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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

is federal Labor trusting Gunns? « Previous | |Next »
March 23, 2007

I'm picking up on this post over at junk for code about Gunns, the pulp mill and dioxins in Tasmania. As Gunns is refusing to guarantee to abide by guidelines agreed to by Tasmania and the Commonwealth and the State Government has engaged in political interference in the Resource Planning and Development Commission's assessment of the $1.4 billion pulp mill project.

Premier Lennon's legislation, which was drawn up to create a new process as an "approval process" rather than an assessment, is a fast-track assessment that removes any further public hearings from the pulp mill assessment and dumps the RPDC expert consultants and puts the onus on Tasmanian MPs to decide the project's fate.

In getting Gunns off his back by abandoning any semblance of proper process, Premier Lennon effectively tossed the assessment of the mill back to Canberra. It must now go through the federal government's environmental approval process conducted in accordance with the EPBC Act.

Zap + e-collegiate network, how self-regulation works

Gunns can’t argue that dioxins are among the most toxic chemicals known. They can’t argue that the mill won’t release any dioxins. What Gunns could argue is that the pulp mill will release what they could call ‘negligible’ amounts of dioxin. But the sticking point is that dioxins accumulate in the food chain. So they need to counter, dismiss, or fudge the bio-accumulation of dioxins in the food chain.

The bulk of research shows dioxin loads in seals, and the accumulation of dioxins in invertebrates, fish, birds and other animals in the food chain. There are also concerns about air pollution and odour emissions as well as toxic effluent.

I notice that federal Labor is rather quiet on the issue. We know they have abandoned Latham's attempt to save Tasmania’s forests at the last election, and under Beazley and Rudd, the ALP have to the same position as the Howard government. So where do they stand on converting old growth native forests into toilet paper in an election year?

Has the federal Labor position to the Dick Adams position, which holds that Tasmanians forests are to be fed into the export woodchip process or a pulpmill, whatever the industry believes is best for it? Senator Kerry O'Brien, from Tasmania, reckons the Gunns' pulp mill is world class.--the world's greenest mill. Gunns, apparently, is to be trusted. O'Brien, who has the Forestry portfolio, is pro-logging. But what about the dioxin? "World class" implies little to no dioxin. Is Gunns building a world class pulp mill when it is using chlorine dioxide in the bleaching process?

Where then is Peter Garrett on the politics of dioxin? Is he, the shadow environment spokesperson, in favour of the Gunn's mill? Does he support the current process under Lennon state government which the environmental impact would be approved by politicians who go along with the pro-logging Premier?

What we do have a media release, which confirms that the ALP supports downstream processing of forest products, with the proviso that:

The Commonwealth assessment of the pulp mill must examine the impact of the proposal on matters of national environmental significance, including the impact on threatened species and marine ecosystems.

The ALP is in a tough spot. Rudd cannot support Lennon's actions and court green voters across Tasmania. On the other hand, Rudd needs the logging votes to win back seats in Tasmania.

However, Malcolm Turnbull is also in a spot:--he cannot fall in behind Lennon's dubious process, due to the threat of legal action by the Greens to ensure a full and proper inquiry under the EPBC Act. Currently, he is playing his cards close to his chest.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 6:18 PM | | Comments (8)


What a disgusting, evil, cowardly bastard Garrett is.
When Judas betrayed Christ he at least had the decency to go and hang himself as atonement.
Will Garrett go and spend his thirty pieces on a new recording studio to turn out more protest songs?
His soul will freeze in the worst inner-most circle of hell, reserved for traitors.

strong stuff. Garret has refused to endorse the mill or Lennon's process under which its environmental impact would be assessed.

I guess you could say the ALP is for the project but it does not want to look like it was in favour of building the mill.

It's stance so far is not very convincing.

Yes, sadly that's the nastiest thing I have ever written- can even take Heffernan types easier than a turncoat- at least those don't pretend to be other than what they are and even a knife in the gut is preferable to one in the back.
Why doesn't Garrett publically back the pulp mill commission and the thugged commissioner?
I wrote the above on the understanding that Garrett had ok'd the thing, or avoided criticising when asked, at the very least.
Don't ask me exact details- as I said, am down at mo and memory off-whack.
Really have looked very hard for some sound of him tho- or for that matter Bob Brown, who is too busy harping about uranium.
I suppose if Garrett did dare say anything the Right would just toss him out and spin it up as a win for "employment".
Seem to remember reading somewhere that current ALP forestry shadow is another Beddall circa 1994, also.
Soon be 'chipping even the button grass, greedy sods.

I agree re your question Why doesn't Garrett publically back the pulp mill commission and the thugged commissioner? It is the right question to ask about Garrett since proper process of the RPDC does matter; and formal and independent inquiries involving public consultation and scientific rigour are more than just red tape.

A deeply divided ALP ought to have condemned Lennon's trashing of the public assessment process that had been put in place after the decade earlier conflict --when Liberal premier Robin Gray lost government and his leadership in the wake of community conflict over, first, the Franklin power scheme and then the proposal for a pulp mill at Wesley Vale.

As 14 University of Tasmania lecturers The said the RPDC process had been established to ensure major developments were properly assessed and "justice and fairness for all":

Without such processes, powerful developers are able to obtain special treatment from government and special deals that are unreasonably favourable to them.By taking the pulp mill assessment from the RPDC, the Government appears to have given in to the demands of a single powerful corporation, according it preferential treatment.The RPDC process, which has been noted for its rigour, has thereby been sidelined, and the state's planning framework has been undermined.

It is a question of democracy and public assessment of an issue that is of vital concern to the future of Tasmania. So wherei s the criticism of Lennon's standover tactics agaoinst the state's Resource Planning and Development Commission under Julian Green and Christopher Wright.

What bully boy Lennon's Pulp Mill Assessment Bill does, as Andrew Wadsley points out in the Tasmanian Times, is exclude (disenfranchises) experts and Tasmanians from:

participating in the assessment process, from challenging Gunn's expert witnesses, and removes any legal right to take civil action over any breach of Tasmanian law.

Wadsley goes onto observes:
My work demonstrates that the Proponent for the Pulp Mill has made significant errors in their calculation of the toxic effects of dioxins released into Bass Strait. These errors were noted in my submission to the RPDC of September 2006, yet have not been corrected in the Supplementary Material recently released by Gunns Limited and available on their website. These errors are such that dioxin concentrations may have been underestimated by a large factor, potentially leading to serious health issues for both adults and children eating fish from near the effluent outfall.

Wadsley then adds:
Under the Pulp Mill Assessment Bill, I have no way of presenting my work for public scrutiny, no way to participate in the assessment process, and no way to take civil action against the mill owner should our worst fears be realised and dioxins contaminate the food chain thereby leading to developmental and other medical disorders in the Tasmanian population.

Garrett could have pointed this out and defended the need for experts such as Wadsleyand other citzens to give their evidence about the effects of dioxins on the food chain. It's a central issue given the Stockholm Convention.

what I cannot understand is why locate the pulp Mill in the Tamar Valley?

The Tamar Valley already has air pollution issues and is populated by upmarket residents who don't fancy the prospect of having their air, water and general amenity despoiled; a trail of tourist attractions; and wineries which fear their grape crops would suffer from environmental damage even with the strictest of controls. Why there for heavens sake?

Would there not be far less opposition to the mill if it were located at Hampshire, about 30km south of Burnie?

Pulp mill technology expert Warwick Raverty, the Victorian organic chemist, who resigned controversially from the RPDC, described the site at Long Reach as "the worst place possible" for the mill because of environmental concerns and said the RPDC had tried to persuade Gunns to move to rural Hampshire.

Do you know why Gunns and Lennon are holding firm on the Tamar Valley?

Raverty is convinced that on existing data, the mill will not be environmentally acceptable at its site in the Tamar Valley. He has said that Gunns was yet to show that its airborne emissions would fall within prescribed limits, in an airshed already notorious for poor quality.

Re your comments on the Australian Greens:Really have looked very hard for some sound of him tho- or for that matter Bob Brown, who is too busy harping about uranium.

It is Christine Milne who is running the issue. I heard her on Radio National Breakfast last week speaking to Fran Kelly and she was strong and forthright.They are building a fighting fund to contest the assessment of the mill under the EPBC ACT .

Garry, thanks for offering so much detailed info, head is clearing.
Have learnt more in a few days from your thought-provoking replies than all the media and papers in the country combined. Why are you not writing for papers instead of cretins like Henderson and Ackerman?
Why the Tamar Valley?
A reacionary tantrum chuck, similar to Howard's nonsense over the Murray Darling or Ruddock over David Hicks, announcing the consequences of opposition.
BTW, "pulp mill control"'toon is priceless.
It's been a nasty ten years in this country.

to be fair I have sourced some of my stuff from the mainstream media. For instance, a good overview is offered by Andrew Darby's A cut above in The Age in their In Depth section.

Another excellent source is the Tasmanian Times--though you need to dig around a bit.

But you are right. You cannot rely on the Canberra Press Gallery for good commentary on these kind of issues. They are too focused on the main game --the battle between Howard and Rudd and what the opinion polls are saying about that battle. A lot of their work relies on the drip feed from the inside source.

I haven't done much research on the flaws in Premier Lennon's Bill. All I know is that it passed the House with no resistance from the Liberals and is due to be debated in the Legisaltive Council next week.