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I’m staying here: Miranda Gibson said, “Despite the signing of the recent forest agreement, there is still no certainty for the future of these forests.  And I am committed to staying in this tree to watch over them until these verified national and world heritage value ecosystems are provided secure protection.” Miranda Gibson, who has provided a unique and historical first for Australia’s forests, reflected on her year in a tree stating, “After an entire year in this tree I have come to know this forest in a unique way.  It has been an incredible to wake up at the top of this tree every day and look out across this forest, to see it change through all four seasons. I have witnessed the birds and wildlife that rely on these trees for their survival.” Pic: Emma Capp

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More logging ... more protests ... ?  Catamaran. Pic: Emma Capp

Somewhere between the luncheon break and the day’s adjournment, one of our Legislative Councillors tried to quote the late Winston Churchill.  It prompted a few seconds of uncertain laughter, on a day where humour was largely absent. 

Churchill would have been appalled at today’s proceedings.

One of the great rhetorician’s of the last century, Churchill’s oratory had the might and fury to steer the direction of parliamentary debate; indeed change the course of history.

There was no Churchill in Parliament House today.  One suspects, despite two days of passionate yet impotent pleadings by our elected representatives, not one member changed their view on the forest peace deal.

Seven decades have passed since Churchill, visiting a Royal Air Force Bunker, said ``Never in the field of human conflict has so much been owed by so many to so few.’’ Today, eight Legislative Councillors ensured the total collapse of Tasmania’s timber industry, the loss of millions in compensation, and triggered a new round of protests that will bring the State into international disrepute.

It should have been an easy choice for even the more intellectually challenged members of the Upper House. 

A yes vote meant:

1.    .Some of Tasmania’s forests will be spared from the loss-making Forestry Tasmania axe;

2.    A heap of money will be given to people; and

3.    Ta Ann Tasmania will spare the jobs of around 100 low-paid, lowly skilled workers, and be given a heap of money.

In contrast, a no vote meant:

1.    Ta Ann might spare some of Tasmania’s native forests and go away;

2.    The end of the woodchip export industry, along with any potential for selling native forest products to markets overseas; and

3.    Renewed vigour from conservation groups to protect Tasmania’s native forests.

Make no mistake, the environment groups will act swiftly, and one could argue they have a mandate.

The Lower House has already passed legislation to protect half a million hectares of forest.  The Federal Government had offered a substantial compensation package to ensure the protection, and preservation of those forests.  Importantly, timber industry groups had also agreed to the protection of those forests, recognising a compromise was their only chance of survival.

Some Upper House members argued they were being rushed into a decision; a poor defence, given they’d had more than two years to consider the likely outcomes of the prolonged peace talks.  Yet Ivan Dean, a dogmatic supporter of the loggers, was still taking text messages from constituents at 4pm today during debate.  And then trying to read them in parliament as some sort of evidence to back his indefensible position.

Possibly the lamb Rogan Josh served at luncheon was dodgy, as most members were in and out of the chamber for much of the afternoon.  Whatever the reason, it was an embarrassing display of unrepresentative democracy in action.

As was the evidence presented.  Passionate yes; informed, no.  Reading aloud correspondence from unemployed loggers is not evidence.  Suggesting there is unmet demand for Tasmania’s native forest products from un-named Chinese customers is not evidence.  Quoting discredited Forestry Tasmania data is not evidence.

We can’t expect too much from the Legislative Council.  Those members tied to party allegiance vote along party lines.  Those embedded with certain industry groups are just as predictable.

Others fit into the loose cannon category.  Nobody really knows how Rosemary Armitage thinks, and just days after suggesting greenie protestors should face the lash, ex-copper Tony Mulder stepped up to the plate with one of the most sensible speeches heard in the building since the 1960s.

And then Tania Rattray-Wagner, demonstrating the perils of hereditary peerage, left no doubt as to the bigger problems facing North Eastern Tasmania – a lack of education, ingrained parochialism and a weird cargo cult mentality.

Tomorrow’s another day, and it will be a day for the protestors.  Along with Environment Minister Tony Burke.  Tony will be miffed at the rejection of his generous offer.  As a closet greenie and an intelligent individual with a nice touch of arrogance, Burke will respond appropriately.

Look for a blanket heritage listing of the Tarkine to be announced just before Christmas.

And Ta Ann will hang around.  Paul Harriss knew that before he moved his adjournment motion.

• Observer ...

Seven all… and Harris pounced

…. and the usual pack followed up. Harris ran the Upper House show from yesterday onwards. 

Despite impassioned speeches from Farrell, Forrest and Finch; they knew the numbers and were going through the motions… Taylor the most likely to shift support to the 7 pro-Bill LCs [Armitage, Finch, Forrest, Farrell, Mulder, Valentine and Gaffney]… but it didn’t happen.

Harris, Wilkinson and Dean prosecuted their motion to bring on an Inquiry.

After lunch today Armitage was granted leave of absence and granted ‘a pair’; 12 LCs left on the carpet for a vote.

Various Ministers of the Government and Lower House MPs came and went from the galley listening to proceedings [Giddings, Green, McKim, Wightman, Shelton and O’Halloran].

And stony- faced signatories sat in a corner watching politicians in two day dissemble 30 months of work.

In the end Harris’ motion to call for an Upper House Inquiry was brought on at 20 minutes to 6pm… the motion was agreed to 8 [Wagner, Dean, Wilkinson, Mulder, Hall, Harris, Taylor and Goodwin] and 4 against [Forrest, Finch, Valentine and Farrell]. Apparently Gaffney didn’t vote (the pair???).

All done & dusted… all that was left to do was to thank ‘Honourable members’ for their participation and its off home for Christmas.

• UPPER HOUSE VOTE EXTENDS UNCERTAINTY OVER FORESTRY

Nick McKim MP
Greens Leader
Thursday, 13 December 2012

The Tasmanian Greens leader Nick McKim said today’s Legislative Council vote to indefinitely delay a decision on the Tasmanian Forests Agreement Bill was a setback to Tasmania’s hopes for a lasting solution to community divisions over forestry.

“This decision has prolonged the anguish for hundreds of forestry workers and their families, as well as extending the uncertainty for the majority of Tasmanians who want our magnificent high conservation value forests protected.”

• Lara Giddings
Premier
Thursday 13th Dec 2012

Dark cloud cast over forest industry

The Tasmanian forest industry faces further uncertainty, with establishment of an open-ended Legislative Council select committee.

The Premier, Lara Giddings, said regardless of the outcome in the committee, the State Government would get on with the job of diversifying the Tasmanian economy.

“We cannot afford to be distracted from our top priority of creating jobs and opportunities for Tasmanians,” Ms Giddings said.

Ms Giddings, said she was deeply disappointed that the Tasmanian Forests Agreement process would be dragged out indefinitely, with no guarantees for jobs and regional communities.

“The passage of the Tasmanian Forests Agreement would have unlocked millions of dollars of support for regional communities and forest workers,” Ms Giddings said.

“The full repercussions of this decision are not yet known.

“But we know that it will create further uncertainty for the industry, and cast a cloud over the future of major employers like Ta Ann and many smaller contractors and sawmillers.

“In 2013 our focus will be delivering on the Tasmanian Jobs Package, which will create 3300 jobs and stimulate $375 million in private investment.

“We will focus on creating opportunities for Tasmanians in a range of industries, including doubling the dairy industry, doubling the aquaculture industry, quadrupling viticulture and continuing to promote investment and jobs in our mining sector.

“And we will continue to work with developers to progress private projects like the $100 million Parliament Square.

“Of course the State Government will continue to work with the forest industry as it goes through the biggest upheaval in history. However, as a result of today’s decision we will be facing change with one hand tied behind our backs.

“Change will continue to occur in the forest industry and further delays will only make that change harder for regional communities.”

• Historical day as environmentalist’s year in a tree gains unprecedented support

Miranda Gibson will mark her one year in a tree today with international events and a (never before done) live stream event from the tree tops. Miranda has been vindicated in her decision to remain as a forest protector and beacon of hope, as logging continues in high conservation value forests in Tasmania.

Miranda Gibson said, “I have been inspired by the huge amount of global support that I have received over this past year, and particularly today, as thousands of people prepare to take part in the global cyber event. The international community are calling for the protection of these globally significant forests.”

Miranda Gibson said, “Today marks one year since I climbed to the top of this tree and vowed to stay until the forest is protected. For the sake of the forests I wish I had not reached this milestone.

These forests needed protection a long time ago. Yet they still remain under threat from industrial scale logging.”

Miranda Gibson said, “Despite the signing of the recent forest agreement, there is still no certainty for the future of these forests.  And I am committed to staying in this tree to watch over them until these verified national and world heritage value ecosystems are provided secure protection.”

Miranda Gibson, who has provided a unique and historical first for Australia’s forests, reflected on her year in a tree stating, “After an entire year in this tree I have come to know this forest in a unique way.  It has been an incredible to wake up at the top of this tree every day and look out across this forest, to see it change through all four seasons. I have witnessed the birds and wildlife that rely on these trees for their survival.”

On December 14th 2012 Australian environmentalist Miranda Gibson will mark one year since stepping foot on the ground. The 31 year old high school teacher has been living on a small platform suspended at the top of the tree. Miranda’s action, known as the Observer Tree, has gained international attention. Using solar power Gibson has connected with people around the globe, through her blog http://www.observertree.org.

A live video feed will broadcast Miranda to the world, with participants able to send in comments and questions. Events will be held in towns around the globe including Hobart, Brisbane, Melbourne, Katoomba, Alice Springs, Tokyo. The event will also include guest speakers including Bob Brown, Australian Greens Leader Senator Christine Milne and international speakers, Julia Butterfly Hill, Derrick Jensen and campaigners from the Unist’ot’en Camp

• TSTA Supports Legislative Council position on the Tasmanian Forest Agreement

The Tasmanian Special Timbers Alliance fully supports the decision of Tasmania’s Legislative Council to refer the Tasmanian Forest Agreement Bill 2012 to a select committee.
TSTA Spokesman Andrew Denman:

“The information that came to light during the Member for Nelson, Jim Wilkinson’s address yesterday morning was quite startling and confirms the Special Timbers sectors fears.

“To hear a forest industry expert, who was intimately involved in mapping the special timber resource, say that the proposed Special Timbers production areas in the TFA do not contain enough special timbers to support our industry certainly warrants further investigation.”

“The TSTA would like to see what modelling was used by the signatories in determining the location and size of the Specialty Craft and Timber Zones. This information has not been publicly available through the work performed by the IVG and I would hope that this becomes more transparent during the committee process.”

• Environment Tasmania, The Wilderness Society, the Australian Conservation Foundation

SUPPORT FOR FORESTS AGREEMENT WILL NOT WAVER

Environment groups are committed the Tasmanian Forests Agreement and to assisting the Tasmanian Legislative Council in its consideration of the agreement.

The Legislative Council has set up a select committee to further investigate the agreement signed by environment groups, the forestry industry and workers union.

Australian Conservation Foundation CEO, Don Henry, said: “With the committee in place, it will take longer for the agreement to be implemented but we are still on a solid path toward a sustainable industry future that supports workers and protects internationally renowned forests.

“We are committed to working collaboratively to ensure the environmental, economic and social benefits of our agreement reach Tasmanians,” said Environment Tasmania’s Phill Pullinger.

“We urge Members of the Legislative Council to convene and conclude the select committee’s work as soon as possible in order to secure the benefits of the agreement, including government funding to support the industry and workers and protecting identified HCV forests.”

The Wilderness Society State Manager, Vica Bayley said: “We call on all parties across the political and public spectrum to take a moment to reflect on the opportunity at hand and do all they can to build support for the agreement with the Upper House.”

• UPPER HOUSE VOTE THREATENS JOBS & FORESTS

Nick McKim MP
Greens Leader
Friday, 14 December 2012

The Tasmanian Greens today said that any future forestry job losses or protests over forestry would now rest squarely on the shoulders of the Liberal Party and its allies in the Legislative Council.

Greens Leader Nick McKim MP said that the disappointing decision to indefinitely delay a decision on the Tasmanian Forests Agreement Bill 2012 was an attempt by some Legislative Councillors to avoid responsibility for the dire consequences of their actions.

“There’s no doubt that this decision is a bitter setback for the overwhelming majority of Tasmanians who want to see a lasting solution to community divisions over forestry,” Mr McKim said.

“The consequences of this decision, whether it’s timber industry job losses or protests in the forests, will rest squarely on the shoulders of the Liberal Party and their friends in the Legislative Council.”

“The decision to set up a Select Committee to examine the Bill had nothing to do with bringing greater scrutiny to the process, because the Legislative Council has already had the Bill in front of them for the past six months.”

“This decision was about Legislative Councillors who don’t want any high conservation value forests protected trying to avoid responsibility for the serious consequences of their attempts to wreck the whole process.”

“What it has done is leave a pall of uncertainty over the people working in the timber industry, and is a slap in the face for the majority of Tasmanians who want to see our magnificent high conservation value forests protected.”

• Garry Stannus: My tribute to Miranda

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It’s quite an image. The people gathered, all looking towards that vessel, out there amongst the breakers. The lifeboat, the horse teams. The wind, seen in the womens’ long dresses. The reflections on the wet sand. The froth. The efforts of people trying to tip the lifeboat into the water, so that it will carry the assistance out there, to that shipwreck. The garments are from a different time. The technology too. I see in the image our forests which must be saved, and I see our Parliament apparently struggling without success to come to their aid. I see the lobbyists, near the lifeboat and there are the people – us – all watching the drama unfold. Some of us are in the water and some hovering just at its edge.

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We’ve now come a full year of Miranda’s being in the Observer Tree. She is 60 metres above the ground, here in the Tyena Valley. The Observer Tree. She is there because in 2010, a draft statement of principles was signed by Environmental NGO’s, industry groups and Unions. It pointed towards comprehensive forest protection and a restructuring of the logging industry. But a year later in 2011, not one tree had been saved, more cash had been delivered to the timber industry and destructive logging continued in some of our island’s most sensitive and iconic forest areas.

So Miranda began her protest in the Observer Tree. Instead of an implemented moratorium, areas within the core 430k Ha were still being logged. Signatures on paper had not stopped the logging. Forestry Tasmania claimed that logging in areas due for protection was necessary to complete contracts – that went against the agreement, which stated explicitly that where contracts couldn’t be met, then compensation would be given. Instead, FT kept on roading, kept on logging. Ta Ann was another fly in the ointment, with contracts for 265,000 cubic metres of state forests contracted per annum by FT, our rogue agency. Oh yes, and Gunns were still the Great Pretenders. She went up the tree one year ago today.

To mark the first anniversary of her Observer Tree protest, Miranda is holding a Global Cyber Event, streaming live to people around the world. It began earlier today (Fri) with Miranda talking live, for overseas supporters in ‘other side of the world’ time zones. Guest speakers are world tree sit record holder Julia Butterfly Hill, globally renowned author Derrick Jensen, former Senator Bob Brown, Australian greens leader Senator Christine Milne, Sea Shepherd. And more! I’m tuning in with http://www.live.observertree.org and http://www.facebook.com/ObserverTree.

Yet despite 2010-11s broken moratorium, broken by industry/FT, the negotiations progressed. The forest peace talks had commenced at the request of the forestry industry, it was they who had approached the ENGOs. One year of broken moratorium and followed by one year of a tree-top protest. The Legislative Council has failed to pass the Tasmanian Forests Agreement Bill 2012, the forests remain unprotected. The Council will not reconvene till the Ides of March, 15/3/2013. Environmentalists will continue to campaign for the protection of our native forests.  As that beautiful ‘chocolate’ gets hauled up the Observer Tree, people around the world are supporting Miranda’s continuing protest for the protection of our native forests.  There are parties and gatherings at many locations to mark the 1st anniversary of Miranda being in the tree.  A sterling effort!

• Tony Mulder: Put a sock in it Nick

The Member for Rumney in the Legislative Council, Tony Mulder, today called upon Greens Minister, Nick McKim to cease his verbal attacks on the Legislative Council.

“Mr Mc Kim’s intemperate language and verbal sprays can only be designed to draw attention away from the inadequate legislation that he, as a member of Government was responsible for and that we, as the Legislative Council had to try and correct before it passed into law,” Mr Mulder said.

“Whilst I was supportive of the Legislation and tried to have it passed I also recognised that it did not adequately reflect the agreement that was struck between the signatories. That is why I sought to amend it. Other members of the Council saw that the changes were too complex and needed more time to examine it.”

“To keep the process alive I supported them”.

“People need to bear in mind that the agreement is not the law, merely a tool to assist in crafting it”.

“What hope has peace in the forests when the State Leader of the environmental movement, Mr Mc Kim, is busy inciting his followers with hateful and personal attacks on people who don’t do as he demands?”

“Nick – show some leadership. That’s what you will need to do to ensure peace in the forests when this legislation passes.”

• Bob Brown: World Heritage Nomination Must Proceed on Time

Former Greens Senator Bob Brown is calling on the State and Federal governments to ensure World Heritage Nomination proceeds for Tasmania’s highest value forests, as provided for in the 2012 Tasmanian Forest Agreement.

Dr Brown says a nomination has to be completed by 1 Feb 2013 to meet the Forest Agreement provisions.

“Both sides of the agreement want to see the nomination carried forward and Tasmania has everything to gain from World Heritage listing of the grand forests of the Styx, Weld and Upper Florentine Valleys and the Great Western Tiers”, Dr Brown said.

“This irresponsible delay by the Legislative Council must not be allowed to wreck this most vital environmental provision of the Forest Agreement.”

“The Legislative Council is not due to make up its mind until March 2013 or later”, Brown added.

• Frank Strie, Forester: A response to: Green: It’s the colour of hate

Hello SIMON BEVILACQUA,

The 8:4 vote by the Legislative Council, calling for proper information and proper process had nothing to do with a “hate of a green ideology”.

It is very sad but predictable, that the exclusive, elitist 2010 round table process resulted in a less than half baked 2012 IGA that ignored many questions and excluded stakeholders who had and still have important contributions to make.

Now at the end of 2012, there should be no blame on the Legislative Council for finally introducing open access to the people / stakeholders that provides the opportunity at last to end the secret deals process.

It is time to open the doors and books. It is time to show detailed 1: 5,000 or at least 1:10,000 maps as it is common practice in other countries with responsible forest management.

The three names mentioned towards the end of the article are the key persons that lured Ta Ann to our Island and who convinced the company to set up oversized peeler plants that consequently were supplied by unsustainable practices, with irresponsible volumes of logs and meagre returns for the owners of the resource. Because there is no net gain for the forest owners in this process, it has to change.

What private forest owner would be foolish enough to give their potential future sawlogs away for say $62 delivered to the mill gates in months and years to come?

SIMON BEVILACQUA:”... the peace deal that had won the support of forestry warhorses Paul Lennon and Evan Rolley and timber firm Ta Ann, which had said it would have to shut its veneer mills if the deal fell over.”

Will these three “forestry warhorses” be held responsible for the many years of mismanagement and over-harvesting of the public estate?