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.
HOBART — About 20 people attended an Aboriginal rights forum organised on February 24 by the Socialist Alliance. The forum heard from a panel of representatives from the Tasmanian Aboriginal community and explored a range of issues they are campaigning around, including the Brighton Bypass, heritage issues and the NT intervention.
About 40 people attended a ‘Hands off WikiLeaks’ rally held in Franklin Square, Hobart on January 29. Speakers from the Greens, the Socialist Alliance, the Secular Party, Young Libertarians and unaligned individuals addressed the rally. They called on the Australian government to support Julian Assange, defend WikiLeaks and support the right to free speech and freedom of information.
Hundreds of Aborigines and supporters are preparing to defend the kutalayna Aboriginal site in Tasmania’s lower Jordan Valley, in a protest that some say has the potential to be as big as the huge Save Franklin River protests of the 1980s. In dispute is the route of the Brighton bypass highway, north of Hobart. The Tasmanian government is pushing ahead with a bridge that will damage the historic site. Aboriginal activists and their supporters want the bridge to be moved at least 300 metres away. Already the campaign has drawn support from high-profile figures.
In October, Kevin Harkins, a member of the Labor Left, won the ballot to become the new secretary of Unions Tasmania. Harkins was an electrician and then an organiser with the Electrical Trades Union in Victoria, before becoming ETU Tasmanian secretary in 2000. He spoke to Green Left Weekly’s Linda Seaborn. * * * The recent Unions Tasmania election was the first contested ballot in years. Can you tell me about that?
Matthew Wright and Patrick Hearps from Beyond Zero Emissions outlined their plan to switch Australia to 100% renewable stationary energy by 2020 to 150 people in Hobart on November 11. Local speakers Todd Houstein from Sustainable Living Tasmania and Peter Rae from the International Renewable Energy Alliance, spoke about how the plan could apply to Tasmania.
Tasmanian Greens leader Nick McKim will introduce a bill into state parliament this week in a third attempt to have same-sex marriage legalised in Tasmania. Labor Premier David Bartlett said he would not support the bill, believing same-sex marriage is a federal rather than a state issue. The latest Galaxy opinion poll showed 62% of Australians support equal marriage rights.
The Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Group (TGLRG) organised political candidates to publicly sign a pledge stating their party would not use election material that incited hatred or ridicule against people based on their sexuality or gender. The pledge signing took place at Salamanca markets in Hobart on July 31 and was signed by the Socialist Alliance, Greens, Democrats and Labor candidates and independent candidate Andrew Wilkie.
Tasmanian Premier David Bartlett announced on June 22 that he “accepted the [state] Planning Commission’s recommendation” to reject the Lauderdale Quays canal estate proposal at Ralphs Bay. “It found the proposal was unsustainable, and not consistent with the objectives of the planning system or the state coastal policy”, Bartlett said.
Mel Barnes, a well-known Tasmanian political activist, will contest the seat of Denison in the upcoming federal elections, for the Socialist Alliance. Barnes is a leading climate and renewable energy campaigner involved in Climate Action Hobart. She has also campaigned for women’s rights, Palestine solidarity, refugee rights and Latin American solidarity. In 2006, Barnes went on a solidarity tour of Venezuela to learn about the revolutionary changes occurring there. Barnes stood for the Socialist Alliance in the recent state elections.
Gunns Limited and the entire forest industry in Tasmania is in crisis. Gunns chairperson John Gay, and fellow board member and former state premier Robin Gray have resigned from the company’s board. They were pressured to resign by major shareholders after Gunns posted a 98% loss in half yearly profit in February this year, the April 23 Hobart Mercury reported. Their profit was just $400,000 — down from $33.6 million at the same time last year.
After weeks of political wrangling and uncertainty since the March 20 state elections, a new government has been formed in Tasmania. For the first time in Australia’s history, the Greens will have ministry positions. The Labor Party and the Greens agreed to a “power sharing deal”, which offered a ministry for Greens leader Nick McKim and a cabinet secretary position for Greens MP Cassy O’Connor.