Susan Austin

The Tasmanian and federal governments signed an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) last August that promised immediate protection for 430,000 hectares of high conservation value forest. But it also agreed to continue supplying the industry hundreds of thousands of cubic metres of sawlogs and veneer peeler logs. The agreement included more than $250 million in finance to restructure the timber industry.
Immigration minister Chris Bowen has decided to close the Pontville refugee detention centre in Tasmania by March 1. The move is in keeping with the government’s original plan to operate the centre for only six months. Last month, about 150 asylum seekers held in Pontville to demand they be released into the community. At least three were hospitalised. On February 16, Unions Tasmania secretary Kevin Harkins released a statement calling on Tasmanian’s to rally on February 25 to keep the detention centre open.
Hundreds of people marched on November 12 in Hobart’s “Slutwalk” to protest violence against women and to reject the idea that victims of sexual violence are somehow responsible for the assaults against them because of what they wear.
For the past seven years, the community action group TAP into better Tasmania, formerly Tasmanians Against the Pulp Mill, has campaigned against Gunns Ltd’s attempts to build a pulp mill in the Tamar Valley. TAP spokesperson Bob McMahon spoke to Green Left Weekly’s Susan Austin. * * * How many years has the campaign against Gunns’ pulp mill been going for?
About 50 people attended a vigil on the parliament lawns in Hobart on September 16 in support of Ali Alishah, a jailed anti-pulp mill protester. Alishah was arrested on September 5 at Gunns' proposed pulp mill site in the Tamar Valley in northern Tasmania after locking on to a truck that was entering the site. He has already spent almost two weeks in jail and will likely stay in custody until September 26. A long-term forest campaigner, Alishah was taking action with the group Code Green, which has been conducting civil disobedience actions at the pulp mill site.
A group of protesters chanted "Refugees are welcome here, free the refugees" outside the Hotel Grand Chancellor on August 26 while Prime Minister Julia Gillard addressed the Institute of Public Administration conference inside. The Socialist Alliance’s Jenny Forward told the rally: “With Pontville Detention Centre about to open down here, we want to keep the pressure up on the government to come up with a much more humane approach to refugee processing and resettlement.
More than 200 people rallied outside the State ALP conference at the Country Club Casino in Launceston on August 6. Health workers, teachers, child protection workers and police protested against public service budget cuts. TAP into a better Tasmania protested against the pulp mill while Code Green called for the protection of native forests. The premier and other Labor ministers came out to talk to the crowd but did not back away from their plan to make drastic cuts to essential services.
In a new twist to Tasmania’s forest industry crisis, two wealthy environmentalists, Graeme Woods and Jan Cameron, have bought the Triabunna woodchip mill from notorious woodchipping company Gunns Ltd. Gunns had almost stitched up a deal with a pro-logging company called Fibre Plus (owned by Aprin) but this fell through due to problems obtaining finance.
It’s been a fascinating few weeks in Tasmanian politics. On June 16, the Labor-Greens government handed down a shocking budget that cut funding to public health, education, police and other services. Thousands of public service workers gathered on parliament lawns that day to condemn the plan, saying that services were already struggling to meet demand. The education cuts included a plan to close 20 schools. Education minister and Greens leader Nick McKim started a process of “consultation” with affected school communities around the state.
The deal to restructure the collapsing timber industry in Tasmania is struggling to make headway. Logging continues in old-growth forests at the same time as sawmills and woodchip mills close and more workers lose their jobs. Anti-logging protests are being held weekly outside the premier’s office in Hobart, and the talks between environment and industry groups continue despite a key player pulling out in frustration. The Wilderness Society (TWS) suspended its involvement in the Tasmanian Forest Agreement on May 18, citing a failure of leadership from state and federal governments.
Releasing the Mid Year Financial Report in February, Tasmanian Premier Lara Giddings said savings required over the next three years would be the equivalent of 2300 jobs. She said she couldn’t rule out forced redundancies in the public service or cuts to frontline services. On May 26, Giddings released a to parliament that said: “We have now lost a total of around $1.5 billion in expected GST revenue and state taxes.”
Activists in Hobart have condemned the federal government’s plan to imprison 400 men in a new refugee detention centre in Pontville, Tasmania. Instead, the activists said, the government should use community-based processing and settlement alternatives that respect human rights. The activists said they were pleased to hear there are plans to house women and children in the community, but said the government should also treat the 400 men who will be imprisoned at Pontville in the same way.
Environment Tasmania (ET), the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) and The Wilderness Society (TWS) launched television and radio advertisements on March 30 that call for an end to logging in native forests. The ads feature University of Tasmania biologist Peter McQuillan, who says: “We need government to implement the agreed forest solution”.
More than 100 people attended a March 15 public forum in Hobart Town Hall about Tasmania’s logging moratorium. The forum was organised by The Wilderness Society (TWS) and the Huon Valley Environment Centre. TWS, the Australian Conservation Foundation and Environment Tasmania signed the forests “Statement of Principles” agreement with the Forest Industries Association of Tasmania, the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union and Timber Communities Australia on October 14 last year. The groups have proclaimed the agreement as the beginning of the end of forest conflict in Tasmania.
The six-year campaign against Gunns’ proposed Tamar Valley pulp mill in northern Tasmania is entering a critical stage. Federal environment minister Tony Burke approved the three outstanding modules of the mill’s environmental management plan on March 10. However, pulp mill opponents remain staunchly against the project in whatever form and have vowed to organise ongoing protests and blockades to stop it going ahead. A mass protest has been called on the site for March 20.
Your Skirt’s Too Short — Sex, Power, Choice By Emily Maguire 2010, The Text Publishing Company “Does your boyfriend or brother spend a lot of money on skin and hair care products?” “Do the majority of fathers you know spend most of their time at home washing, cleaning, cooking and taking care of their kids? Do you often hear mothers refer to looking after their own kids as ‘babysitting’?” “Are you sick of hearing men go on about how hard it is to balance work and parenthood?”


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