Conservationists blast Tasmanian wood exports to China

The Tasmanian Government has given Forestry Tasmania the trial green light to export blackwood logs to China with high hopes of potentially creating a multimillion wood industry– ignoring earlier forest moratorium with conservationists in the region.

The Office of Premiere Lara Giddings announced the initial shipment will create “an industry worth tens of millions of dollars to Tasmania.”

Forestry Tasmania continuing to slaughter massive quantities of minor species timbers, including blackwood, and exporting them. (Photo: Tasmanian Times)

Forestry Tasmania, in partnership with the private sector, will be shipping the initial logs to the Asian importer to test the feasibility of  manufacturing high quality engineered wood products from logs. These logs are said to be unsuitable for local processors and thus considered waste.

Minister for Resources and Energy Bryan Green supports the initiative saying the  trial is part of  state government’s Innovations Plan which seeks to convert forest residues into high value manufactured wood products. Green reiterated some blackwood are unsuitable for local sawmillers and processors.

“This is the type of innovative thinking that will be required as the forest industry transitions to a smaller resource base. If the trials prove successful, the finished product will be marketed by private companies, which are working in partnership with FT,” he said

Green is confident the trial export will ultimately result into establishing a manufacturing facilities in Tasmania thereby increasing market demand for blackwoods in Australia.

The Premiere’s Office also confirmed Forestry Tasmania has increased its export of whole logs in response to the closure of the Triabunna woodchip mill.

Some of the whole logs are for pulpwood in China, others are to trial the new products and the remainder are being peeled. Logs are currently being stockpiled in readiness for a shipment out of Hobart later this month and for further shipments out of Burnie.

Local retailers of Tasmanian forests identified by Market for Change (Photo: MFC)

This development, however, stirred anger from Green activists in the region. Groups such as The Markets for Change, the Huon Valley Environment Centre, The Last Stand, and Still Wild Still Threatened– in a joint press release– blasted the initiative saying the State Government’s support to Forestry Tasmania is a “provocative act”  that undermines the Tasmanian forest peace process.

Peg Putt of Markets for Change said her group has suspended new overseas market initiatives and protests a fortnight ago as a gesture of encouragement. She said the Forest Industries Association of Tasmania agreed to sit down and talk. However, Minister Green has “indulged in a series of provocations.” She said the trial shipment is contradictory to the intention to reduce logging.

Miranda Gibson of Still Wild Still Threatened from the Observer Tree also said it is devastating to hear of the ongoing developments which are obvious design to nullify forest protection. Gibson claims  Forestry Tasmania have signed up 22 logging contracts last year, eleven of which are new ones.

Miranda Gibson grabs media spotlight for her tree vigil. (Photo: Bob Brown)

Jenny Weber of the Huon Valley Environment Centre said her group will “maintain a close watching brief for the moment, but are exceedingly concerned that the longer the negotiations are drawn out the more magnificent forests we lose to the chainsaw.”

“We are waiting with high anxiety for some demonstration of the good faith that is claimed to exist,” Ula Majewski of The Last Stand concluded.

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Australian Greens face tough times: Abbott

While Australian Greens Leader Bob Brown is gone, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott warned the Greens- Labor Coalition would face “turbulent times” saying Brown acted more like a prime minister.

The Daily Telegraph said Brown quitted before the storm on carbon tax which will take effect in July this year. The paper said this is where the broader public may react badly to Brown’s departure, and where Gillard will become vulnerable.

Many will simply view this as Brown, a figure a majority of people believe is the quasi-deputy leader in a Labor-Greens alliance, leaving the sinking ship before it runs aground. Tony Abbott will make easy work of a perception that the man responsible for forcing the government to introduce the carbon tax doesn’t even want to stick around to see it start.

Resigned Bob Brown walks away with the party’s new leader, Christine Milne (Photo: Andrew Meares)

PM Julia Gillard accepted Brown’s resignation last week as Deputy Christine Milne took over the helm with Lower House MP Adam Bandt later voted in as her replacement. Brown will also quit as a Tasmanian Senator when his term expires in June. He will not seek for re-election.

Brown said he is happy to go after 16 years in public service taking active role at the forefront of Australia’s environmental campaigns. He turned his party an icon of “innovation.”

With Brown, the Greens became Australia’s third political party and used its heft to bargain with a minority Labor Government and gain the balance of power in the Senate, The Punch commented. The Greens have also been instrumental in the implementation of a carbon tax. Brown leaves the Greens in historically high numbers in the parliament, with a total if 10 members in the House of Representatives and Senate. Brown said:

“I am 67. I am aware that one should always make room for renewal in politics. A democracy is the healthier for the turnover of the depth of talent there is in its community,” he told reporters at a press conference in Canberra.

He added he will leave public office to enjoy his private life, but he will remain Green as long as he lives. He said one of his upcoming plans is to visit Miranda Gibson who has been perching on a tree to keep vigil on Tasmania’s forests.

The tree observer, Miranda Gibson, has been holding vigil on a makeshift house perched on a tree. This photo is taken by Brown himself.

However, Brown could not elude critics on his “untimely” resignation amid crumbling pubic support for Australia’s green projects. Oppositions to the carbon tax claim Brown is playing safe before the storm. The carbon tax passed the Senate in November 2011 and will take effect in July this year. Prices of goods and services across the nation are predicted to spiral as a result.

As a warning for the Labor-Greens coalition, the Labor Party was already massacred in the recent Queensland state election. The new Australian Liberal Party’s State Government is now dumping green schemes initiated by the former Labor premiere.

In Canberra, federal government offices are cutting budgets that may result into mass layoffs reducing the number of employees and projects in areas related to environment.

National secretary Nadine Flood said that some work in areas such as renewable energy, energy efficiency and industry assistance programs would ”simply not be done”, the Canberra Times reported.

The same paper added, “The Community and Public Sector Union, while unable to confirm the latest job cut figures, said reducing numbers to 470 would be a massive blow for staff and would seriously damage Australia’s ability to deal with the impacts of climate change.”

At the party’s Third Annual Green Oration delivered on March 23 this year, Brown addressed the “Earthians” to get involved in finding solutions to the shrinking resources of the planet while its citizenry is growing to an unparalleled proportion beyond what the planet can sustain.

He proposed that for the Earth to be able to survive in the next millennium, a “comprehensive Earth action, an all-of-the-Earth representative democracy is required. That is, a global parliament.” He added, “So democracy – ensuring that everyone is involved in deciding Earth’s future – is the key to success. “

The Punch’s editor-in-chief reacted to the speech as out-of-this-world political ramblings.

…the phrase “Fellow Earthians” was a deep ecologist ramble across a range of themes, including the possible existence of aliens, the disappearance of the dinosaurs, the fact that Bob saw a shooting star the other night and believed it was a portent heralding a new form of participatory democracy. It has been covered at length elsewhere and should you be up for a laugh, please read it in its entirety…

Australian Greens rally at the Parliament House in Canberra in 2008 (Photo: Australian Greens)

Greens Reactions

Green organizations commended Brown’s advocacy to environment, gay marriages, refugee and asylum seekers, and other issues related to social and economic equality.

SBS noted the Wilderness Society described “Brown as an inspiring leader for the Australian environment movement and a champion of wilderness protection during the past 30 years.”

Greenpeace also said Senator Brown would be remembered by future generations for his efforts to protect Australia’s natural heritage.

“He has been a steady voice of reason in a parliament dogged by vested interests and shortsightedness,” program director Ben Pearson said in a statement.

Gay advocates have called Bob Brown one of Australia’s great gay heroes.

While Milne and Brandt take the helm of the party, the Greens are also looking for possible candidate for the June election.

A potential candidate to replace Brown would be Peter Whish-Wilson, a Tamar Valley winemaker who grew up in Karratha who claimed to have worked for BHP Billiton. He said he has experience in small business, markets and global finance which will make him a different sort of Green.

“This is the biggest opportunity for us to create jobs growth and we have to incentivise companies to do the right thing. I don’t see Tasmania just through tourism: there have to be other directions and opportunities…“I am more for opportunity than opposition,” the Financial Review quoted Whish-Wilson as saying.

The Australian said Milne will seek to establish a new political support base among rural Australians and “progressive” businesses as part of an intensified campaign against the “vested interests” of the resource-based economy.

Senator Milne has also attacked the major political parties as captives of the resources sector, and savaged the “rapaciousness” of mining companies, vowing to dedicate her leadership to hastening a transition to a low-carbon economy.

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