The Tragedy of Tasmania - Peter Henning

(First published on Tasmanian Times , 19 May 2010. A thought provoking essay on the current clash between forestry, political, social and environmental interests - Admin).

Now that the Tasmanian election is done and dusted, and the show-bag tinsel of non-core promises (in the Tasmanian context all promises are non-core) are being processed for deep storage or are being changed beyond recognition, it’s back to business as usual.

Business as usual in Tasmania is defined by giving absolute priority, above and beyond everything else, to the interests of corporatised industrial forestry.  Jobs can disappear in any other sector of the Tasmanian economy in their hundreds, whether it be in agriculture and food processing, or elsewhere in the primary sector, like mining, or in manufacturing everything from ships and vehicle bearings to footwear, without too much real concern and interest, but when it comes to industrial forestry that is something entirely different.

The irony, of course, as has been carefully explained by Max Bound and Tom Ellison, among others, is that there has been a steady loss of jobs in the forestry sector for at least a generation, at the same time that there has been an exponential increase in logging under the clear-felling regime, as well as an extensive expansion of the single-species plantation estate for woodchips.

Now, “suddenly” (to stretch the meaning of the word beyond any credibility at all), in the immediate aftermath of the election, we are told that something is more than seriously askew about business as usual.  There is a “crisis” in the bush, which “nobody saw coming”, as the hilariously jocular Jeremy Rockcliff described it.  Where’s he been?  So behold, all the cloud cuckoos are now screeching in unison that a crisis has “suddenly” occurred, and that business ain’t business as normal any more.

Round and round the same old table?

(An excellent systems perspective of the crumbling Tasmanian forestry industry originally published in the Tasmanian Times, 18 May 2010, Ed.)

Mike Bolan 

The current forestry ‘crisis’ in what was recently described as a ‘sustainable industry’, is revealing on-going dysfunction in our system of government coupled with persistent misunderstandings that are threatening to wedge the Green movement in Tasmania.

Looking around we can see that human foibles can cause us to favour one person over others, even to their detriment, and that favouritism may continue despite repeated examples of bad behaviour. Such is the lot of some families where one child is favoured over all others and, despite repeated transgressions, the parent(s) remain blind to the issue.

Spent all the pocket money? Never mind, here’s more. Failed your exams, never mind here’s a private tutor. You beat up little Johnny? Never mind, I’ll tell him to stay away from you in future.

Rewarding favoured parties for their failures usually produces nothing more than more demands and more failures, as families with a grossly spoiled child may realise. Favouritism can produce monsters.

The Soviet Union comprehensively showed that the analogy holds for wide public subsidies after they developed some of the world’s most polluting industries that produced some of the world’s most useless products.
The lesson is that subsidies effectively disconnect industries from the needs of their customers and focus them instead on arguing for more subsidies. As a result they morph into political persuasion systems to increase their political influence and guarantee more subsidies for the future.

In Tasmania’s forestry subsidies take several forms which include:-
• free or below market costs for scarce resources (e.g. water for plantations, native timbers);
• non-repayable cash payments (e.g. Community Forest Agreement grant);
• legal exemptions that cut costs (e.g. from Clean Air Act and Planning Acts among many others);
• legal favours that reduce risks (e.g. forestry judges grievances made against it by taxpayers);
• political favours that protect the industry from scrutiny (e.g. Pulp Mill Assessment Act); and
• other kinds of support (e.g. information blackouts on dangers such as water pollution).

Tasmania’s forestry industry enjoys ALL of these favours at our expense and has done so for several decades, with the subsidies increasing over time. The result is a ‘sustainable’ industry that is totally reliant upon subsidies for its survival. That’s not an industry, it’s a charity.

MIS damage

(Bob Loone has updated his letter originally published in the TAP newspaper (summer edition) with the latest impacts of MIS on farmland in the Meander municipaility. Editor)

Just in the Meander Valley Municipality over 15,000 ha of highly productive farmland have been destroyed by Managed Investment Scheme (MIS) forestry corporations. That's 75 farms of @ 200ha (500 acres) which consisted of mostly family farms, many with irrigation or low cost irrigation potential, with better class of soils and higher rainfall than the midlands.


The people of Tasmania are desperate for a return to democracy and a return to sanity in a world being torn apart by greed. 'A WORM in the APPLE' by film maker David Leigh follows their fight against overwhelming odds.

Australians, like all in the free world, have fought and continue to fight for democracy. The Australian federal government despatches troops to far off corners of the globe to restore, what most of us think is our right.

Tasmania suffers from tyranny at the hands of a corrupt government, propelled by the fuel of commerce. Depopulation of Tasmania’s north east by 2020, for the installation of massive blue gum plantations, is hidden from the world. Toxic sprays from helicopters are causing deterioration in the health of the community, while infrastructure is being broken down and jobs cut.

Meanwhile, the Rudd Government sells the clean green image of Tasmanian forestry, to large carbon emitters, as a way of evading carbon tax.

Get the DVD and/or the book at

Impacts of plantations for the proposed pulp mill

The expanding area of plantations intended to feed the proposed pulp mill, is already having a major impact on the state.


Plantations lock in water shortages. Over 40 of Tasmania’s 48 water catchments are affected by thirsty plantation trees drawing water out of the ground and lowering the water table. Consumption of water by expanding plantations in the headwaters affects everyone downstream. When plantations exceed 8% of the catchment area, river flow audits show declining water levels particularly during dry summer months as evaporation rates increase (D. Leaman).

Plantations compete for water with irrigators, farmers, domestic consumers and the environmental flows needed to sustain river health. Changes in land use to plantations lock in patterns of water consumption for decades, at a time of declining rainfall from climate disruption. Tax subsidised plantations are taking water that could be used to make Tasmania the food bowl of Australia.

News paper published by TAP Into A Better Tasmania

TAP newspaper

Here is the online copy of the first edition [Summer 09/2010] of TAP's newspaper. You can download a pdf of the four A3 sized pages at the bottom and print off copies.

Its purpose is to detail in newspaper format how the proposed pulp mill, the fourth-largest kraft pulp mill in the world, threatens the health, jobs, lifestyle and investments of the community.

Its publication was made possible by thousands of small donations from the community. You too can make an important contribution to the printing and distribution costs of the next edition. See Donate now top right of the screen for making an online donation or sending a cheque. c/- Treasurer, TAP Into a Better Tasmania, PO Box 392 Launceston 7250. Cheques should be made payable to TAP Inc.


Newspaper contents

Page 1

  • Valley filled with toxic stench?
  • $270million slashed from property values
  • Artificial fogs risk road disasters


Page 2

  • Editorial
  • Letters to the editor
  • Businesses trapped in the foul gas zone


Page 3

  • Net loss of jobs
  • Pulp mill hits all Tasmanians hard
  • Pulp Mill headlines
  • Legal rights removed by Labor-Liberal alliance


Page 4

  • Dismantling Tasmanian democracy
  • Mill not a done deal
  • Hidden $595 million annual costs of the pulp mill
  • Can you trust the government to protect you?
  • Majority oppose mill
  • Plantations means pesticides
  • Take control



TAP does not support any particular politician.

Members of TAP want to protect the community’s health, lifestyles and investments from the proposed pulp mill. TAP also:

  • supports a return to an independent scientific assessment of the pulp mill and all development proposals.
  • is concerned by the on-going conversion of our food-producing land to tree plantations without proper assessment.
  • supports the repeal of Section 11 of the Pulp Mill Assessment Act which takes away the public’s right of appeal.
  • is concerned by the failure of our political ‘representatives’ to represent our interests. The Labor party demands its members in Parliament swear an oath of allegiance to the party and its policy, even if they privately disagree with it.

Potatoes, Pudding and Plonk

Have fun at the "Potatoes, Pudding and Plonk"a fund raising evening to be held at the Windermere Store (Windermere, East Tamar) on Friday 8th January - 6.30pm for 7pm start. Enjoy jacket potatoes (choice of fillings with gluten-free and vegetarian options), salads, dessert, & a glass of wine and great company. Funds raised will contribute to important TAP projects aimed at protecting the community from Gunns' proposed pulp mill in the 2010 election year. There will also be a Lucky Door Prize, and a raffle (please bring a small gift - value up to $10 - as a contribution to the raffle prizes). Wine and soft drinks will be available for purchase. Tickets are $25 per head. Get in early, tickets are limited. Contact either Anne 6328 1231 or Patricia 6328 1384. Tell your friends. Look forward to seeing you there.

Secret meetings

The media stories on ‘secret’ meetings between Gunns and Bob Brown and Wilderness Society were leaked to the media by someone just ahead of Gunns Annual General Meeting 11 November 2009. The stories frame Gunns as conciliatory and willing to talk with opponents. It is more in Gunns’ interest to have leaked the story than the Greens or TWS in order to mitigate a potentially fiery AGM. Further evidence that they cannot be trusted! Gunns proposed a private meeting with Bob McMahon of TAP last month but this was rejected because he knew it would be misused.

TAP media release 6 November 09


Bartlett allowed clearing on pulp mill site when permits had expired

Why has Bartlett allowed work to begin on the pulp mill site when permit concerns were raised with the EPA last July?

TAP Into A Better Tasmania expressed outrage today that community concerns have again been disregarded by Tasmania's State Government.

Questions about the permit conditions for Gunns Ltd's proposed Pulp Mill were raised with the Environmental Protection Authority over three months ago, but continue to remain largely unacknowledged by David Bartlett.

Gunns' Annual General Meeting - Wed 11 Nov. Lindsay St, Launceston

Drumbeat at Gunns - Show them what you really think

Download the "Drum beat" flyer from below

Bartlett’s Natural Law of Government: That Spin is inversely proportional to transparency

Rick Pilkington (Originally published on ) The continuing effect of the Gunns Pulp Mill on public life in Tasmania will be one of division. Terrible division. Supporting the project stopped being clever long ago. The kindest thing to do would be for the Bartlett Government to disconnect itself from the proposed Tamar Valley pulp mill and reconnect to its line in the sand. Until the Bartlett Government or a future Hodgman Government does so, the Gunns Pulp Mill will continue to be a millstone. Connected or Divided? In 2008 Premier David Bartlett sent a clear message to the people of Tasmania that he’d had enough of the planned Gunns Tamar Valley Pulp Mill. His Government’s role in the project was over and whether the pulp mill went ahead or not, would now be determined by Gunns and its ability to get finance. The Premier told Tasmanians they would know for sure by Christmas 2008 whether the Gunns pulp mill project would or would not go ahead. The Bartlett Government appeared to have recognised it had done more than enough in meeting Gunns’ timeframe. Other stakeholders would finally be given the same certainty as Gunns. The many producers of award-winning food and wine in the Tamar Valley, where a $500 million tourism industry thrives, could now look forward to certainty and to reinvesting in, and expanding jobs-rich businesses Mr Bartlett declared: “I believe that this Parliament and, therefore the Government have done pretty much all we can and some would say too much…we have drawn a line in the sand regarding any future government involvement in this project”. When I confronted Mr Bartlett at George Town last weekend I said, “You lied to us Mr Premier. It’s there on the public record” The Premier shook his head, walked away, and mumbled something to Deputy Premier Lara Giddings. Sunday October 25 opened many peoples’ eyes to the bizzare, alternative world of media-led Government.

Civil disobedience training to stop the pulp mill

Pulp the Mill is a collective of individuals firmly committed to peacefully protest and engage in civil disobedience as one of the means to stopping the mill. We invite you to join us as a supporter, or to willingly be arrested if that is what it takes for change to come. The next Peaceful Community Protest workshop will be held in Hobart Sunday 15th November. For information email

Voters Block in action for Council elections, Oct 09

Postal voting in Tasmanian local government elections begins from between 13 to 16 October and closes 10am, Tuesday 27 October.

TAP Into A Better Tasmania (TAP) is a non-party political movement. Voters who have added their names to TAP's Voters Block have pledged not to vote for candidates who support Gunns' proposed pulp mill in the Tamar valley. The Voters Block has over 23 700 registrations and has surpassed the original target of 22 000. The number is growing steadily and the new target is 28 000. 

TAP has been contacting candidates in local council elections to ask the question "Do you support or oppose Gunns' planned pulp mill in the Tamar Valley?". Candidates who oppose the pulp mill and have given permission to publish their names are listed below.

Twenty five anti pulp mill candiates are in the local government elections for positions as councillors, deputy mayor and mayor across five northern councils.

We have made every attempt to ensure that the list is accurate but there may be one or two latecomers. Their names will be posted here as soon as possible. If there are any errors, or you would like to make a suggestion, please email Read more to see the list.


Candidates supported by the Voters Block as at 10.30pm Friday 16 October, 2009

Jobs jobs jobs! How many new pulp mill jobs?

Introduction - Why jobs?

Creation of new jobs is the central pillar in the case for winning the hearts and minds of Tasmanians for Gunns’ proposed pulp mill. Gunns’ CEO John Gay said the “mill would create jobs and long-term job security for a significant part of Tasmania's workforce” [1]. This position is echoed by the Forest Industry Association of Tasmania chairman, CFMEU forestry division, Timber Communities Australia, the Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and both Liberal and Labor parties, as well as some northern council mayors.

The promise of thousands of new jobs helped ex-Premier Paul Lennon justify rescuing the ‘critically non compliant’ Gunns pulp mill in 2007 with a special act of Parliament, the Pulp Mill Assessment Act (PMAA). The other main pillar of support for quickly passing the PMAA, the urgency of Gunns’ commercial needs, has now been discredited. However, the creation of new jobs remains as the central justification for the project by Liberal and Labor. Labor is positioning itself for the 2010 March election as the pro-jobs party and the Greens as anti-jobs.

What we are asked to believe

There are several competing stories around the pulp mill proposal that we are asked to believe. We can choose to believe Gunns’ PR man Matt Horan, who says it will create 2000 construction jobs [2], or we can believe Gunns’ secret advice to the George Town Council engineer that only 1250 building workers are needed [3]. We can choose to believe Horan that the pulp mill will create “about 16,000 jobs in the future," [4] or we can believe consultant ITS Global that it will create only 292 direct long term jobs [5].

We can believe Gunns’ stated wishes that underskilled Tasmanians with no experience in pulp mills will get preference over skilled outsiders from interstate or the thousands of overseas experienced pulp workers who have been made redundant in the global downturn. Further, we can believe that the fourth largest kraft chemical pulp mill in the world will happily co-exist with fishing, tourism and nature-based activities, boutique wineries, organic food producers and farming [6].

We are also asked to believe the Liberal and Labor story that Tasmania as a provider of undifferentiated bulk commodities is better than one based on the State’s distinctive and unique attributes that give businesses in tourism, fishing, wineries, organic foods, and others a competitive edge.

The consequences of choosing to believe the wrong story are serious. So what are the job facts and which story stands up?

Join us at the TAP real community forum, George Town, 11.30am Sunday 25 Oct

Tappers are going to George Town on Sunday. The government has abandoned the health of the North Tamar - TAP hasn't! Why not travel by bus? There is a bus stop near you on route. Price $6 return. Timetable 8.20am   Deloraine - Red Line Bus Stop 8.50am  Westbury - Cross Roads (Church & Pub) 9.20am  Launceston - Metro Bus Terminal (opp Maccas) 9.40am Riverside - West Tamar Council Chambers 10.00am Legana - Woolworths Car Park 10.20am Exeter - Chemist Car Park 10.40am Beaconsfield - Memorial Hall Car Park 11.10am George Town Driver will arrange return time with passengers. Payment will be to TAP. Bookings close 12 noon Saturday. Contact Chris Hullock 0439 860 470 or email to make a booking. Please leave your phone number with Chris to confirm that the service has enough bookings and for contact by driver if necessary. The times are approximate so please wait if the bus is running late and enjoy the view. Alternatively think of our esteemed Premier David Bartlett and his mates pictured below.

Drum out the government

Join TAP’s next real community forum, not the Government pretend community forum. A peaceful gathering for a better democracy.

What Have your say from the real community forum soapbox, 2 minute speakers invited. Have some fun banging your pots and pans telling the politicians what you really think. Bring pots, pans, drums, bugles – anything to make a noise with lots of others.
Where: Port Dalrymple School, Cimitiere & Agnes Streets, George Town.
When: 11.30am Sunday, 25 October.
Why: The State Government is coming to George Town to "hear your ideas and listen to your views" about issues and concerns relevant to the Tamar Valley. Here is your  chance to tell them:

  • Voter concerns have been deliberately ignored by politicians who we pay more than $108,000 a year each to represent us. Now they want your vote.
  • The corrupted fast-track assessment looked only at benefits, not the costs including job losses in tourism, wineries, agriculture and fishing, declining property values and damage to health.
  • Most of the jobs will be for imported specialist workers not Tasmanians.
  • Millions of our taxpayer funds have already been diverted away from failing essential services (hospitals and schools) to subsidise forestry and the mill (at least $250m/year).
  • All ways of seeking compensation for harm through the courts were closed in special legislation written for Gunns.