Tasmania - a failed democracy?

Introductory address by Chair, Bob McMahon at the public meeting held in the Tailrace Centre, Launceston 29/4/08 and attended by 640 people.

DEMOCRACY is the worst form of government.

“Democracy is the worst form of government……” Winston Churchill said that. He then went on to say “..except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”

Poll results on government spending priorities

20-28 March 2008 EMRS poll

1000 Tasmanian adults were interviewed by telephone. Of these, 500 were from the South, 280 from the North and North East and 220 from the North West and West Coast regions. (Please note that the original data for question 1 was incorrectly transcribed. The correct data showing the results  for question 1 are shown below. Our apologies for any confusion - an embarrassed Admin)

Question 1: of five areas (listed below) which is the most important for the government to spend money?

 Results:

  •      Health Infrastructure and Services 69% (692)
  •      Education Infrastructure and Services 16% (162)
  •      Public Housing 8% (82)
  •      Water Reform 5% (53)
  •      Infrastructure specifically for the Pulp Mill 1% (11)

Question 2: of the 5 listed which is the least important for the Government to spend money? Results:

  • Infrastructure specifically for the Pulp Mill 79% (794)
  • Water Reform 11% (107)
  • Public Housing 8% (82)
  • Education Infrastructure and Services 1% (14)
  • Health Infrastructure and Services 0% (3)

Findings

Only 11 respondents (1%) found the “infrastructure specifically for the Pulp mill” to be the most important area for the government to spend money. 69% found “health infrastructure and services” to be the most important. “Infrastructure specifically for the Pulp mill” was seen as the least important area for the government to spend money by over three quarters of respondents (79%).

Commentary

What is revealed in these poll results is a huge gap between what the people polled see as funding priorities and what the Premier of Tasmania and the State Government are doing and plan to do with public monies. The Premier and the State Government have allocated public money to expedite and promote the Gunns pulp mill and are "examining" building a $60 million pipeline from the Trevallyn Dam to Long Reach to supply water to the pulp mill. The State and Federal Governments are spending $70 million on improvements to the East Tamar Highway.

At a time when essential services such as health, education, public housing are being run down the Government is essentially misappropriating public money to build Gunns their pulp mill.

These poll results show how unpopular this policy is with the Tasmanian people. TAP spokesman Bob McMahon said the "the Labor Party must change direction and to survive it must cut the leader loose. You can have either a pulp mill or a health system. You can't have both."

Source www.tapvision.info

For the history of poll results about the pulp mill see opinion polls.

ANZ opinion poll result

7 April 2008 EMRS poll

A survey of 1000 householders was conducted by EMRS between the 20th and 28th March 2008. Of these, 500 were from the South, 280 from the North and North East and 220 from the North West and West Coast regions.

Question: are you in favour of or against the ANZ bank funding the pulp mill? Responses:

  • In Favour 29% (294)
  • Against 45% (451)
  • No Opinion 26% (255)

On a two answer preferred basis; in favour = 39%, against = 61%.

Source www.tapvision.info

  TAP media spokesman Bob McMahon said "the poll result means that Tasmanians have not only refused Mr Gay and mr Lennon a 'social permit' to build their mill but also the ANZ bank". "With such high lvels of community ill will towards this project, the ANZ must reasonably expect that many of these Australian might move their accounts from ANZ if the Bank funds the mill" he said. "It is therefore important that the people continue to tell the ANZ not to fund Gunns' pulp mill", he continued. Email ANZ CEO Mike Smith at gerard.brown@anz.com or pamela.tann@anz.com or phone ANZ head office on 03 9273 5168 or 03 9273 6141.

Our Taxes at work.

Here is an attempt to put a few figures to the cost to taxpayers of building the pulp mill. This does not include the fact that Gunns will have to service this new loan and profits head offshore to shareholders. Nor does it take into account that there will be a 15% oversupply of pulp coming on line from 47 new mills worldwide, and Gunns may have to go back to the various governments for further direct subsidies to keep afloat. The individual figures are all open to tweaking, but it does illustrate the size of the problem that we are (not) being asked to fund.

THE FUTURE

"Anniversary of a serial killing" - address by pulp mill expert, Dr Warwick Raverty on Gunns proposed pulp mill

Dr Warwick Raverty spoke to a memorial service on the first anniversary of Gunns withdrawal from the Resource Planning and Development Commission, outside Gunns’ head office in Lindsay St. Lauhceston 11am on Friday 14th March. His speech is a powerful statement about the failings of democracy in Tasmania and the use of spin and propaganda by those who believe that your rights as an individual are subordinate to the interests of the state. Dr Raverty called on all Tasmanans to stand up against Gunns' pulp mill and defend the same freedoms that our forefathers fought and died for at Gallipoli.

TAP/ A Better Australia strategy workshop outcomes re pulp mill and Rudd / Lennon governments

A Better Australia and TAP conducted two workshops with approximately 120 members to plan strategies to stop the pulp mill.

 

Sorted outputs from TAP/ A Better Australia presentations on 21 Jan 2008

 

What concerns does audience have for the future?

Social issues

  • Ignorance & apathy of public
  • Disempowerment of the young
  • Lack of education & political education for our young
  • Fragmentation of community into dysfunctional nuclear families
  • Dysfunctional entrenched political thinking
  • Insanity
  • Loss of jobs to overseas call centres
  • Lack of engagement in political process
  • Lack of engagement in local government process
  • Inability to distinguish between needs and wants
  • Poor understanding of power of vote (not enough Green votes??)

Unrealisable expectation

  • Exponential growth

Failing systems

  • Lack of public transport
  • Disempowerment of teachers
  • Dysfunctional media from community perspective

Results of poor policy

  • Erosion of democracy
  • Too much ‘made in China’ not enough ‘made in Australia’
  • Health service degradation
  • Breakdown of viable careers into short term contracts
  • Biases created by tax policies
  • No rewards for good long-term thinking
  • Lack of balance

Quality of environment

  • Pollution and effects of herbicides

Information systems

  • Degradation of ABC

Threats

  • Genetic modification and risks
  • Corporate greed
  • Rising prices

Political and governance issues

  • Paul Lennon retiring on public money
  • Lack of political accountability
  • Lobbying asymmetry

Survival

  • Lack of self sufficiency/sustainability – personal, regional, national, cultural and moral

 

 

What people would like to have in a better future?

Ecology

  • Application of ecological wisdoms to natural and ‘human’ ecosystems
  • Clean, green Tasmania
  • Fresh air, clean water
  • Tasmania as ‘Noah’s Ark’ for self sufficiency

Human affairs

  • Happiness should be a major goal
  • Create a charter of rights for all citizens
  • Create friends instead of terrorists
  • Participatory democracy in communities of interests
  • Hold social justice as a common good
  • Create/engage in meaningful work
  • Explore different economic models
  • Respond to global needs
  • Remove barriers to information
  • Query big/growth is good mindset
  • Develop sustainable societies
  • Caring communities, countries and world
  • Involve local communities
  • Spiritual society using moral values including ecological
  • Local, interest free currency systems
  • Conserve energy
  • Deal with sound pollution (sensory privacy)
  • More individual self sufficiency
  • Create a first class health system for everyone

Energy

  • Use distributed energy systems

Governance

  • Restrict defence forces to defence activities
  • Abolish two party system – back to democracy
  • Use citizen created referenda
  • Trade in a politician/foreign exchange scheme
  • Rotate parliament like jury duty with ordinary citizens
  • Ban corporate sponsorships of political parties
  • Priorities that include education
  • Re-evaluate arson & corporate arson
  • Consistent laws around Australia Plan for 30 – 50 years, not just parliamentary cycle
  • Assure base income for all citizens
  • Restrict alcohol to those over 21 yrs

Resources

  • Locally produced, in season, fresh foods and produce
  • Buy Australian/Tasmanian

Global

  • Dismantle atomic energy plants

 

 

  

Notes from TAP meeting, 2008-02-22

 

What do you stand to lose if this mill goes ahead?

  • Water
  • Health
  • Livelihood and life savings / income
  • Wildlife and sea creatures
  • Northern Tasmania as we know it
  • Democratic processes
  • Recreational pursuits
  • Safe roads
  • Tourism industry
  • Food production
  • Fresh air
  • Forests

Who do you trust?

  • Who trusts the Lennon Govt?
  • Who trusts Gunns?
  • Who trusts Peter Garrett?

 

Who can stop the mill?

Banks / financiers

  • Why?
  • Too risky (project or economic climate)
  • Not making money from project
  • Losing other customers

Gunns

  • Lose their subsidies
  • Loss of feedstock
  • Board members can vote against it
  • Loss of reliable water supply
  • Competition – world market / profitability
  • Gunns contractors – let them know the consequences for their future business


Government – State

  • Lennon leaves
  • Lennon compromised, loses support / power

Government – Federal ** preferred strategy **

  • Whistleblowers – forced Royal Commission.
  • Project is against Rudd Government’s national goals and targets – eg Greenhouse/Global Warming
  • If took a proper look at project and discovered the inadequacies
  • Government feels more expensive to keep paying Gunns subsidies than to stop it now.
  • Gunns may not meet Chief Scientist’s requirements
  • Impact on economy – present a positive alternative?
  • Mass of mobilised public opinion

 

Others Raised

  • Workers – people building the mill
  • Courts
  • Treasury
  • International treaties

The Carbon Neutral Myth

Carbon Trade Watch www.carbontradewatch.org is monitoring the corruption of the climate change debate by the carbon offset industry particularly by tree planting. The Carbon Neutral Myth highlights several ways in which the carbon offset approach to climate change is fundamentally flawed. See carbon_neutral_myth.pdf to read the full story. Summary From the late Middle Ages, Western Europe became slowly but surely engulfed by the tide of mercantilism that superceded the feudal economy. This system, which to us is second nature, was revolutionary at the time. It was, in its own way, the first wave of economic globalisation to wash over Europe. Mercantilism, simply put, is a system of economic relations in which goods purchased in one place are sold at a much higher price somewhere they are scarce. The Catholic Church, at the time suffering from a shortage of funds, decided to use the burgeoning market ethic to its own material advantage. Catholic doctrine maintains that to avoid time in Purgatory after you die, you need to expiate your sins via some sort of punishment or task that is an external manifestation of your repentance. The idea was that the clergy were doing more of such actions than their meager sins demanded, so they effectively had a surplus of good deeds. Under the logic of the emerging market, these could be sold as indulgences to sinners who had money, but not necessarily the time or inclination to repent for themselves. Chaucer’s The Pardoner's Tale immortalised the sale of such indulgences by pardoners, which was essentially how the church took a market-based approach to sinning as a means of income generation. The Brazilian theologian Dr. Odair Pedroso Mateus pointed out in 2001 that indulgences are “not about grace and gratefulness but about exchanging goods, about buying and selling, about capitalism”. Many centuries later, there are new indulgences on the market in the form of carbon offsets. The modern-day Pardoners are companies like Climate Care, the Carbon Neutral Company, Offset My Life and many others. These selfstyled ‘eco-capitalists’ are building up what they claim are ‘good climate deeds’ through projects which supposedly reduce or avoid greenhouse gas emissions. These wholesale emissions reductions can then be profitably sold back at retail prices to modern-day sinners who have money, but not necessarily the time or inclination to take responsibility for their emissions, and can afford to buy the surplus ‘good deeds’ from the offset companies. Most offset schemes take the following approach. A simple calculator on a website shows the quantity of emissions produced by a certain product or activity. The customer can then choose from a variety of projects that promise to ‘neutralise’ an equivalent amount of emissions by energy-saving, or through carbon absorption in trees. The consumer pays according to the claimed project costs and the amount of emissions to be ‘neutralised’. Most carbon offset companies cater to both individuals and corporations. Corporations can pay to ‘neutralise’ emissions generated by the production of consumer items or services, which can then be marketed on the basis of their climate-friendly credentials. This process has been dubbed ‘carbon branding’. The carbon offset market is booming. In the first three quarters of 2006, about EUR 89 million were sold to companies and individuals all over the world, up 300 per cent from 2005. It is predicted that the voluntary offsets market will be worth EUR 450 million in three years time. Even offset industry insiders are concerned about the lack of regulation and scrutiny of the new market.

TAP roadkill survey

As part of the Federal conditions, Gunns have had to do road surveys for 3 months for roadkill to get their permit. We saw very little sign of this happening so we have conducted our own survey with the valuable help of many volunteers over a number of months. We are asking the federal department to compare ours with Gunns to make sure the work has been done. We are awaiting further information.

The 'Send Peter Garrett A Hair Comb Campaign'

'Peter Garrett needs a hair comb like the Tamar Valley and Tasmania needs a pulp mill'. So Peter sidestepped the biggest environmental issue in Australia while answering the majority opinion with a deafening silence did he? Australians are now asked to send a plastic hair comb or even a picture of a hair comb, with or without an anti-pulp mill message to Environment Minister Garrett. Nothing abusive or insulting please. The aim of this campaign is to draw attention to Garrett's refusal to acknowledge the proposed pulp mill and the clearing of native forest in Tasmania as a critical environmental issue. Neither Garrett or the previous environment minister found it necessary to even visit the Tamar Valley before condemning us to a dodgy, stinking pulp mill. We are now responding in the way this decision effects us, personally. This whole industry must now be investigated and restructured by the Federal Government. There are the 2 addresses for people to post to: Peter Garrett Suit MG40 Parliament House Canberra ACT 2600 OR Peter Garrett PO Box 249 Maroubra NSW 2035 This campaign was endorsed by the public TAP meeting on 10/01/08.

Aerial Spraying

Perhaps slightly off topic......
While working on Camden Road, Blessington yesterday (17/11/07 7.30am - 10.30am), a helicopter came over a hill and started spraying a plantation about 4-500 meters from where we were working.

The wind was blowing in our direction (coming from the north-east), and we could smell the chemicals being used to spray the plantation.
One worker stated that he could "taste it in the back of his throat".

What I am wondering is:
Is there some regulation that requires notification, or roadside signage of aerial spraying occurring in an area that is likely to be frequented by members of the public?

Media release Re: ANZ funding of Gunns proposed pulp mill.

MEDIA RELEASE DECEMBER 16th 2007 TAP (Tasmanians Against the Pulpmill) and WFCA (Women For Change Alliance) have written to Mike Smith, CEO of ANZ. The letter has 3000 signatories and spells out reasons why the ANZ bank should not fund this pulp mill. TAP spokesperson, Bob McMahon, highlighted four reasons why the ANZ should walk away from funding the proposed pulp mill. “1. The proposed pulp mill is to be built in a region with a hostile poulation resolved not to have a pulp mill. 2. Gunns has done NO risk assessment. 3. Lending to Gunns is the sort of high risk lending that led to the sub-prime crisis in the USA. 4. The ANZ has a real opportunity for world leadership here.”

Overview of threats from proposed pulp mill.

The group ‘A Better Australia’ www.abetteraustralia.com has developed an overview of threats and opportunity costs of Gunns’ pulp mill proposal. It is also available as a high resolution down-loadable image below.

Overview of pulp mill threats

Lennon's priorities

The Lennon government gives a higher priority to industrial forestry and the proposed pulp mill than the health of Tasmanians.

Shortfalls in the Tasmanian health system:

  • Launceston General hospital $20 million/year;
  • Royal Hobart hospital - $800 million;
  • Other hospitals – unknown;
  • Ambulance services – 30 million/year;
  • Mental health services - unknown;
  • Disability services, needs of 200 not met - cost unknown;
  • Housing - 2681 people on State housing waiting lists at May 3 2007 - unknown.

Subsidies to industrial forestry and pulp mill, and some opportunity costs:

  • Losses to farming and processing income from the take over of farmland by plantations- some percentage of $2.5 billion/yr;
  • Losses to tourism - some percentage of $1 billion/yr;
  • Losses to fine foods, wineries - unknown;
  • Risks to fishing industry - unknown;
  • Costs of water - about 400 Gl/yr used by plantations - @ $100 Ml = $40 million/yr;
  • Damage to roads/bridges - $20 million/yr;
  • Costs of health damage and road deaths - unknown;
  • Costs of subsidies - over $80 million/yr;
  • Special infrastructures (e.g. road & rail) - $120 million +;
  • Lost value of trees as carbon sink @ $15 per tonne - $60 million/yr;
  • Costs to public of losses on timber and delivery costs - kept secret from public.

Some inconvenient truths about Gunns proposed pulp mill

Facts the Tasmanian Government and Gunns Ltd don’t want people to know about the proposed Tamar valley pulp mill, Tasmania, Australia. Timber company Gunns Ltd wants to build a ‘world scale’ pulp mill in the clean green Tamar valley. The proposal is planned to go ahead despite majority opposition from Tasmanians and Australians and massive risks to food production and fisheries, from air and water pollution, water shortages and release of carbon stores into the atmosphere. Go to Some inconvenient truths for Gunns Get the downloadable the A4 size graphic “Some inconvenient truths v007.pdf”.

Fund our hospitals instead of subsidising logging. TAP media release

Pulp mill apologists have represented the mill as an economic boon to the state but they have concealed the huge public subsidies currently being paid, and still to be paid, to help the project be ‘profitable’.

Our governments are paying hundreds of millions of dollars a year to prop up our unsustainable pulpwood industry, money that is sorely needed by our essential services, particularly health and education. If the subsidies being paid to support the pulp mill and the logging industry were used instead to properly fund our hospitals and schools, then we would have worthwhile health and education services populated by properly paid staff and equipped with modern technologies.

Not only does the pulp mill threaten the health of many people in the Tamar valley, but the subsidies that it requires will continue to impoverish our hospitals and schools for decades.

The community wants to know…

  • If the mill is such an economic boon, why does it need any taxpayer subsidies at all? …and
  • If the forest industry cannot make money in the free market, why should we subsidise them at the expense of our essential services?

We say… “Enough is enough. Governments must make sure that our essential services are properly funded before even considering any form of corporate welfare.” The community is calling for an immediate cessation of all logging subsidies in Tasmania so that our essential services of hospitals and education can be properly restored to full health themselves.

 

 

Why the community does not want the pulp mill

Public money diverted from hospitals

At a time when people in pain are lying on trolleys in hospital corridors, while others wait years for operations and public dentistry patients are forced to pull out their own teeth with pliers, the Lennon and Howard governments are transferring hundreds of millions of dollars a year to the Tasmanian timber industry.

That is money that could fix our hospitals and help to equip our kids for their future with a superior education. This is a state government that proposes to sell public hardwood to Gunns for $16 tonne, thereby setting a floor price that will virtually guarantee plantation investors big losses. They will be lucky to get $2,400 per hectare, slim pickings from an initial ‘investment’ of nearly $7,000 with $3,200 from the taxpayer!!

That’s right, the taxpayers subsidise the transfer of farm ownership from Tasmanian families to giant corporates like Gunns…and it costs us about $3,200 per hectare. Gunns has about 200,000 ha and so has received around $640 million dollars from the taxpayer. Small wonder they want to keep the gravy train rolling.

That’s the SAME $640 million that our hospitals, doctors, nurses, fire fighters, teachers and dentists could have to operate a properly funded public system.

To rub it in, the public must pay our politicians’ private health coverage so that they don’t have to use the same system that they are creating for the rest of us.

Public money used to buy out farmers and subsidise plantations

Meanwhile our farmers are doing it tough in the drought and what do they find? Tax subsidised plantations up river from them that are stealing far more water from the catchment than would be required by agriculture They know that plantations deliver far fewer jobs and leave rural communities suffering a severe cash flow drought as farmers are forced to sell and unproductive trees take over. We are rapidly losing our food producing land and people. All this at a time when there is world shortage of food and prices are at all time highs.

Instead of helping our farmers, our government is using our money to convert our dwindling supply of food producing land into tree plantations to hand more public money to their political donors! So our rural communities lose cash flow and foodstuffs from local farms and suffer reductions in tourism revenue as tourists go to destinations that aren’t clearfelled and burned; the roads aren’t busy with unstable log trucks and water supplies aren’t contaminated with a carcinogenic cocktail of plantation chemicals.

When you connect all of this to the lack of money and care for our essential services, you can understand that the communities’ clear concern is that their governments are representing party donors at the expense of taxpayers.

The US war of Independence was fought on the basis of “No taxation without representation”.

Politicians deny the people

People rightly feel very strongly about playing a meaningful role in deciding the quality of their own future. Offering more tens of millions of taxpayers dollars for pulp mill support infrastructures does nothing to regain public trust.

Our politicians have betrayed us by taking our money to represent us and then refusing to countenance our needs. It is for these reasons that so many are adamantly opposed to the pulp mill proposal.

We ask:

  • If the mill is such an economic boon, why does it need any taxpayer subsidies at all? and
  • If the forest industry cannot make money in the free market, why should we subsidise them at the expense of our essential services?

The people of Northern Tasmania are seeing their property values, futures, health, hopes and dreams shattered and they will not take it lying down. The government is going to have to fight the community every step of the way to complete and operate this overblown pulp mill. It’s a ruinous investment for Gunns, a huge loss maker to the public purse, a threat to public health, a threat to our food production industries and rural communities, and a destructive idea in a world facing climate change and a crisis of oil availability.

We say “Enough is enough. Make sure our essential services are properly funded before considering any form of corporate welfare.”

Some indicative costs of subsidies to logging industry

  • Creation/upkeep of roads & bridges, about $20 million/year
  • Work done by FT for Gunns benefit, about $50 million/yr
  • Cash payments over last 10 years, average of $50 million/year
  • MIS worth about $3,200 /ha, average $60 million/yr
  • Non payment for water used by tree plantations, @ $100/Ml = $40 million/yr
  • New infrastructures for mill, over $100 million
  • Deliver timber to pulp mill (fuel risk), $10 – 50 million per year

TOTAL SUBSIDIES per YEAR = $270 million plus infrastructure

Voters Block - Summary of results re local government elections Oct 07

TAP succeeded in increasing the number of anti mill councilors on three councils at the expense of pro mill candidates in October 2007 elections.

Launceston City Council

Of the 7 Aldermen elected to the LCC, Norton, Shipp, Ball and Nott were endorsed by the Voter's Block for being anti-mill. Jeremy Ball tripled his primary vote from last time. The others elected were Waddle, Peck and Dean. Waddle and Peck had reduced no 1 votes and only got in with preferences.

TAP Voter's Block endorsed Mayoral candidate (van Zetten) got up, as did the TAP endorsed Deputy Mayoral candidate (Armitage). There were two anti-mill mayoral candidates and their combined vote completely trounced pro-mill Ivan Dean 61% to 39%. The balance in the LCC has definitely shifted with a majority against the mill.

West Tamar Council

In the West Tamar municipality, TAP member and Greens candidate Karl Stevens got the second highest primary vote (almost unheard of for a first-time candidate), Viv Tyson, another TAP member got elected and TAP endorsed Peter Kearney was elected Deputy Mayor. Pro-mill sitting councillor Julia Gulson was dumped. There was no election for position of mayor, as Barry Easther was elected unopposed.

George Town Council

In George Town the anti-mill mayoral candidates got 55% of the vote on the first ballot and Doug Burt only just scraped in on preferences. A TAP endorsed candidate Graeme Neilson dumped out a former mayor - pro-mill Laurence Archer. Dr. Andreas Ernst, another TAP endorsed candidate, came within a whisker of being elected.

The TAP Voter's Block influence will carry over into the Federal Election results.