Back to the trenches

Issue 

Back to the trenches

"Our willingness to compromise has been callously rejected. We will not stand by and allow the irreplaceable old growth and wilderness forests of the south-east to be trashed by the woodchip industry. It's back to the trenches", warned a joint statement by the peak environmental councils after the NSW Legislative Council voted down the South-East Forest Protection Bill on October 29.

For twenty years now the future of NSW's south-east forests has been in the balance; while environmentalists have campaigned to save the forests, the timber industry, with the backing of government, has systematically logged the area.

The defeat of the bill, which would have suspended logging while an environmental assessment was conducted, has paved the way for the state and federal governments to sign the Commonwealth-state agreement on the south-east forests, which includes a $10 million "compensation" handout to the timber industry.

In NSW, and beyond, a line has been drawn: environmental concern has gone too far when it threatens profits. The less than holy trinity of governments, big business mates and the craven ACTU leadership have declared, "Enough is enough". Expect no more '80s mister nice guy, no more cuddly Graham Richardson in koala friendly drag.

It's time to sell the big lie. It's now jobs and international competitiveness versus all comers: work safety, wages, health, education, land rights and the air we breathe.

Never mind that the main source of job destruction in the timber industry is, as in all other industries, the companies themselves. Never mind that only business profits from pollution: it's jobs versus the environment.

The real dichotomy, however, is profits versus the rest. Big business's relentless drive to increase profits is incompatible with a healthy environment.

For those environmental bureaucrats whose strategy relies on lobbying politicians, appealing to the "better instincts" of business, appearing respectable and above all else — responsible — the sands of time have all but run out.

It's back to the trenches.