Frack Free Tasmania held a public meeting on February 18 at Sustainable Living Tasmania to warn about possible exploration for shale oil and gas in the island state. The current moratorium on fracking in Tasmania is due to end on March 31. The government put out an issues paper which received 157 submissions, 90% of which were opposed to fracking being allowed in the state. The government responded to the review on February 26 by extending the moratorium until 2020.
Several hundred Aboriginal community members and their supporters gathered on Hobart parliament house lawns to mark Invasion Day on January 26. There was a one minute silence observed whilst a wreath was slowly walked down two rows of those who gathered and placed on the steps to parliament house. People were welcomed to country and reminded that the Aboriginal people do not recognise today as Australia Day, that they do not celebrate this day, and that their land was stolen, that they will never give up and will never go away.
Public sector unions in Tasmania held a two-hour strike across the state on November 27 to protest against the job cuts planned by the state Liberal government. About 10,000 workers from 11 unions attended stop-work rallies at 18 sites. This included about 5000 people who rallied at Parliament House in Hobart and 2000 who gathered at the Inveresk Tramsheds in Launceston. The rally in Burnie had to move out of the Arts and Function Centre to accommodate all the striking workers.
Tasmania’s Liberal government has amended its anti-protest bill to allay fears from concerned groups who say the laws are undemocratic and a threat to free speech. The laws were passed in the state’s Upper House on October 30, and will be further amended by a committee. A coalition of more than 20 community groups, including unions, the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre, The Wilderness Society and the Australian Lawyers Alliance, released a joint statement urging parliamentarians to drop the Bill.
The Tasmanian Liberal government released its first budget on August 28. About 1500 people protested outside Parliament House on the same day to voice their opposition to the government’s plans. The budget will cut 700 full-time jobs from the public sector and freeze public sector wages for at least one year. School attendant and United Voice member Ken Martindale addressed the rally about the impact the pay freeze will have on low-income families in Tasmania, saying that bills will go up each year even if pay does not.
More than 300 concerned citizens took part in a peaceful people’s picket on August 19 at Tasmania’s parliament house to protest against a bill that would ban the right to protest. The Workplaces (Protection from Protesters) Bill, introduced by the state Liberal government, passed Tasmania’s lower house in June. It is due to be debated in the upper house in late October. The bill makes it an offence to hold a protest that prevents business activity. Protesters can be given on-the-spot fines of $2000. Three-month mandatory jail sentences will apply for second offences.
About 5000 people protested outside Parliament House in Hobart on June 14 to call for the protection of Tasmania’s World Heritage forests. The World Heritage Committee unanimously approved the extension of 120,000 hectares of new reserves to the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage property at a meeting in June last year. The forests were judged to have met all four natural heritage criteria.
The Tasmanian Aboriginal community and its supporters were outraged over the Aboriginal Heritage Protection Bill that was rushed through the lower house on November 13. Brian Wightman, minister for environment, parks and heritage, tabled the bill, which will now proceed to the upper house. This bill is intended to replace the outdated and racist Aboriginal Relics Act.
Tasmanian Aboriginal activist Michael Mansell said he was grateful for the thoughts behind his Australia Day award nomination but that he “would be a hypocrite to accept it”. Mansell has been outspoken about the offensiveness of Australia’s national day celebrating the invasion and dispossession of Australia’s Aboriginal people. He has participated in Invasion Day rallies held by the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre for many years.
A public meeting held in the Tasmanian town of Oatlands on August 2 discussed the application by PetroGas, an offshoot of Petratherm, to explore for shale gas and oil in more than 3000 square kilometres of southern Tasmania. About 80 residents attended the meeting. Tim Kirkwood, general manager of Southern Midlands council, said it was the best-attended public meeting ever held in Oatlands. The process of “fracking” for gas requires millions of litres of water and a major concern for many of the farmers present was the question of where the water would come from.
The Tasmanian Labor-Greens government and Housing Tasmania has faced criticism over its proposal to evict public housing tenants who earn above a certain income. Originally, Consumer Affairs minister Nick McKim wanted the cap to be fixed at $66,000 a year. But a lobby campaign by the Tenants Union forced the government to remove the set limit and make it flexible instead. The ABC said Housing Minister Cassy O'Connor said income limits would be decided by “regulation” and Housing Tasmania.
About 70 mental health clinicians and their supporters rallied outside the state government’s offices in Hobart on October 11 to call for the reversal of crippling budget cuts. The rally took place during Mental Health Week. Unions say 42.5 frontline mental health positions have been lost or left vacant due to last year’s budget cuts. Most of these are frontline clinical positions, including case managers from the adult, child and youth and older person’s mental health community teams. Services are also compromised as clinicians are frequently not replaced when they take leave.