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Forests & cynicism? « Previous | |Next »
September 17, 2004

It has taken a long time to surface but it has finally happened. The environment is back on the election agenda, and in a big way. This issue has bubbled away, but it has been both overshadowed by national security, health and family packages and ignored by the policy commentators. Now both the major parties are making a pitch for votes on saving the environment. Saving the Tasmanian forests not the Murray is the dividing issue.

The Coalition has upped the ante by flagging the possibility of stopping the logging in old-growth forests with a forest transition package worth "hundreds of millions of dollars" to compensate for lost jobs in the Tasmanian timber industry. The Tasmanian timber industry (Forest Industries Association of Tasmania) is claiming $9 billion in compensation. They are dreaming.

This shift is a realization that the proposal to end old-growth logging in Tasmania has strong support across the urban electorates in the capital cities. Those mentioned are Sydney's Wentworth, Adelaide and Kingston in South Australia, Brisbane, and Dobell in NSW. Presumably the aim is prevent some social Liberals (eg., Liberals for the environment ) from voting for the Greens or Labor on the environment.

The response to this flagging of the Tasmanian forest issue is cynical:

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It is only a flagging by the Coalition at this stage. It may not happen, due to the sensitivity of logging in such marginal regional seats as Richmond (NSW) Eden-Monaro (NSW), Page (NSW) Corangamite (Victoria) and Gippsland in Victoria.

Yet flagging the issue is enough to box the ALP into a corner. As expected the state Labor government in Tasmania is opposed to any reform. It's emotive language about the green assault on timber workers, placing them on the scrap and the sacrifice of the interests of the state, means that the logging of old growth forests has become a national issue. This knee-jerk reaction ignores that Tasmania as a world-renowned tourist state is a better future than Tasmania as a plantation economy.

And it appears that federal Labor has been wrong footed. It has come out saying that this is little more than a spending spree, and that it will oppose any Coalition plan to spend hundreds of millions of the federal budget surplus to phase out old-growth logging in Tasmania's forests.

The ALP now appears to be pro-logging and anti-the environment. Its forest policy is currently being run out of Hobart. Turning its back on saving the forests is an odd situaton to be in for a party that professes to care for the environment.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 9:30 AM | | Comments (4) | TrackBacks (1)
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My comment on the federal election: MOir The Coalition has recently discovered the old growth forests in Tasmania. [Read More]

 
Comments

Comments

Gary, people in the Greens were predicting this Howard tactic would happen for some time. After all, it is a rather obvious wedge and a large section of membership of the Liberal party happens to also have a strongish conservation streak when it comes to lovely remote wilderness country. Even the Australian came out today again against old growth logging in Tasmania. It's not a "radical" issue anymore, thanks to the tireless efforts of the Greens and the wilderness groups to mainstream the issue over the past 10 years - a raging success that will one day be compared to the Franklin Dam (an issue in which Senator Brown also played an important role)

Mark,
I agree.
It has been a 10 year battle by the Greens and the conservation groups and when it is over it will be compared to the Franklin Dam victory. Bob Brown deserves all the accords he gets and more.

What I'm hoping is that the Coalition and the ALP get involved in a bidding war over stopping the logging of Tasmania's old growth forests during the next three weeks.

However, I'm not holding my breathe on the ALP delivering the goods. They are a pale green at best at the moment.

Interestingly enough, the Greens got where they got by playing hardball with the ALP on preferences. The ALP have approximately one week to put their cards on the table - maybe less I'd say as it looks like Howard is going to seize the day ahead of them - otherwise they might find plenty of time to once again consider their new environment policies from the opposition benches.

Mark,
I'm not that convinced that the fight is over, that victory will be delivered by the ALP and that victory is just around the corner for the Greens.

1.Labor has a very bad record on trees.It refuses to acknowledge what they're doing in Tasmania is wrong. The ALP has yet to acknowledge that it is wrong to turn large areas of Tasmania's native forests and their complex ecosystems over to a monoculture of plantations.

2.Latham is boxed in by this issue hand has been ever since March this year, when he went to the Styx with Bob Brown. At the time he said that the phase-out of old growth felling was a "very, very important priority". However, he also went along with the pro-logging Tasmanian Government's plan to allow logging to continue until at least 2010.

Latham even went so far to say that stopping the logging of old growth forests was not an issue that needed federal politicians telling the people in Tasmania what to do.So he sides with the pro-logging interests. He was nobbled by state Labor, the unions and Gunns.

3. Currently Latham and the federal ALP still find themselves squeezed: between the Tasmanian pro-logging Labor Government and a tough forestry union on the one side and Howard's new-found interest in preserving these trees and the pro-environmental stand of Labor voters across the nation.

4.From what I can judge it is Howard who may actually deliver on saving the forests in order to win the Liberals a some extra primary votes, and entice a few second preferences from Green voters.

So I concur with you that "it looks like Howard is going to seize the day ahead of [the ALP]."

We can only wait and see.