I am a member of Pulp the Mill, a group of peaceful community protesters who engage in civil disobedience to protest the politically corrupted Tamar Valley pulp mill assessment process in Tasmania. Pulp the Mill has repeatedly called for a Royal Commission into this corrupted process, and in particular into Section 11 of the Pulp Mill Assessment Act 2007, a clause that removes the right of people to either claim compensation, or take legal action, should the pulp mill cause a negative impact on their health or livelihoods in any way whatsoever.
Nala Mansell-McKenna is a well-known Aboriginal political activist in Tasmania, who was recently elected state secretary of the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre (TAC). “We like to call the secretary the role that’s our main political spokesperson, but when you work in the same building as Michael Mansell you are usually the second main political spokesperson,” she laughed, referring to the way that Michael (her father) is frequently contacted for comment on political issues.
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.
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.
Unions Tasmania President Roz Madsen gave the speech below at a large June 16 rally outside the Tasmanian parliament — the day Tasmanian premier Lara Giddings announced a harsh new budget. * * * Not so long ago, politicians and political parties were fairly predictable. People entered politics on one side or the other, based on a set of values they held personally and then they pursued outcomes designed to fulfill those values.
About 3000 people rallied outside Tasmania’s parliament house on June 16 to protest a harsh budget handed down by the ALP-Greens coalition government. Up to 1700 public sector workers will lose their jobs and 20 schools will close under the government’s plans.
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.
When the Tasmanian state government forced a bridge through the kutalyana site as part of the Brighton bypass, the Aboriginal community responded by placing a ban on conducting Aboriginal heritage assessments. These bans are being upheld by all Aboriginal Heritage Officers and the archeologists who work with them. They are intended to remain in place until the legislation that protects Aboriginal heritage is improved. The first major project to be affected by this is the proposed asylum seeker detention centre at Pontville, near Brighton.
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 statement 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.
Opposition to the Brighton bypass bridge over the Jordan River in southern Tasmania escalated after the April 12 decision by the Tasmanian heritage minister Brian Wightman to give final approval for works to proceed. The bridge will destroy kutalayna, a site of 42,000 years of Aboriginal occupation. On April 14, protesters entered the site and stopped the works. On April 15, 21 people were arrested after protesters scaled the fence and entered the site in waves, stopping the work on several occasions.
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”.
The Socialist Alliance condemned the recent decision by federal environment minister Tony Burke to give final approval to Gunns' Tamar Valley pulp mill, located near Launceston, in a March 24 statement. Socialist Alliance spokesperson Susan Austin said: “We could never support the Gunns pulp mill in the Tamar Valley , due to the corrupt nature with which it was approved. “In addition, we oppose it because of its likely toxic effects on the environment and the community.”
Late on March 12, a group of drunken men yelling abuse and threats of physical violence entered the site of the Aboriginal occupation of the planned Brighton Bypass in Tasmania. Trudy Maluga from the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre described it as a “Ku Klux Klan-type” incident, the Hobart Mercury reported on March 17. “A group of Aborigines has been harassed and racially abused by a large group of drunken men and youths at the Kutalayna camp at Brighton,” Maluga said.