Pulp mill campaign continues

November 23, 2007

The Wilderness Society (TWS) has lost its Federal Court appeal, in which it argued that then-federal environment minister Malcolm Turnbull's assessment of the Tamar Valley pulp mill was inadequate. The appeal was dismissed by three judges on November 22, but TWS spokesperson Greg Ogle said the it would not give up campaigning. "The pulp mill is no closer to being built today than it was yesterday", he said.

At a 15,000-strong rally on November 17, TWS called on people to pledge to "take part in or support peaceful community action to stop the pulp mill should construction work begin". During his speech to the rally, Tasmanian author Richard Flanagan said: "If it takes standing on the road to the pulp mill site and placing our bodies between their machines and our home, we will stand there … and if we are arrested and thrown in jail, then we will go to jail in our tens, we will go to jail in our hundreds, we will go to jail in our thousands, and [Tasmanian Premier] Paul Lennon will have to build seven new prisons to house all the people who will come and who will keep on coming before they even attempt to pour the foundations of one new pulp mill."

TWS is also calling for people to not to support banks or other financial institutions that fund the pulp mill. On November 19, people gathered outside 25 branches of the ANZ bank in Australia, Japan, Germany and Britain to highlight the role ANZ plays in financing the company that wants to build the mill, Gunns Ltd. ANZ are carrying out their own assessment on the environmental impacts of the mill and will then make a decision about whether they will give financial support to it. This year alone, ANZ have lent $1.5 billion to Gunns, but as signatories of the "Equator Principles" they are not supposed to fund projects that are environmentally or socially harmful.

On November 22 Gunns held its annual general meeting in Launceston. Around 50 anti-pulp mill demonstrators were there to protest as shareholders walked into the meeting. Some activist shareholders who were allowed into the meeting took the opportunity to ask questions to the Gunns board about the environmental and health impacts of the mill, and whether the state government's approval process for the mill was legitimate.

Stephen Mayne, a shareholder and writer for Crikey.com.au, reported on November 22 that Gunns CEO John Gay "prematurely closed the meeting to avoid further questioning without dealing with resolutions four and five — resolutions involving a pay rise for directors and approving the recent issue of 25.7 million new shares". The meeting was then reopened and the last resolutions were quickly dealt with before the meeting was closed again.

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