Tasmanians go to the polls
TASMANIAN PREMIER Lara Giddings fired two Greens from her Cabinet, called an election for 15 March and flagged with clarity that the pulp mill would be number one on the agenda. In fact, when this edition was going to press Giddings was recalling Parliament in a bid to strengthen legislation to ensure the controversial Bell Bay pulp mill had every assistance to become a reality. The end of the ‘marriage of convenience’ with the Greens did not come as a surprise. “With a date for the election now set and longstanding differences over the pulp mill, it’s a logical time to formally end the agreement between Labor and the Greens,” the Premier had said. Giddings said the pulp mill would be a $ 2.5 billion project that would deal only in plantation trees. Strong support for the mill also came from the CFMEU. Its National Secretary Michael O’Connor said that while there were interested parties looking to purchase and develop the pulp mill, bi-partisan political support to pass legislation removing any doubts over the validity of permits for the project would greatly increase the chance of a new owner developing the pulp mill. The CFMEU has been running a campaign around Australia during the last year, under the banner of “Don’t Shred Pulp and Paper Jobs”, which aims to promote the local pulp and paper industry and see greater action from politicians to back the sector. “Workers in the industry, through their union, have been sending a message loud and clear to politicians of all persuasions that they need to take a stand to support the future of Australia’s pulp and paper industries, rather than allowing regional communities to continue to bleed jobs,” O’Connor had said. Support, too, came has come from the Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA) which applauded both the Tasmanian State Labor Government and Liberal Opposition for maintaining their support in principal for a pulp making plant. The AFPA highlighted the fact that there were almost 230 000 ha of eucalypt plantation in Tasmania. Many of these trees were planted specifically to support the pulp-making mill and are now ready for harvest. Much of the wood fibre in question is a crop owned by hundreds of Australians – many of them family scale farmers. They should be given the chance to harvest and sell that asset. It also stressed that the proposed pulp mill would be world-scale, using the latest technology, making it highly competitive in global markets and was at pains to point out that neither the community nor AFPA would accept a pulp making plant that did not meet the highest environmental standards. It is incumbent on the next Tasmanian Government to ensure the island State is governed fairly and equitably. Tasmania deserves a lot better deal than it has received in recent times.