Public First Program


Shane Elson


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+61-3-5134 8556

+61-4-1349 7828

Oct 2007 # 2

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Back to Editorials 2007

Gunns and the Roosters

When I was a kid and it was legal to keep chooks in a backyard pen, we had, for a time, a rather rowdy rooster. When he wasn’t fluffing himself up to prove his dominance, or crowing at random, he was chasing the chooks. Of course, once he was deemed fat enough, he made his journey to our Sunday lunch table. I would suggest though, that this was not in the manner to which he had become accustomed. 

It would seems the roosters are crowing in Tasmania, in Canberra and no doubt, in a few other locations as the money men do their thing in making sure the Gunns pulp mill is completed. 

Peter Garrett, who has definitely done his last tour of the chook house, turned to his leader for a few instructions on ‘me too’-ism and Robin Gray, former Tasmanian Premier and now Gunns Board member, is over the moon. Meanwhile Malcolm Turnbull has ensured that his mates in the finance industries have a place for him when he exits his role as Minister for Environmental Destruction. 

As a proud Tasmanian who was fortunate to grow up in a time when the moon was really the limit, I am deeply saddened at the way things are going in my home state. While the town I grew up in was an agricultural and timber town, with a Gunns mill to boot, the forestry practices of today were just a dream to the money men back then. 

It’s funny but I think I’ve been to more places I wanted to visit when I lived in Tasmania on my trips home on holidays than when I actually lived there. However, a fair bit of what I’ve seen has not been as I’d expected. 

Still roaming the roads are the huge log trucks that hurtle around the narrow country tracks. I commend the driver’s skill in keeping these things both upright and mostly, on the right side of the road. For the interstate or overseas visitor, I am sure the fear engendered by seeing one of these things bearing down on your car is as great as it ever was. 

In the south of the state the Styx forest is slowly being logged into extinction. On one trip there my mate and I took a wrong turn and drove through kilometres of felled trees, sections of which had been burnt which means that it was being prepared for plantation timber. The trees that we marvelled at, put our bodies against to try and feel some of the power of Mother Earth, are facing destruction. It may not be long before Tasmania is no longer home to some of the largest trees on earth. 

My most recent trip through the Tarkine was constantly interrupted by the sound of exhaust brakes cutting in and out as the trucks negotiated the tracks and roads in and around this region. Of course the further down the West Coast you go the less log trucks there are, the mighty forests there having been ‘value added’ by their consumption in the furnaces that powered the mining boom. The bare, dead hills are a testament to the power of capital over nature. 

There is the glorious entrance to the Leven River, which winds its way down from the hills, through the Canyon, bisecting my home town and then out into Bass Strait. The twin break walls still provide the angler with ample opportunity to feed the family but as you walk out to the end of the break walls it is not until you turn around to view the vista of the Dial Ranges that you see the mighty ‘Golden Arches’ thrusting themselves skyward like some phallic reminder of a ‘good’ burger just a short drive away. 

Sure, I’m getting older and the memories are perhaps being shaped by idealism but I have to ask, “is it worth it?” I’m sure to the ANZ and the other ‘investors’ who stand to make a motza from rising pulp prices, it is. I’m sure that the politicians and their ‘advisors’ who cut the deals and are now guaranteed golden parachutes when their so called “public service” is over, likewise, think it is. I’m also sure that in their way of viewing the world, nothing is important unless it can be exploited for profit. 

I’m certainly not advocating a return to the bad old good old days. If we want to enjoy even the small pleasures in life we will use resources. To write this, to send it out, to broadcast it, to store it for future reference all takes resources. Some activists, I am sure, forget that they too contribute to the destruction of the environment as they engage in their activities. While many, I am equally sure, realise this and do their bit to reduce, reuse and recycle. But even if all of us who are concerned about this issue got together for a year, we would not consume as many resources nor pollute as much as this one pulp mill would in a month – to be generous. 

The issue of the Gunns mill can no longer be disguised as an issue of sustainable jobs, sustainable logging and ‘world’s best practice’. It is a battle of immense proportions. It is, I believe an even bigger issue that the proposed damming of the Franklin River was in the 1980s. This mill will take away things that can never be replaced and it will pollute the environment, leaving a legacy that may never deteriorate. This mill is about raw power and the ability for a few to steal the common wealth from those who must live with the consequences. 

But there is hope. This hope is that enough of us, Tasmanian or mainlander, will put our hands up and say, “Not in our backyard. Not anywhere!” Political expediency saved the Franklin and the naysayers who said that unless it went ahead Tasmania would grind to an end, have long been proved wrong. Likewise, those who pooh-hoo the fact that this mill is unnecessary and unwanted can be proved wrong. The science shows it, the economics show it and the huge number of people who are against it show it to be wrong. Unless we convince the politicians to put in place laws that demand the absolute best engineering, pollution mitigation and policing of a plant such as this, the only thing to do is resist its construction. 

Unless we speak out the places we hoped to visit with our grandkids will be gone. Unless we take action, the holiday spots we used to visit will be gone. Unless we resist we will find the roosters taking over the chook pen and chaos and fear ruling. While not all can take part in rallies or marches, we can write, call, email, or send a carrier pigeon if necessary to let Howard, Rudd, Garrett, Turnbull, Lennon, the ANZ, Gunns and anyone else involved in promoting this mill that we do not want it. 

Howard’s mob once derided the Labor party as one full of roosters. It’s a pity they didn’t reflect on their own party a little more. To the roosters who fluff themselves up with self importance and deride anyone who attempts to challenge them, a time will come when they, like the rooster that used to terrorise the chooks in my backyard, will find themselves served up on a platter, but not in a manner they have become accustomed to.

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