Ten thousand rally against woodchipping
By Kim Linden
MELBOURNE — In what has been described as the biggest mobilisation in defence of the environment since the Franklin Dam campaign, 10,000 people rallied on January 29 against the federal government's decision on export woodchip licences.
Chanting "save the forests now" and "jobs not woodchips", the rally, organised by the Wilderness Society (TWS) and other conservation groups, wound its way from the National Gallery to Treasury Gardens to hear speakers and musicians.
Linda Parlane of Environment Victoria (an organisation which identifies areas of high conservation value) said that many people are willing to put their "hearts, minds and bodies" on the line to save the forests.
Michael Krockenberger of the Australian Conservation Foundation likened the march and rally to the protests around the Franklin Dam in the 1980s. "Woodchipping is the biggest environmental issue in Australia since the Franklin Dam. It was the strength of community action which won the anti-Franklin Dam campaign, and it is community strength that will win this anti-woodchipping campaign."
Kevin Parker, national campaign coordinator of TWS, told the rally that the federal government had ignored the democratic process by backing away from its own environment minister's recommendation to protect 1300 forest areas.
Pointing out that 80% of Australians have indicated that they want the country's old growth forests protected, Parker said that Keating ignored the public at his own peril. He told the rally that everyone is a "powerful social change agent" and that the demonstration would send a clear message against woodchipping to the ALP and a clear message that conservationists will no longer support the ALP.
Imelda Eams of the Goongerrah Environment Community Conservation Organisation asked people to join in the "front-line" battle to stop woodchipping in East Gippsland by taking part in non-violent direct action.
Most speakers laid the blame for continued woodchipping squarely at the feet of the federal ALP government. Spirits were high and the potential for a national campaign against woodchipping was evident in the strong turnout, high morale and determination of the protesters.
Many people at the rally wanted to continue some form of activity to save the forests and the various green and activist stalls such as Friends of the Earth, TWS and Resistance joined new, primarily young, people for continued action.