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.
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?
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.