Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Oh what a tangled web we weave. Jonothan West dumps on ENGO's over pulp mill.

Here are Jonothan Wests comments (today on ABC radio) on the future of protests and particular pulp mill protests arising from the forests deal.

Key comments on the pulp mill come with 7.00 min remaining on the audio and continue for around 4 minutes. Have a close listen.

West’s comments are not surprising but incredibly damning where the ENGO signatories are concerned.

West is very clear and his comments most certainly require a response and clarification by the ENGO’s. They also deserve a strong response from anti-pulp mill groups.

When asked by the ABC about the pulp mill protests (and Ta ann protests) West said he had talked to ALL the protest groups & relevant individuals (we can assume that this includes anti-pulp mill groups).
Professor West said the protest groups had made it clear to him that once a resolution on native forests is reached - one that is satisfactory to the major ENGOs - the protests will stop. West comments are being made in here response to questions about pulp mill & taann protests.
This blogger could list a host of groups including anti-mill groups from whom West would most certainly NOT HAVE recieved such assurances. Certainly not on pulp mill protests.

I know for a fact West did not talk to Code Green and i know he would not have recieved such assurances from Pulp The Mill, Friends of the Tamar Valley, Tasmanian Conservation Trust, The No Pulp Mill Alliance or TAP.

I would invite any other groups that feel misrepresented by Wests comments to say so here.

West then claims that BASED ON HIS DISCUSSIONS with the major ENGOs he believed opposition to the mill was primarily based on feedstock and that once the IGA was finalised and a resolution reached on native forest use the ENGOs would stop campaigning against the pulp mill.

West believed the ENGOs wouldn’t support the mill, rather just stop the campaigning.

West said based on talks with major Enviro groups he believed it was reasonable to expect the ENGOs would stop campaigning against the mill after a resolution has been reached on native forests.
Its important to note that West claims his comments on the future of pulp mill protests are based on his discussions with the major ENGOs

This flies in the face of what ENGOs are telling anti-mill groups privately.

If West is wrong and has misunderstood & misreprepresented his discusssions with ENGO signatories to the forests deal then the two ENGOs must clarify this and correct the record publicly. The time for private assurances are over Vica Bailey& Phil Pullinger. Its meaningless unless its out there in the public domain.

Indeed TWS/ET lack of public opposition to such explosive public statements (and others by the Premier & DP) from such a key player in the forests deal is effectively to assist Gunns in getting its pulp mill a social licence. To say this is probably understating things.

Remember Greg L’Estrange’s definition of a social licence? “Less Opposition”. L’Estrange was very clear about this.

Do we have more or less opposition to the pulp mill these days, what role (or the lack of) are TWS/ET playing in this and how does it relate to the forests deal?

Basic questions, old questions but questions i intend to keep asking and putting on the public record.

As for Tamar Valley based pulp mill opponents.

Pulp Mill opponents are making a mistake if they believe keeping their heads down will stop them being demonised, steretyped and blamed for the demise of the IGA.

Its too late for that now. The landscape has shifted.

Silence and flying under the radar is not the solution. It might be the easy option but its not the best option.

Silence will suit the ENGO’s, Gunns and the mates of the mill. It will also reinforce the belief that there is less opposition to the pulp mill and henceforth a social licence.

The debate has shifted and what is required of pulp mill opponents is to develop and articulate effective arguments that speak to the current situation and to go out into the battlefield and argue them.


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Huon MLC Paul Harriss - Rogue Politician?

"‘Questionable’ is the word, you are right. That is what they do. So then they (conservationists) say that, by connection, Ta Ann’s operations in Tasmania are also questionable. They then say the chief minister in Sarawak is corrupt. Well, there are elections over there, I do not see any uprising to get the bloke out of the place. I have never met him but these are the allegations". (Huon MLC Paul Harriss, Legislative Council Hansard, 14-3-2012)

MLC Paul Harriss' offhand dismissal of allegations of corruption against the Sarawak Chief Minister (CM) is the most significant aspect of the Huon MLC's recent coward's castle rant

Mr Harriss' comments should be of concern to every Tasmanian - including those in his electorate  - who care about democracy, justice and human rights. Paul Harriss’ put him at odds with many of Australia's closest allies and the wider global community on the issue of corruption and the Sarawak Chief Minister.

In 2010 Malaysia (of which Sarawak is the largest state) scored its lowest ever score in Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index. Malaysia plunged to a 'serious corruption' rating with an index score of 4.4/10, with 0 being highly corrupt and 10 being very clean.

Leaked U.S cables (wikileaks) show that the U.S govt regard the Sarawak Chief Minister as 'highly corrupt' and the Sarawak state govt as "highly corrupt in the hands of the Chief Minister".  Wikileaks also showed the U.S govt recognises that Chief Minister Taib and his relatives are widely thought to extract a percentage from most major commercial contracts - including those for logging - awarded in Sarawak.

On human rights Wikileaks showed that......The US embassy also informed itself on the plight of Sarawak’s indigenous people. It was told by commissioners of Malaysia’s government-funded national human rights commission, SUHAKAM, that the government largely ignores SUHAKAM’s recommendations ‘to safeguard the rights of the state’s most vulnerable citizens’.

Then there is Mr Harriss's quip that Sarawak citizens use elections or an 'uprising' to deal with the allegedly corrupt Chief Minister and his powerful regime.

Mr Harriss’ blissfully - and dare I say wilfully na├»ve riposte rolls of the tongue from the relative safety of Tasmania. Yet when we look at the political climate in Malaysia and the actual culture and practices of election campaigns in Sarawak it exposes the perversity & stupidity of the Huon MLC's comments.

The recent 2011 Sarawak election (as with previous Sarawak elections) was widely regarded as a giant exercise in pork barrelling. The Malaysian Government (the same political party as Chief Minister Taib's Sarawak state govt) poured millions into Sarawak as a form of ‘gratitude’ to Chief Minister Taib’s Sarawak state government for delivering the seats to secure the ruling party a majority at the Federal level.

Chief Minister Taib's government spent nearly $2Bn Ringgit Malaysia (RM) in Sarawak leading up to the last election and also blatantly exceeded election campaign spending regulations. Leading up the 2011 election it was revealed some Sarawak village heads received RM6,000 while the villagers were given RM2,000. The ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) routinely sent its cronies to villages and door by door handed out cash for votes.
The amounts handed out were aften the equivalent of a months wages. 
In Sarawak rural communities are cleverly controlled by community leaders. The appointed community leaders do the bidding of the Chief Minister's ruling BN party as they recieve their allowance of RM800 from BN. Any community leaders found supporting the political opposition are inevitably sacked and material government assistance in the form of fertiliser, seedling and herbicide is withdrawn.

World renowned pro-democracy activist/politician Anwar Ibrahim who has been jailed & tortured for leading an 'uprising' against the powerful Malaysian ruling elite claimed the 2011 Sarawak election saw electoral fraud with pro-democracy activists stopped from entering Sarawak to observe the elections. But what would this globally recognised and decorated defender of justice and human rights in Malaysia know……right Mr Harriss?

Perhaps Mr Harriss could call in on Anwar Ibrahim during his next Malaysian fact finding mission and get some facts from an insider on how business is done in Sarawak? Mr Harriss might then travel to Sarawak to exhort disgruntled locals to exercise the vote and lecture them on how to initiate an uprising.

Or perhaps Mr Harriss who has used the Tasmanian Parliament to record his indifference to one of the worlds most corrupt regimes, could  simply tell us at the next sitting of cowards castle why Anwar Ibrahim, the U.S govt and wider global community are wrong about the Chief Minister of Sarawak?

Anyone reading Mr Harriss's easy dismissal of allegations of corruption against the Sarawak Chief Minister would be justified in wondering if there is any allegation, anything which reflects poorly on the Tasmanian logging industry that Mr Harriss is not prepared to overlook?

The word rogue has been bandied about a lot lately in relation to the Tasanian logging industry.

There is no doubt that the logging industry globally, including Malaysia's is widely regarded as one of the most corrupt industries on our planet. Such a claim can be supported by decades of evidence.

To my mind the Huon MLC's off hand dismissal of allegations of corruption against the Sarawak Chief Minister is rogue behaviour and places Paul Harriss out on the fringes in terms of global opinion of Sarawak's Taib regime. But ask any Tasmanian and they will tell you in an instant, rogue politicians and rogue behaviour are nothing new in Tasmanian Politics.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Who is driving the Liberal's Pulp Mill policy?

Last year in response to a question (May 2011) during a live chat on the Liberal's Turn Tasmania Around Facebook site, opposition leader Will Hodgman replied to me saying the Libs would rule out any further financial support for the Gunns Pulp mill should they win government. Will Hodgman has also made this promise on ABC radio.
Here is the transcript of my exchange with Will Hodgman:

Rick Pilkington- ".........Will, if by some miracle the pulp mill is built will you today rule out providing government subisidies and bailouts in the event that the project falls on hard times? The so called benefits to the community are at best arguable now, with further taxpayer subsidies it would prove to the massive white elephant that many of us predict".

Will Hodgman MP: -"Rick - yes. It has to stand on its own feet."


However Liberal shadow treasurer Peter Gutwein is now refusing to rule out giving more public money to Gunns for its pulp mill.

......"Opposition economic development spokesman Peter Gutwein again called for the government to sack Nick McKim as a minister to prevent further derailment of the pulp mill project.``If we were in government, you would obviously keep an open mind to any requests for support from (Gunns) because it is absolutely vital that we get this project over the line,'' he said.........(The Examiner, 11/3/12)

This begs the question - Why has Mr Gutwein publicly contradicted Will Hodgman's position on public money for Gunns? Why have the Liberals apparently had a change of heart on public money for Gunns when not so long ago Will Hodgman slammed the Labor/Green govt over its $48M payout to Gunns?

......"This is $34.5 million that should be being spent on schools, hospitals and police, not as a bargaining tool in a dodgy political deal," Mr Hodgman said.
"This disastrous deal has been nothing but an expensive embarrassment from the start...
 Given that Gunns voluntarily gave up its native forest contracts, they shouldn't receive a cent of compensation."....(Will Hodgman in The Mercury, 15/9/11)

Contrast Mr Gutwein's near obession with the pulp mill and his apparent enthusiasm to give more taxpayers money to Gunns against Mr Hodgman's hardline against public handouts for Gunns and recent refusal to meet with a potential Pulp Mill investor. Perhaps the difference between the two senior Liberals' attitude on the Pulp Mill is more stark than is given credit.

Of course last week's revelations of Will Hodgman's Chandler snub triggered widespread criticism of the Liberal leader and speculation about his grip on the opposition leadership. Could the apparent contradiction between Gutwein & Hodgman's position on public money for Gunns be indicative of an emerging challenge to Will Hodgman's leadership and a shift toward a harder party line on the Pulp Mill/Forest related policy? It was only a few weeks ago that the Tasmanian Liberals also flagged the introduction of draconian laws to stop protests against logging industry interests should the Libs win government. Another sign of a shift to a more reactionary & hard line Liberal party on forestry.

So who is driving this shift and who in fact is now driving the Tasmanian Liberals' Pulp Mill policy?

Is Will Hodgman set to break his word on public money for Gunns to appease powerful pro mill hardliners within Liberal ranks and will we see the Liberal party with Mr Hodgman at the helm or perhaps leader in waiting - Peter Gutwein taking the party to the 2014 election with a policy of more public money for Gunns pulp mill?

Time will tell.

Unless drawn by questions from local media its highly unlikely the Liberal's will advertise plans to give Gunns public money for the mill. The Liberal party would be well aware that several public polls conducted on the question of more public money for Gunns pulp mill have shown such a proposition is even more on the nose with Tasmanians than the project itself.


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A response to Bruce Montgomery in Crikey

'Politicians fiddle while the economy burns' suggests Bruce - Here and Here.

You write like this a unique phenomena in politics Bruce.

Unfortunately Bruce's Crikey article - (Bruce Montgomery is a former logging industry spin doctor -Communications Manager of the Tasmanian Forests and Forest Industry Council ) only focusses on one sector of the Tassie economy - Forestry - giving his interstate readers the impression that the logging industry plays a more imporatnt role in the future of the Tasmanian economy than it actually does.

Not so according to Tasmanian businessman Andrew Scobie, a recent head of Tasmania's peak business lobby - The Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce & Industry (TCCI).

This is what Andrew Scobie told ABC radio last week about the logging industry, an industry described in Bruce Mongomery's Crikey piece as Tasmania's 'major growth industry'
..................."Foresty Tasmania has been showing an inappropriate rate of return to its shareholders (the tasmanian people) for such a long time now and has really only been a smoke and mirrors mechanism for the redistribution of public wealth ie: taxation being taken from Australians, not Tasmanians, but Australians and distributed to an industry which frankly doesnt have a future".................."The frank reality is that Forestry Tasmania has simply been a mechanism for the distribution of public wealth to an underwriting of an unsustainable industry. Now that may or may not be a factual representation of the entirety of the history of Forestry in Tasmania but its certainly has been a characterisation of its recent performance..................."There is almost absolute consenus that the Australian dollar is going to stay at or about where it is for the forseeable future ie: for next 20-30 years. The consequence of that is that there is no future for the export of forestry products, we dont have a competitive position. If we dont have a competitive position that Forestry in Tasmania is going to have to be structurally adjusted (Andrew Scobie 2/03/12).

The subtext of much of Bruce's Crikey rant, is essentially taken from the same song-sheet recently used by the Liberals, the President of the upper house and most other mates of the Tasmanian logging industry.................."The Tasmanian economy (logging...cough,cough) is rooted because of two greens cabinet ministers and a few unruly kids in koala suits".

Because Greens cabinet minister Nick Mckim & Cassy O'Connor express an alternate view on forestry Bruce says - " they march to the beat of their own drum". Oh the horror of it all Bruce!

The truth is Cassy O'Connor, the Minister for Human Services, Community Development, Aboriginal Affairs & Climate Change rarely speaks out on Forestry related issues and has been a staunch public defender of her labor cabinet colleagues. Indeed since the advent of the Labor/Greens minority govt Nick Mckims Greens have been in lockstep with Labor on most legislation and demonstrably less combative with Labor in and outside the parlaiment often to the disgust of greens supporters.

Bruce, it's also widely accepted that Cassy O'Connor and Nick Mckim hold cabinet positions is because the Labor alternatives don't bear thinking about.

You know that Bruce, we all know that.

Both O'Connor and Mckim are widely regarded as experienced, conscientous parliamentarians and highly competent in their demanding ministerial portfolios. The interests of Tasmania are best served by constructing the most competent government possible not one that is ideologically pure. There is also the minor matter that the Labor/Green minority government was returned by the people of Tasmania who were fully aware of the lack of talent & experience in government ranks.

The political campaign to have the two Greens sacked from cabinet pays no regard to the potentially serious social consequences for the community of removing two well performing ministers and handing their portfolios, which include Education, Corrections, Human Services & Aboriginal affairs to inexperienced and potentially incapable backbenchers.
This campaign and the wider campaign for a fresh election is a really just a backlash or reaction to the effectiveness of environmental campaigns in exposing Tasmanian logging industry spin O/S. It is being driven by a coalition of logging industry, business and Liberal party mates. One only has to check into certain social media sites to see this.

Marching to the beat of their own drum Bruce?

Sounds like a good starting point for an article on Tasmania's state owned Forestry Company, Forestry Tasmania.