a poddy calf outside his paddock they would be impounded. I have known over 60 head of horses impounded in one day by Whitty and Burns all belonging to poor farmers they would have to leave their ploughing or harvest or other employment to go to Oxley.
When they would get there perhaps not have money enough to release them and have to give a bill of sale or borrow the money which is no easy matter. And along with this sort of work, Farrell the Policeman stole a horse from George King and had him in Whitty and Farrells Paddocks until he left the force. And all this was the cause of me and my step-father George King taking their horses and selling them to Baumgarten and Kennedy. the pick of them was taken to a good market and the culls were kept in Petersons paddock and their brands altered by me two was sold to Kennedy and the rest to Baumgarten who were strangers to me and I believe honest men.
They paid me full value for the horses and could not have known they were stolen. no person had anything to do with the stealing and selling of the horses but me and George King. William Cooke who was convicted for Whittys horses was innocent he was not in my company at Petersons. But it is not the place of the Police to convict guilty men as it is by them they get their living had the right parties been convicted it would have been a bad job for the Police as Berry would have sacked a great many of them only I came to their aid and kept them in their bilits and good employment and got them double pay and yet the ungrateful articles convicted my mother and an infant my brother-in-law and another man who was innocent and still annoy my brothers and sisters and the ignorant unicorns even threaten to shoot myself But as soon as I am dead they will be heels up in the muroo.
there will be no more police required they will be sacked and supplanted by soldiers on low pay in the towns and special constables made of some of the farmers to make up for this double pay and expence. It will pay Government to give those people who are suffering innocence, justice and liberty. if not I will be compelled to show some colonial stratagem which will open the eyes of not only the Victoria Police and inhabitants but also the whole British army and now doubt they will acknowledge their hounds were barking at the 20 wrong stump.
And that Fitzpatrick will be the cause of greater slaughter to the Union Jack than Saint Patrick was to the snakes and toads in Ireland. The Queen of England was as guilty as Baumgarten and Kennedy Williamson and Skillion of what they were convicted for When the horses were found on the Murray River I wrote a letter to Mr Swanhill of Lake Rowan to acquaint the Auctioneer and to advertize my horses for sale I brought some of them to that place but did not sell I sold some of them in Benalla Melbourne and other places and left the colony and became a rambling gambler soon after I left there was a warrant for me and the Police searched the place and watched night and day for two or three weeks and when they could not snare me they got a warrant against my brother Dan And on the 15 of April Fitzpatrick came to the Eleven Mile Creek to arrest him he had some conversation with a horse dealer whom he swore was William Skillion this man was not called in Beechworth, besides several other Witnesses, who alone could have proved Fitzpatricks falsehood after leaving this man he went to the house asked was Dan in Dan came out.
I hear previous to this Fitzpatrick had some conversation with Williamson on the hill. he asked Dan to come to Greta with him as he had a warrant for him for stealing Whitty's horses Dan said all right they both went inside Dan was having something to eat his mother asked Fitzpatrick what he wanted Dan for. the trooper said he had a warrant for him Dan then asked him to produce it he said it was only a telegram sent from Chiltren but Sergeant Whelan ordered him to releive Steel at Greta and call and arrest Dan and take him into Wangaratta next morning and get him remanded Dans mother said Dan need not go without a warrant unless he liked and that the trooper had no business on her premises without some Authority besides his own word The trooper pulled out his revolver and said he would blow her brains out if she interfered.
in the arrest she told him it was a good job for him Ned was not there or he would ram the revolver down his throat Dan looked out and said Ned is coming now, the trooper being off his guard looked out and when Dan got his attention drawn he dropped the knife and fork which showed he had no murderous intent and slapped heenans hug on him took his revolver and kept him there until Skillion and Ryan came with horses which Dan sold that night. The trooper left and invented some scheme to say that he got shot which any man can see is false, he told Dan to clear out that Sergeant Steel and Detective Brown and Strachan would be there before morning Strachan had been over the Murray trying to get up a case against him and they would convict him if they caught him as the stock society offored an enticement for witnesses to swear anything and the germans over the Murray would swear to the wrong man as well as the right.
Next day Williamson and my mother was arrested and Skillion the day after who was not there at all at the time of the row which can be proved by 8 or 9 witnesses And the Police got great credit and praise in the papers for arresting the mother of 12 children one an infant on her breast and those two quiet hard working innocent men who would not know the difference a revolver and a saucepan handle and kept them six months awaiting trial and then convicted them on the evidence of the meanest article that ever the sun shone on it seems that the jury was well chosen by the Police as there was a discharged Sergeant amongst them which is contrary to law they thought it impossible for a Policeman to swear a lie but I can assure them it is by that means and hiring cads they get promoted I have heard from a trooper that he never knew Fitzpatrick to be one night sober and that he sold his sister to a chinaman but he looks a young strapping rather genteel more fit to be a starcher to a laundress than a Policeman.
For to a keen observer he has the wrong appearance or a manly heart the deceit and cowardice is too plain to be seen in the puny cabbage hearted looking face. I heard nothing of this transaction until very close on the trial I being then over 400 miles from Greta when I heard I was outlawed and a hundred pound reward for me for shooting at a trooper in Victoria and a hundred pound for any man that could prove a conviction of horse-stealing against me so I came back to Victoria knew I would get no justice if I gave myself up I enquired after my brother Dan and found him digging on Bullock Creek heard how the Police used to be blowing that they would not ask me to stand they would shoot me first and then cry surrender and how they used to rush into the house upset all the milk dishes break tins of eggs empty the flour out of the bags on to the ground and even the meat out of the cask and destroy all the provisions and shove the girls in front of them into the rooms like dogs so as if anyone was there they would shoot the girls first but they knew well I was not there or I would have scattered their blood and brains like rain I would manure the Eleven mile with their bloated carcasses and yet remember there is not one drop of murderous blood in my Veins
Superintendent Smith used to say to my sisters, see all the men I have out today I will have as many more tomorrow and we will blow him into pieces as small as paper that is in our guns Detective Ward and Constable Hayes took out their revolvers and threatened to shoot the girls and children in Mrs Skillions absence the greatest ruffians and murderers no matter how deprived would not be guilty of such a cowardly action, and this sort of cruelty and disgraceful and cowardly conduct to my brothers and sisters who had no protection coupled with the conviction of my mother and those men certainly made my blood boil as I dont think there is a man born could have the patience to suffer it as long as I did or ever allow his blood to get cold while such insults as these were unavenged and yet in every paper that is printed I am called the blackest and coldest blooded murderer ever on record
But if I hear any more of it I will not exactly show them what cold blooded murder is but wholesale and retail slaughter something different to shooting three troopers in self defence and robbing a bank. I would have been rather hot-blooded to throw down my rifle and let them shoot me and my innocent brother, they were not satisfied with frightening my sisters night and day and destroying their provisions and lagging my mother and infant and those innocent men but should follow me and my brother into the wilds where he had been quietly digging neither molesting or inter-fering with anyone he was making good wages as the creek is very rich within half a mile from where I shot Kennedy.
I was not there long and on the 25 of October I came on Police tracks between Table top and the bogs. I crossed them and returning in the evening I came on a dif-ferent lot of tracks making for the shingle hut I went to our camp and told my brother and his two mates me and my brother went and found their camp at the shingle hut about a mile from my brothers house saw they carried long firearms and we knew our doom was sealed if we could not beat those before the others would come As I knew the other party of Police would soon join them and if they came on us at our camp they would shoot us down like dogs at our work as we had only two guns. we thought it best to try and bail those up take their fire-arms and ammunition and horses and we could stand a chance with the rest We approached the spring as close as we could get to the camp as the intervening space being clear ground and no battery We saw two men at the logs they got up and one took a double barreled fowling-piece and fetched a horse down and hobbled him at the tent we thought there were more men in the tent asleep those being on sentry we could have shot those two men without speaking but not wishing to take their lives we waited McIntyre laid the gun against a stump and Lonigan sat on the log I advanced, my brother Dan keepin McIntyre covered which he took to be constable Flood and had he not obeyed my orders, or at-tempted to reach for the gun or draw his revolver he would have been shot dead but when I called on them to throw up their hands McIntyre obeyed and Lonigan ran some six or seven yards to a battery of logs insted of dropping behind the one he was sitting on, he had just got to the logs and put his head up to take aim when I shot him that instant or he would have shot me as I took him to be Strachan the man who said he would not ask me to stand he would shoot me first like a dog
But it happened to be Lonigan the man who in company with Sergeant Whelan Fitzpatrick and King the Boot maker and constable O.Day that tried to put a pair of hand-cuffs on me in Benalla but could not and had to allow McInnis the miller to put them on, previous to Fitzpatrick swear-ing he was shot, I was fined two pounds for hitting Fitzpatrick and two pounds for not allowing five curs like Sergeant Whelan O.Day Fitz-patrick King and Lonigan who caught me by the privates and would have sent me to Kingdom come only I was not ready and he is the man that blowed before he left Violet Town if Ned Kelly was to be shot he was the man would shoot him and no doubt he would shoot me even if I threw up my arms and laid down as he knew four of them could not arrest me single-handed not to talk of the rest of my mates, also either me or him would have to die, this he knew well therefore he had a right to keep out of my road, Fitzpatrick is the only one I hit out of the five in Benalla this shows my feeling towards him as he said we were good friends & even swore it but he was the biggest enemy I had in the country with the exception of Lonigan and he can be thankful I was not there when he took a revolver and threatened to shoot my mother in her own house it is not fire three shots and miss him at a yard and a half I dont think I would use a revolver to shoot a man like him when I was within a yard and a half of him or attempt to fire into a house where my mother brothers and sisters was. and according to Fitzpatricks statement all around him a man that is such a bad shot as to miss a man three times at a yard and a half would never attempt to fire into a house among a house full of women and children while I had a pairs of arms and bunch of fives on the end of them that never failed to peg out anything they came in contact with and Fitzpatrick knew the weight of one of them only too well, as it run against him once in Benalla, and cost me two pound odd as he is very subject to fainting.

As soon as I shot Lonigan he jumped up and staggered some distance from the logs with his hands raised and then fell he surrendered but too late I asked McIntyre who was in the tent he replied no one. I advanced and took possession of their two revolvers and fowling-piece which I loaded with bullets instead of shot. I asked McIntyre where his mates was he said they had gone down the creek, and he did not expect them that night he asked me was I going to shoot him and his mates. I told him no.

I would shoot no man if he gave up his arms and leave the force he said the police all knew Fitzpatrick had wronged us. and he intended to leave the force, as he had bad health, and his life was insured, he told me he intended going home and that Kennedy and Scanlan were out looking for our camp and also about the other Police he told me the N.S.W Police had shot a man for shooting Sergeant Walling I told him if they did, they had shot the wrong man And I expect your gang came to do the same with me he said no they did not come to shoot me they came to apprehend me I asked him what they carried spenceir rifles and breech loading fowling pieces and so much ammunition for as the Police was only supposed to carry one revolver and 6 cartridges in the revolver but they had eighteen rounds of revolver cartridges each three dozen for the fowling piece and twenty one spenceir-rifle cartridges and God knows how many they had away with the rifle this looked as if they meant not only to shoot me only to riddle me but I dont know either Kennedy Scanlan or him and had nothing against them, he said he would get them to give up their arms if I would not shoot them as I could not blame them, they had to do their duty I said I did not blame them for doing honest duty but I could not suffer them blowing me to pieces in my own native land and they knew Fitzpatrick wronged us and why not make it public and convict him but no they would rather riddle poor unfortunate creoles.

but they will rue the day ever Fitzpatrick got among them, Our two mates came over when they heard the shot fired but went back again for fear the Police might come to our camp while we were all away and manure bullock flat with us on our arrival. I stopped at the logs and Dan went back to the spring for fear the tropers would come in that way but I soon heard them coming up the creek. I told McIntyre to tell them to give up their arms, he spoke to Kennedy who was some distance in front of Scanlan he reached for his revolver and jumped off, on the off side of his horse and got behind a tree when I called on them to throw up their arms and Scanlan who carried the rifle slewed his horse around to gallop away but the horse would not go and as quick as thought fired at me with the rifle without unslinging it and was in the act of firing again when I had to shoot him and he fell from his horse.

I could have shot them without speaking but their lives was no good to me. McIntyre jumped on Kennedys horse and I allowed him to go as I did not like to shoot him after he surrendered or I would have shot him as he was between me and Kennedy therefore I could not shoot Kennedy without shooting him first. Kennedy kept firing from behind the tree my brother Dan advanced and Kennedy ran I followed him he stopped behind another tree and fired again.

I shot him in the arm pit and he dropped his revolver and ran I fired again with the gun as he slewed around to surrender I did not know he had dropped his revolver. the bullet passed through the right side of his chest & he could not live or I would have let him go had they been my own brother I could not help shooting there or else let them shoot me which they would have done had their bullets been directed as they intended them. But as for handcuffing Kennedy to a tree or cutting his ear off or brutally treating any of them, is a falsehood, if Kennedys ear was cut off it was not done by me and none of my mates was near him after he was shot I put his cloak over him and left him as well as I could and were they my own brothers I could not have been more sorry for them this cannot be called wilful murder for I was compelled to shoot them, or lie down and let them shoot me it would not be wilful murder if they packed our remains in, shattered into a mass of animated gore to Mansfield, they would have got great praise and credit as well as promotion but I am reconed a horrid brute because I had not been cowardly enough to lie down for them under such trying circumstances and insults to my people certainly their wives and children are to be pitied but they must remember those men came into the bush with the intention of scattering pieces of me and my brother all over the bush and yet they know and acknowledge I have been wronged and my mother and four or five men lagged innocent and is my brothers and sisters and my mother not to be pitied also who has no alternative only to put up with the brutal and cowardly conduct of a parcel of big ugly fat-necked wombat headed big bellied magpie legged narrow hipped splaw-footed sons of Irish Bailiffs or english landlords which is better known as Officers of Justice or Victorian Police who some calls honest gentlemen but I would like to know what business an honest man would have in the Police as it is an old saying It takes a rogue to catch a rogue and a man that knows nothing about roguery would never enter the force an take an oath to arrest brother sister father or mother if required and to have a case and conviction if possible

Any man knows it is possible to swear a lie and if a policeman looses a conviction for the sake of swearing a lie he has broke his oath therefore he is a perjurer either ways. A Policeman is a disgrace to his country, not alone to the mother that suckled him, in the first place he is a rogue in his heart but too cowardly to follow it up without having the force to disguise it. next he is traitor to his country ancestors and religion as they were all catholics before the Saxons and Cranmore yoke held sway since then they were perse cuted massacreed thrown into martrydom and tortured beyond the ideas of the present generation What would people say if they saw a strapping big lump of an Irishman shepherding sheep for fifteen bob a week or tailing turkeys in Tallarook ranges for a smile from Julia or even begging his tucker, they would say he ought to be ashamed of himself and tar-and-feather him

But he would be a king to a policeman who for a lazy loafing cowardly bilit left the ash corner deserted the shamrock, the emblem of true wit and beauty to serve under a flag and nation that has destroyed massacreed and murdered their fore-fathers by the greatest of torture as rolling them down hill in spiked barrels pulling their toe and finger nails and on the wheel. and every torture imaginable more was transported to Van Diemand's Land to pine their young lives away in starvation and misery among tyrants worse than the promised hell itself all of true blood bone and beauty, that was not murdered on their own soil, or had fled to America or other countries to bloom again another day, were doomed to Port Mcquarie Toweringabbie norfolk island and Emu plains and in those places of tyrany and condemnation many a blooming Irishman rather than subdue to the Saxon yoke Were flogged to death and bravely died in servile chains but true to the shamrock and a credit to Paddys land What would people say if I became a policeman and took an oath to arrest my brothers and sisters & relations and convict them by fair or foul means after the conviction of my mother and the persecutions and insults offered to myself and people Would they say I was a decent gentleman, and yet a police-man is still in worse and guilty of meaner actions than that The Queen must surely be proud of such herioc men as the Police and Irish soldiers as It takes eight or eleven of the biggest mud crushers in Melbourne to take one poor little half starved larrakin to a watch house.

I have seen as many as eleven, big & ugly enough to lift Mount Macedon out of a crab hole more like the species of a baboon or Guerilla than a man. actually come into a court house and swear they could not arrest one eight stone larrakin and them armed with battens and neddies without some civilians assistance and some of them going to the hospital from the affects of hits from the fists of the larrakin and the Magistrate would send the poor little Larrakin into a dungeon for being a better man than such a parcel of armed curs. What would England do if America declared war and hoisted a green flag as its all Irishmen that has got command of her armies forts and batteries even her very life guards and beef tasters are Irish would they not slew around and fight her with their own arms for the sake of the colour they dare not wear for years. and to reinstate it and rise old Erins isle once more, from the pressure and tyrannism of the English yoke, which has kept it in poverty and starvation, and caused them to wear the enemys coats.

What else can England expect. Is there not big fat-necked Unicorns enough paid to torment and drive me to do thing which I dont wish to do, without the public assisting them I have never interefered with any person unless they deserved it, and yet there are civilians who take firearms against me, for what reason I do not know, unless they want me to turn on them and exterminate them without medicine. I shall be compelled to make an example of some of them if they cannot find no other employment If I had robbed and plundered ravished and murdered everything I met young and old rich and poor. the public could not do any more than take firearms and Assisting the police as they have done, but by the light that shines pegged on an ant-bed with their bellies opened their fat taken out rendered and poured down their throat boiling hot will be fool to what pleasure I will give some of them and any person aiding or harbouring or assisting the Police in any way whatever or employing any person whom they know to be a detective or cad or those who would be so deprived as to take blood money will be outlawed and declared unfit to be allowed human buriel their property either consumed or confiscated and them theirs and all belonging to them exterminated off the face of the earth, the enemy I cannot catch myself I shall give a payable reward for,

I would like to know who put that article that reminds me of a poodle dog half clipped in the lion fashion, called Brooke E. Smith Superin-tendent of Police he knows as much about commanding Police as Cap-tain Standish does about mustering mosquitoes and boiling them down for their fat on the back blocks of the Lachlan for he has a head like a turnip a stiff neck as big as his shoulders narrow hipped and pointed towards the feet like a vine stake and if there is any one to be called a murderer regarding Kennedy, Scanlan and Lonigan it is that mis-placed poodle he gets as much pay as a dozen good troopers, if there is any good in them, and what does he do for it he cannot look behind him without turning his whole frame it takes three or four police to keep sentry while he sleeps in Wangaratta, for fear of body snatchers do they think he is a superior animal to the men that has to guard him if so why not send the men that gets big pay and reconed superior to the common police after me and you shall soon save the country of high salaries to men that is fit for nothing else but getting better men than him self shot and sending orphan children to the industrial school to make prostitutes and cads of them for the Detectives and other evil dis-posed persons

Send the high paid and men that received big salaries for years in a gang by themselves after me, As it makes no difference to them but it will give them a chance of showing whether they are worth more pay than a common trooper or not and I think the Public will soon find they are only in the road of good men and obtaining money under false pretences, I do not call McIntyre a coward for I reckon he is as game a man as wears the jacket as he had the presence of mind to know his position, directly as he was spoken to, and only foolishness to disobey, it was cowardice that made Lonigan and the others fight it is only foolhardiness to disobey an outlaw as any Police-man or other man who do not throw up their arms directly as I call on them knows the consequence which is a speedy dispatch to Kingdom Come, I wish those men who joined the stock protection society to with-draw their money and give it and as much more to the widows and orphans and poor of Greta district wher I spent and will again spend many a happy day fearless free and bold as it only aids the police to procure false witnesses and go whacks with men to steal horses and lag innocent men it would suit them far better to subscribe a sum and give it to the poor of their district and there is no fear of anyone stealing their property for no man could steal their horses without the knowledge of the poor if any man was mean enough to steal their property the poor would rise out to a man and find them if they were on the face of the earth it will always pay a rich man to be liberal with the poor and make as little enemies as he can as he shall find if the poor is on his side he shall loose nothing by it, If they depend in the police they shall be drove to destruction,

As they can not and will not protect them if duffing and bushranging were abolished the police would have to cadge for their living I speak from experience as I have sold horses and cattle innumerable and yet eight head of the culls is all ever was found I never was interfered with whilst I kept up this successful trade. I give fair warning to all those who has reason to fear me to sell out and give £10 out of every hundred towards the widow and orphan fund and do not attempt to reside in Victoria but as short a time as possible after reading this notice, neglect this and abide by the consequences, which shall be worse than the rust in the wheat in Victoria or the druth of a dry season to the grasshoppers in New South Wales I do not wish to give the order full force without giving timely warning. But I am a widows son outlawed and my orders must be obeyed

Edward Kelly