Wednesday, March 31, 2010

O,Halloran picks up 5th Braddon seat. We got 10-10-5

Llewy Llewy.....oh...oh

Labor ol' boy David Llewelyn gone from Lyons.
27yo. Labor staffer Bec White takes his seat.
Go figure.
Llewelyns explanation?
"The demands of my job prevented me from conducting an effective campaign".
Oh please!
Very poor form for Mr Llewelyn to blame his loss on such things.

Llewelyn had a much higher profile than White where I live in the electorate (Tamar Valley) and plenty of other incumbents did not have any trouble being returned. For god sakes Mr Llewelyn you were one of Tasmania's most recognised politicians being in the parliament for 24 years. How much campaigning did you need to do?

Polley romped it in as did Rockcliff, Hodgman & Bartlett. Even Tim Morris from the poverty stricken Greens topped the Lyons poll.

So why the excuses Mr Llewelyn?

Either through bad policy, being badly out of touch with overall community sentiment or through sheer political arrogance Mr Llewelyn failed to adequately represent the wishes of the electorate on the big issues.

Cases in point - The proposed Pulp Mill, water, planning and land use issues. Plain and simple.
In my part of the electorate that has caused a significant amount of people a significant amount of heartache.
Real people suffering real inconvenience, distress and heartache because they were being ignored on serious issues.

In fact in the case of the pulp mill Mr Llewelyn went out of his way to do the opposite and was too often, too dismissive of the views of local people. As Richard Flanagan recently wrote.... "As he (Premier Bartlett) sent his ministers scurrying overseas paid for by our taxes to yet again do Gunns business, David Bartlett didn’t draw one line in the sand, he ploughed up the whole beach".  David Llewelyn was one of the ministers in question. Along with Michael Aird a willing cheerleader for a project that was about as popular in the electorate as a "life be in it" t-shirt at a funeral.

Too often those who opposed the Government and Gunns on the Pulp Mill issue were considered trouble making greenies by the former minister. A quick search of Hansard or Llewelyn's public comments on the pulp mill will demonstrate my point.

You simply cannot continue to treat the electorate that way and expect to retain your seat.

Recent candidate for Lyons, Ben Quin quit the Liberal party over the pulp mill. Not that he had much choice in the end.  Quin was censured by the Liberal Party for publicly questioning aspects of the approval of the pulp mill and was savaged by former Tasmanian Premier and Gunns’ board member Robin Gray who labelled Quin a “coward”.

This is what Ben Quin said about his time campaigning in the electorate of Lyons........

“It is my opinion that the majority of Tasmanians believe that Mr. Lennon (and his closest confidents) did have advance knowledge of Gunns’ decision to withdraw and that the fast track approval was a pre-determined process. I was campaigning as a candidate for the Federal seat of Lyons as these events were taking place. I had discussions with thousands of people on this matter. From Queenstown to St Helens, from Port Arthur to Sheffield, from timber communities to latte communities, there was a consensus: the race was fixed”.

I wish him well in his retirement but am glad as hell David Llewelyn is no longer my parliamentary representative.  The good news for all you Llewy fans is that Mr Llewelyn's nice parliamentary pension should cushion the blow.

If I were Bec White I would be talking to the most highly regarded (on votes) politician in Lyons - Tim Morris about what it is the electorate wants. And then I would go and do it.

If Bec White is serious about putting the wishes and desires of the electorate above the party she should think about it.

Good luck Bec.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Archer wins 5th Denison seat

Liberal's Elise Archer has picked up the 5th seat in Dension.

Archer has beaten independent Andrew Wilkie by 350 votes after the cut up of preferences. The Greens' Paul O'Halloran should get the 5th seat in Braddon. Archer's win will come as great news for those who profit from pokies & the right wing of the Liberal party but it spells bad news for addicted gamblers.

Former Liberal candidate Sue Hickey and Archer had a famous stoush at the Taste of Tasmania a few months ago. The incident was reported to Police and Ms Hickey demanded a public apology from Archer.
There were calls at the time for Hodgman to cut Archer loose. Lucky for the Libs he didn't.

Archer's election along with Mick Ferguson, Rene Hidding and Jacquie Petrusma will ensure Tasmanians have a squeaky clean and god-fearin' parliament.

Don't worry about clashes over forestry busting up a minority. Wait till the Greens introduce socially progressive legislation around euthanasia, sex workers and abortion.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Nick Mooney critical of logging in Tasmania

A damning letter written by  famous Tasmanian Wildlife Biologist Nick Mooney and submitted to local Tasmanian newspapers The Advocate, Examiner and Mercury on 17th March 2010. I do not know whether his letter was published in any of the newspapers. Up until recently Mooney was a long time public servant and as a consequence had been restrained in his public utterances about the management of Tasmania's forests.

The Letter
THE indecent haste to log what’s available of old-growth forest and renew the Regional Forest Agreement before due date are related.
Clearly the logging industry sees the RFA as advantaging it.
The RFA shields logging from the effective Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act by committing to protect threatened species by reservation and prescriptions applied through the Forest Practices Code.
However, the application of this arrangement has become deeply flawed.
On Saturday 13th March I visited State Forest near Montague to see how logging of old-growth forest surrounding a well studied white goshawk nest went last year. Instead of the usual 15m wide streamside reserve for that class of stream a 35m wide bulge at the goshawk nest was supposedly applied to protect it.
It was chaos, like a time warp into 1970s logging. The nest tree had gone, fallen trees from logging and wind-throw criss-crossed the reserve and a logging track went straight through it.
Worse, a wedge-tailed eagle nest was exposed nearby, logged to within metres. So much for our much vaunted “world’s best logging practices”.
This comes on top of a series of debacles including an eagle nest tree cut down on private land near Table Mtn some months ago where the nest was also taken out of the tree, presumably to try and hide the vandalism.
This nest was close to a plantation and used by tolerant eagles, exactly what is in the industry’s interest to encourage.
People need jobs and therefore I support a forestry industry but it must be lower impact. The obvious way to do this is to greatly slow old-growth logging to allow timely assessment, planning and oversight.
Also, regulatory authorities must be given political support, more funding and bigger teeth.
The only thing “world’s best” about old-growth logging in Tasmania is the myth that it is sustainable.
After all, more old-growth is felled than replacement trees are allowed to become old-growth; that is “unsustainable”.

As published on the Tasmanian Times website 29/3/10

More interesting Nick Mooney Links

Choking Baikal With Poison and a Foul Stench

From the Moscow Times

23 March 2010
By Vladimir Ryzhkov

At a pompous meeting of the board of regents of the Russian Geographic Society held on March 15, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin reaffirmed his January decision to permit the reopening of the Baikalsk Paper and Pulp Mills. In his words, Baikal’s problems should be resolved by the state and “without a lot of noise.” But if we ignore Putin’s advice and examine this question thoroughly from all sides, it becomes clear that Putin’s decision was completely incompetent.

The main argument for reopening the plant has been the desire to save jobs in Baikalsk, a small single-industry town built around the mill. But since 1966, when the mill first opened, it has been the main polluter of Lake Baikal. The mill sends about 5 tons of harmful emissions into the atmosphere annually, polluting up to 400 square kilometers of territory around Baikalsk, and builds up millions of tons of dangerous solid wastes along the shores of the lake.

There was a time when the plant was crucial to the town’s economy, employing 2,200 of the town’s 14,000 inhabitants. But the situation has fundamentally changed now. To restart the mills, 1,450 workers have been re-employed. What’s more, the local unemployment office listed only 700 people out of work in late January, and that number had decreased throughout last year at a time when the plant was not working.

After the mill was shut down in November 2008, many environmentalists, local businesses and environmentally conscious local residents thought the plant closure would be for good. As a result, the services sector began to rapidly develop in Baikalsk and surrounding areas, including hotels, cafes, restaurants, saunas, hostels and the Sobolinaya Mountain ski resort, all of which created hundreds of new jobs.

Baikalsk is an attractive location for developing tourism. It has good transportation links to and from the ­regional center of Irkutsk, as well as a mild ­climate and plenty of snow — excellent conditions for developing a ski-based tourist industry. Irkutsk regional authorities presented a development plan that would likely attract 1 million tourists annually after two special tourism zones on Baikal were completed. That would have created 10,000 new jobs for Baikalsk and the entire region.

But Putin’s decision to restart the paper mill will ruin all of these plans. During his skiing trip to Sobolinaya Mountain a few years ago, Putin himself complained about the intolerable, pungent stench coming from the plant’s smokestacks. Who in their right mind would want to spend their vacation skiing in a region where you can hardly breathe? Local residents suffer from a higher incidence of cancer and lower life expectancy than other Russians.

But those are far from being the only problems. Reopening the plant will deliver a fatal blow to a range of major investment projects based on the unique, pristine lake that contains one-fourth of the Earth’s fresh water supply. For example, a large bottling plant for drinking water to be drawn from Baikal has already been built in the town of Kultuk, 40 kilometers from Baikalsk. That plant can bottle 1 million liters of water per day. A Canadian company has invested tens of millions of dollars into the company, which alone would have created 200 jobs. In addition, five other bottling plants with a combined cost of $120 million had been expected to create 500 jobs in the region. One of those plants is slated to be built in Baikalsk. But now these investors are surely asking themselves, “Once the pulp and paper mills resume operations and start poisoning Lake Baikal, who is going to drink bottled water that is drawn from the lake, even if we claim that our water is filtered?”

Restarting the paper mill makes no economic sense either. The plant is highly unprofitable, its equipment is obsolete, and its technologies are outdated. The mill lost almost 800 million rubles ($27.3 million) in 2008. Could this be why the plant’s owner, Oleg Deripaska, is in such a hurry to sell 49 percent of the company’s shares to the Federal Property Management Agency and is proposing that the town of Baikalsk purchase 25.2 percent? If that happens, Russian taxpayers would be forced to cover the losses of the largest polluter of Lake Baikal.

Since 1996, Lake Baikal has been on the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites. Now it could end up on the list of most-endangered World Heritage sites. More than 9,000 people have already added their names to a list on Greenpeace’s Russian web site for calling on the UNESCO secretary-general to protect Lake Baikal from the paper mill.

Putin’s decision to restart the paper mill was made in defiance of public opinion and the advice of his own ministers. On March 10, a coalition of environmental organizations founded “For Baikal!” and launched a large-scale campaign to close the paper and pulp mill forever. More than 40,000 people have already signed an appeal to President Dmitry Medvedev posted on the coalition’s web site.

On the popular Siberian web site, more than 28,000 people have cast their votes for “the main enemy of Siberia,” with Putin receiving 31.1 percent of the votes, Oleg Deripaska 16.1 percent and United Russia 13.3 percent. Irkutsk Governor Dmitry Mezentsev and United Russia publicly support the reopening of the paper mill, and both suffered a humiliating defeat in the Irkutsk mayoral elections on March 14. On the web site of the Federal Inspection Service for Natural Resource Use, 97 percent of respondents were opposed to restarting the plant.

Putin’s unilateral decision to reopen the plant is a prime example of his “manual control” management style — or as he put it so nicely, making decisions “without a lot of noise.” Hundreds of incompetent decisions are made in the Kremlin and White House in precisely this “noiseless” fashion without public discussion or criticism. These decisions inflict irreversible damage to society, the economy, the environment and the country’s global prestige.

Vladimir Ryzhkov, a State Duma deputy from 1993 to 2007, hosts a political talk show on Ekho Moskvy radio.

Hotheaded Bartlett accuses Richard Herr of being bias towards the Greens

From the Mercury
Bartlett vents his fury - DAMIEN BROWN

March 29, 2010 12:01am

PREMIER David Bartlett has launched a savage attack on political scientist Richard Herr, denying a jibe at the marital status of Greens leader Nick McKim.
Mr Bartlett said the interpretation of his comments by Dr Herr was "bizarre", "biased", "twisted" and "untrue".

In a blistering email sent to the Mercury yesterday, Mr Bartlett denied the claims that his comments made on election night were a slight on Mr McKim and his partner, fellow Greens MHA Cassy O'Connor.
Mr Bartlett, who made much of his working-class roots during the campaign, used his election-night speech to thank the wives.

"I particularly want to acknowledge [Opposition Leader] Will Hodgman and Nicky because, like Larissa and me, I think Tasmanians get two for the price of one in Will and I," he said. "They are, like us, a young family [who] face great challenges."
Some, including Dr Herr, read the comments as a dig at the unmarried Mr McKim.
"That's how it struck me on the evening," Dr Herr told the Sunday Tasmanian.
"It might have been an expression of [Mr Bartlett's] disappointment that the issue did not seem to figure much in people's thinking."
Mr Bartlett said this was not correct.

"That Richard Herr would interpret my genuine remarks about Nicky Hodgman on election night as a slight on Nick McKim and Cassy O'Connor says far more about him than it does about me," he said.

Mr Bartlett said Dr Herr's comments made him question the quality of his analysis.

Mr Bartlett, who must wait another three days before he knows if he will still be premier in the wake of the March 20 poll, said he admired Mr Hodgman and his wife and the hard work they were doing within the Tasmanian community.

"Over the last four years Larissa and I have had the pleasure of getting to know Nicky," he said.

"We genuinely believe she is a hard worker for Tasmania and we know she has a tough role in working, managing a household and supporting her husband [and] I wanted to acknowledge that on election night.

"To skew those genuine views to be a comment on Mr McKim's marital status is as bizarre, biased and twisted as it is untrue."

Mr McKim is in a relationship with Ms O'Connor, who has four children from a previous marriage and relationship

Great Article by Sue Neales from The Mercury

Scoring position is offside by SUE NEALES

March 26, 2010 12:01am

SUE NEALES: No matter what the Liberal and Labor parties think, the election is no game.

IT is rather startling - and more than a little worrying - that political experts and some wise heads within the Labor Party itself have had to this week resort to reminding Tasmania's two main political leaders that a state election is not a football match.

It may be in the best self-interest, however convoluted their reasonings, for both Labor Premier David Bartlett and Liberal Leader Will Hodgman to perpetuate this myth that the team with the highest score after Saturday's election somehow wins.

But that is not how government works, is not what constitutional conventions dictate, and is not how the right to govern is determined.

As political expert Associate Professor Richard Herr said this week, Bartlett's "promise" during the heat of the election campaign that the political party that won the most seats or the most votes should be in power for the next four years is nothing more than "policy on the run".

Herr said that, regardless of whether the Liberals end up with nine, 10 or 11 seats when vote-counting is completed next week - while Labor has 10 seats locked in - it did not give the Liberal Opposition any more or less right to form the next government.

Yet Hodgman has spent most of this week trying to "force" Bartlett and the Labor Party to repeat his "promise" to hand over the reins of power.

He too seems to mistakenly think that the spoils of electoral victory - if you could the Liberals' meagre likely 10 seats that - are linked to which party "scores" more votes than the other. With it clear that the liberals have 39 per cent of the total primary vote and Labor 37 per cent, and both are likely to end up with 10 seats on the floor of the House of Assembly, Hodgman appears to think this is enough justification for grabbing government with both hands
He is wrong, because there is no legal justification in the "top score" scenario cooked up by Bartlett to confer the right to form Tasmania's next government on the Liberals.
"Frankly, it is not the right of David Bartlett to give government away just because he wants to take Labor into opposition," Herr said. "It was both politically and constitutionally invalid for [Mr] Bartlett to say what he did, imprudent and invalid."
The issue of which party will be offered government will ultimately come down to who can prove to the Governor that they enjoy the majority of support on the floor of the House of Assembly on an ongoing, stable and continuing basis.

And until Parliament resumes, probably in late April, it is likely to be a Labor government, presumably led by Bartlett , that is recommissioned to govern by Governor Peter Underwood in the second week in April.

It will then depend on what happens when Parliament resumes and if the Liberals immediately move a vote of no-confidence in the new Labor government, presumably with the Greens' support.

Herr said it would be a "hugely irresponsible thing" for both parties, but particularly for Bartlett, to refuse a request by the Governor to willingly govern, without first considering an effective relationship with the Greens.
"All of this rhetoric and bluster before the election should now be regarded as non-core and dispensable, and that includes Mr Bartlett's 'promise' about the most seats and votes wining," Herr said. "They all need to take a cold shower and look at where do we go from here, and in my view that means talking to the Greens."

It is interesting that at the same time as these legal and constitutional developments are taking place, the Labor Party is starting to mutter and convulse behind the scenes about why it should want to willingly hand over power to a Hodgman Liberal government.

Despite Bartlett's claim on Sunday after the election that he had the full support and confidence of his party to continue as leader, rumblings are starting about if it is Bartlett himself who may be the problem.
The arguments being put forward by some of Labor's old guard for hanging on to government are fourfold.

Firstly, why give away government, with all its power and perks, when there is no constitutional reason to do so?

Secondly, isn't it the ultimate in disloyalty to the 37 per cent of Tasmanians who voted for Labor - presumably on the basis they wanted Labor to be in power so it could deliver on the multitude of big-spending election promises it made - not to attempt to be the next government? And, as a corollary to that point, isn't it also therefore incumbent on Labor to do all it can to keep the Liberals out of power, rather than assist them into office, as now appears to be the plan.

Thirdly - and this is the achilles heel of Bartlett's strategy to willingly throw the Liberals the "poisoned chalice' reward of minority government - what if the Liberals and Greens together can make such a government work, and it doesn't all end in tears, disarray and an election within 18 months? There is a risk there that Labor might not be able to get back into power - and in a majority, as its renewal and re-election strategy dictates - for a long time.
And fourthly - and this is key - there are many Labor figures who believe the Greens are a very different beast today to the party of the past headed by more extreme figures such as Bob Brown, Christine Milne and Peg Putt.

They argue that the Greens under Nick McKim are working on a long-term three-election strategy - to gradually gain more and more seats at each election until they are in striking distance of becoming Australia's first Green state government.

Under this scenario, which fits in with McKim's tactic of taking the Greens to a middle-of-the road position,
Labor argues that McKim would not pick a fight to the death over forests within the first few short months of any new government.
They reason that McKim will be prepared to compromise sufficiently in his wish to show a minority or power-sharing government can work that Labor will still be able to put enough of its policy agenda in place.

Why then, in the absence of a crash-and-burn scenario ahead, not hang on to power and deal with the Greens instead of rushing into the wilderness of opposition?
That is the Labor thinking now coming to the fore. Expect to hear much more of it in the next fortnight.

It is now up to Bartlett, say these senior Labor figures, to choose if he wants to be part of such a new-look Labor government or not

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Politics and Sport

Good first up win for St.kilda in a danger game v Sydney at home.
Kozitschke will be suspended after video review. Saints 8th after first round.
Collingwood looked awesome today against the doggies. Watch for the pies to climb the premiership betting this week. As I write Fremantle are home by around ten goals against Adelaide at Subiaco.

The Mad Monk (opposition leader Tony Abbott) finished the Australian Ironman Champs in 13hr57min which is great time for him. Great effort. I still wouldnt vote for him in a month of Sundays and I think his brand of politics would be more at home in developing democracies or places like Tasmania or the N.T.
It will be interesting to watch Abbott's mood over the next week as an IM race demands some recovery.
The Government should appear publicly supportive of Abbott's athletic exploits and let the mad monk bury his own PM aspirations which in time I am quite sure he will.

Tasmanian Election
We should know more this week about the final make-up of our Lower House.
O'Halloran should get the 5th Green seat by staying ahead of the Liberal god-botherer Brett Whiteley.
I hope so. We have enough religous influences in the parliament. It wont hurt to lose one.
Indeed I predicted long ago that should Will Hodgman be made Premier he WILL have to watch his back as the pharisees of the party will be aching to anoint their boy Michael Ferguson to the top job.
Should Will ever falter in the polls he will be quickly sin binned and Fergy will be anointed pontif of the party room (well behind Eric Abettz that is). But hey, whatever god wills Michael?
p.s I loved Richard Herr's commentary on the election this last week particularly on the power sharing and how things will play out after the results are final. Herr is the best in the business.

Sunday, March 21, 2010


Congratulations to the Greens on a great preliminary election result. Tim Morris topping the poll in Lyons and the 7.5% swing to the Greens in Bass with Kim Booth's great primary vote put paid to any notion that the pulp mill did not play a part in the election result.
Sure there was less pulp mill chatter in the election lead-up partly due to media outlets rationing the amount of print and airplay time given. Also the Mill itself has had a comparitively lower profile for a long time now due to a lack of progress on Gunns' behalf.
However the Bass Greens' vote was up massively from 2006 in a post RPDC climate.
So for squeaky clean ultra-conservative Michael Ferguson to say last night that the mill played no part in that shows that he still doesn't get it.
Whilst acknowledging that 15,000 electors put Mr Ferguson first, Mr Ferguson must remember that from here on in all Bass electors will foot the bill for his generous parliamentary wage.
The question I would like to ask Mr Ferguson is who he puts first?
God, the people of Bass or the Liberal party?
If its either of the first two then how does Mr Ferguson reconcile faith in a christian God who despises lying, cheating and injustice with support for a project that most Tasmanians believe is corrupt to the eyeballs?
I hope to ask Mr Ferguson that question at some stage, though i doubt our timid Tasmanian media would allow me to use their forums to do it. Yet there is no doubt Mr Ferguson will be given every forum to advance his conservative politics which are of course heavily informed by his christian beliefs.
We will see.
Bass and Lyons are anti-mill heartland and Tim Morris' result was as clear evidence as any observer needed that overlapping issues like the mill, PAL policy, land issues and water are big concerns with voters.
The best election analysis was by ABC's Antony Green - again.
ABC radio's coverage spearheaded by Tim Cox was highly entertaining.
Also check out the AEC website and pollbludger for further analysis.
What an interesting time we have ahead and there are many questions to be answered. Who will work with the Greens? Or will we see another collusion between the major parties to attempt parliamentary reform that marginalises the Greens?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Latest Richard Flanagan article

As published in the Mercury. Flanagan's article was offered to The Examiner. The Examiner said that they “just didn’t have the space today” to publish it.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Kim Booth Election Ad

See Kim Booth's Shreddergate video in the video bar above
or check out

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Anatomy of a smear campaign

Well, well, well. We were right. The greenies were not responsible for green squiggles on Mr Gay's front fence. As many Launcestonians argued and as was finally confirmed yesterday, the graffiti crime at Gunns boss, John Gay's home last year was perpetrated by a couple of random drunken locals.

From the ABC online yesterday (15/3/10)

A 21-year-old Launceston man has been fined for an attack on the home of Gunns chairman John Gay in October last year in which a $250 doormat was destroyed.
Matthew Philip Standaloft, who was drunk at the time of the attack, pleaded guilty to one count of trespass and one count of destroying property.
Standaloft was fined $800 and ordered to pay compensation for the doormat.

Oh dear Fiona Reynolds (Examiner Editor). Time for an apology me thinks.

Oh and lets not forget ex-Premier Paul Lennon. He owes an apology for this ridiculous article....

This blogger has written to the Examiner editor for an explanation of the predictable outcome of this criminal investigation. As yet no response. I won't hold my breath. I guess the Examiner figures that might is right.

For a review of the Examiner's coverage of this issue and why pulp mill opponents were so upset, see the article below from October last year (19.10.09) and these links.

Why the newspaper is copping so much flak -Rick Pilkington 19.10.09

Though I fear I am wasting my time, I will try and explain to the Examiner’s editor, one more time, why the newspaper is copping so much flak for its coverage of the alleged vandalism at Mr Gay’s home.

Let’s take one example.
Last Sunday. The first story the Examiner ran on this issue.
Nothing less than a front page story on an relatively minor act of (alleged) vandalism to the house of an East Launceston resident who just happened to be the Gunns LTD CEO.
The first thing the Examiner did wrong was to include this comment in the article…
“Family sources said that Mr Gay and his wife were “extremely nervous about a radical anti-pulp mill element in the community”.
The second. This comment….
“The attacks coincide with a fiery community cabinet meeting at Beaconsfield last Sunday where 21 anti- pulp mill protesters were arrested.
Now why was it wrong to include these comments at this stage.

The police investigation had just got underway and there was absolutely zero evidence linking the crime to pulp mill groups.
Bear with me.
As a mountaineer replied when he was asked why he wanted to risk his life climbing mountains “If you have to ask me that question in the first place it is unlikely that you are going to understand anyway – even if I do explain”
And I fear the same about the Examiner editor’s ability to understand what the Examiner have done wrong here. Nevertheless. Here goes.
Its called guilt by association. It beggars belief that you do not understand this.
But I guess the Examiner newspaper has a licence to sensationalise a little.
A lot maybe?
At the expense of an easy target like TAP…right?
That’s what good journalism; tabloid style is all about, as opposed to opinion. Picking on easy targets.
Last week the Examiner sensationalised an otherwise common and comparatively minor street crime (alleged vandalism at the home of Gunns CEO John Gay) by giving it vastly overwrought coverage including - two front pages, an editorial, a two page spread on Tuesday, a bizarre and inflammatory column by Paul Lennon, and an online opinion poll.
The Examiner coverage clearly associated the crime committed with anti-mill groups TAP and Pulp the Mill by consistently, over a 3-day period framing the issue in all coverage as one

concerning anti-mill campaigners and Mr Gay, Rather than one between Mr Gay and some local hooligans as the subsequent police investigation has revealed.

I repeat. Guilt by association.

The Examiner’s more senior and experienced staff would be well are aware of the power and influence that newspapers have to influence the way in which people think about issues…right.

As a media academic once said, “The media can’t tell you what to think but they sure can tell you what to think about”
Indeed, by dragging anti-mill groups like TAP into its coverage of a crime which they clearly had nothing to do with the Examiner told readers “what to think about the issue”.
For instance. I visited a friend of mine last Sunday night after the first front page story was published by the Ex.
We discussed the issue and my wife and I defended anti-mill protesters urging our friend to wait for the outcome of the police investigation.
She had read the Examiner’s coverage. Her response: “Of course it was pulp mill opponents who else would it be”.

We discussed it further and my wife and I canvassed other possibilities.
My friend’s view was moderated and her mind became open to the possibility of other culprits.
Do I have to spell it out for the Examiner?

You poisoned the minds of readers and poisoned the reputation of innocent people.

The Examiner ran an online opinion poll on Monday asking readers “who they thought was responsible for vandalism”. For goodness sake!
Why would the Examiner do that? What was the bloody point?

By the Examiner establishing a clear link between the crime and TAP, Pulp the Mill and other mill opponents in the community, it condemned them in the minds of readers through guilt by association.
The Examiner’s coverage of the issue lasted 4 days.
This included the allocation of the paper’s major headline - front page spreads on Sunday Oct 11 and
Monday Oct 12

And yes, Monday’s Examiner also led readers on page 2 to participate in an online opinion poll asking readers “who they thought was responsible for vandalism”.

Can we imagine what the result of that poll might have been considering the Examiner coverage of the issue to that point?
It must be remembered that a police investigation into the incident had been commenced at this stage but was not completed.
Tuesday’s Oct 13 Examiner devoted another full 2 page spread to the issue which including a simply horrible piece by Paul Lennon in which he angrily declared that anti-pulp mill groups were directly responsible for the vandalism at John Gay’s house.
It was simply irresponsible and hotheaded of Lennon to write it and worse for the Examiner to publish it.

On Monday Oct 12 the Examiner’s Editor editorialised on the issue writing one of the most inappropriate, impetuous, and damaging editorials I have ever read in the Examiner.

The editorial was a shocker - full of inference, hyperbole and emotive language like terrorist, bomb, cowardice, knuckle-brained idiots, outrageous, disgraceful and reprehensible.

The editorial was definitive and consistent with the paper’s coverage of the issue by framing the alleged crime at Gays house as a part of “campaign of intimidation”.
It even argued the state’s reputation was on the line. Come of it.

May I politely suggest to the Examiner’s editor that interstate and overseas visitors have probably never heard of Mr Gay, or don’t care for him that much or East Launceston’s problem with street hooligans.
The editorial all but literally implied that anti-mill groups were responsible either directly or indirectly for the campaign of intimidation

It argued….

1. That the crime “was part of a campaign of intimidation” – (implicating pulp mill opponents -Who else would want to intimidate Mr Gay)

2. “The planting of a smoke bomb borders on an act of terrorism” –

3. “The anti-mill campaigners also need these fools caught. They have rightly condemned the weekend act of cowardice. But when searching for culprits many pulp mill supporters will look their way….... yet their reputations are (Pulp the Mill and TAP) in danger of being tarnished by the attacks on the Gay family”
The obvious response to the last of the Examiner editor’s statements is that perhaps only a handful of rabid greenie haters would still apportion blame to anti-mill groups had the Examiner not sensationalised the story by giving it two front pages, an editorial, a two page spread on Tuesday, a inflammatory column by Paul Lennon, and an online opinion poll and dragged anti-mill groups like TAP into the fray when the issue was none of their business.
As Editor of the Examiner newspaper, the buck stops with Fiona Reynolds.
The Examiner’s editor you can make this about herself, anonymous emails, the TT and try and distract from the real issue which is that the Examiner “done bad”.
The Examiner done real bad.
The Examiner got it wrong. The editor got it wrong.
Its not a hard case to prosecute even for a dumbed down Launceston amateur like me.
Yes Ms Reynolds you should in fact offer the groups TAP and Pulp the Mill an unreserved apology, and so should Paul Lennon.

Why Labor will lose the 2010 election

I notice that election analyst Kevin Bonham on the Tasmanian Times, has finally jumped on the bandwagon.

But it was yours truly who in August last year put his stones on the line to call the demolition of the Labor party on Saturday. See the article below.

Why Labor will lose the 2010 election - RICK PILKINGTON, 10.08.09

There are some similarities between the former Howard Government and the current Tasmanian Government. Both had Scott McLean’s support, suffered from being around too long and established reputations for being deceitful.
However, that’s where the similarities end. The Howard Government was seldom accused of being incompetent.
Howard’s Liberals suffered from …well….. John Howard’s unwillingness to bugger off as well as its very unpopular IR reforms.

The problems of the Bartlett Government are greater and more complex.
Its reputation for being scandal prone has well and truly stuck. The perception that the Bartlett government is not managing the state’s affairs because of a diminished and scandal-wracked front bench will not be ignored by voters.

Tasmanians don’t want to be governed by a skeleton crew.
The unforgotten Lennon years, Pulp-mill gate (the gate that keeps on keeping on), infrastructure failures, regional health service cuts, the great Ralphs Bay swindle, massive losses on taxpayer funded investments like Spirit III and poor community relations will all come back to haunt Labor.

The Tasmanian Government lost the plot and the 2010 election a long time ago.
Anti-government sentiment has been lurking below the surface for some time and is surely set to explode when Tasmanians go to the ballot box in March 2010.

The Premier’s senior adviser Matthew Rogers’ bewildering attack on writer Bob Burton ( Why there was no doorstop ), reminds us why the government’s neck is on the chopping block.
Mr Rogers’ spray is characteristic of the Labor government’s mode of dealing with alternative advice and criticism. Hot-headed and controlling. Reactionary rather than responsive.
Why on earth the Premier’s senior political adviser would launch an attack on a left wing writer on Tassie’s top left wing blog is beyond me.
What did he hope to gain?
Perhaps Matt missed the outcome of the government’s public assassination of Terry Martin?
In 2007 Paul Lennon and Doug Parkinson’s appalling attacks on Martin engendered widespread hostility in the community. These attacks helped to entrench the Lennon Government’s national reputation as a bully and put the former Premier on course to becoming the most unpopular politician in the state.

Terry Martin arguably became the most admired. The Government’s campaign of bullying and harassment gave Terry Martin cult hero status around Tasmania.

Indeed, nobody could claim that Terry Martin is an extrovert or a popularist who set out to create headlines. Until the Government savaged Martin over his unwillingness to rubber stamp the governments fast track legislation Martin had always maintain a relatively low profile outside Hobart.
Standing ovations for politicians are rare.

I’ll never forget April 2008 standing in a hall packed with 700 people on a cold Launceston night seeing Terry Martin receive a rousing standing ovation ( The Standing Ovation ).
I haven’t seen too many politicians who are genuinely admired across the political spectrum in the way Martin is.

Martin’s courageous stance on the pulp mill ( I will therefore be voting against the Bill ) still resonates with ordinary Tasmanians. Today whenever Mr Martin travels around Tasmania he continues to receive plaudits for his courage and independence.
The Government’s attack on Terry Martin was an unnecessary war that backfired badly.
Governments simply cannot sustain wars on so many fronts and survive.

Towns, councils, nurses, doctors, pensioners, writers, business, scientists, environmentalists, the media, the upper house, iconic and beloved Tasmanians, government departments, senior bureaucrats, statutory officials, statutory bodies, the RPDC, the DPP, the TCCI, Julian Green, Warwick Raverty, staffers, Nigel Burch, Alison Ritchie, Paula Wriedt, Ken Wriedt, Honey Bacon… and the list goes on and on.
Is there anyone this government hasn’t upset?

Too often the Tasmanian community has been left behind on planning for major projects, major reforms, and major public infrastructure. Couple this with the Bartlett Government’s unwillingness to provide advocacy on key issues, and the result is a large amount of disenfranchised and resentful voters. The Government would of course argue that many of its decisions demonstrate leadership qualities and the ability to make the ‘tough’ decisions.

However, in March 2010 when Tasmanians cast their votes, it is likely they will do so with a clear determination to tell the government where they can shove their tough decisions.
Like other folk through the ages and around the globe - Tasmanians simply don’t like taxation without representation.

For Will Hodgman the 2010 election will be a case of nice guys finish first, though Will should be warned not get puffed up when the 2010 election inevitably goes his way. The vote will be against the government, not for the Will’s Liberal Party
As for David Bartlett. He may be coming down with a touch of Keatingitis.

Whilst Tasmanians were optimistic at the change the capable and intelligent young Premier would deliver, Bartlett’s rise to the top job has simply come too late. Optimism has been overtaken by the realisation that the young Bartlett is not bigger than the party and in the end he was just a new head on an old body.
Like Keating, Bartlett has never lacked in self –confidence, however the danger for Mr Bartlett is that he may already be seen by voters as too confident, at times hot-headed and defensive with opposition parties and the media.

The Labor Government has simply run out of excuses and now it is running out of time.

What is almost certain is the awful unravelling of the PLP which will occur after the 2010 election. The disintegration of the former Bartlett Government will make the demise of the Howard Government look like a tea party. This government will disintegrate as it is faced with combined effect of retirements, resignations and the reality of a long stint in the political wilderness.

The History books will reflect the voters view. Where will that leave the Labor Government’s legacy?

I wrote the State Government a recipe for good government16 months ago just before the former Premier resigned.

1. Remove Paul Lennon as Premier.

2. Remove Green and Kons.

3. Stop the planned pulp mill for the Tamar Valley.

4. Institute an anti-corruption body and start cleaning up Tasmania before the next election.

5. Restore the parliament to an appropriate size.

The Bartlett Government has wasted what is likely to be its last opportunity to be reconciled to voters and in the process make history in the face of an unimpressive Liberal opposition.
Labor’s priorities are clearly illustrated in its contrasting approaches to an ethics body and creating legislation for a private logging company.
The Lennon Labor Government was preparing the fast track legislation before Gunns actually withdrew from the RPDC. One day after Gunns withdrew from the RPDC the government recalled parliament and promised to introduce new legislation.
Then Presto! One Week later on March 22 the new legislation was introduced to the parliament.
Cynics have criticised that legislation as being of poor quality due to its haste. However the Tasmanian Government has stood by the PMAA legislation telling the Tasmanian people they will have to wear it.
This example shows us that when the Tasmanian Government is enthusiastic about a cause, it is able to move very quickly.
So why has the creation of legislation for an ethics commission before the next election presented such a problem for the Tasmanian government?

The lack of will? The fact that this Government is paralysed by its fear of influential business, union and factional interests?

Whatever the reason, one thing is certain. In March 2010 The Bartlett Labor Government is a goner.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

You Tube song

Enjoy the great song in the video bar by Bright Eyes. It's called 'The first day of my life". Great film clip and beautiful song.

Open air water forum

Attended the 1pm Open air water forum in Civic square in Launceston.
I estimate 250 people were in attendance.
Pete Cundall, Kim Booth (greens bass), Jeremy Ball (greens LCC), Margie Dockray and Mike Scott (Lilydale community) , Vica Bayley (wildo's) and Todd Walsh (Freshwater Crayfish expert) all spoke.
Jeremy Balls speech was particularly compelling. One of the best I have heard Jezza deliver.
Ball has a big future ahead in state politics.
The media attended and hopefully we will see some coverage on the box tonight.

Tomorrow night I will attend the 'Examiners" leaders debate in Launceston.
It will be very interesting to see how the Examiner conduct this event and who attends.
The debate itself will make little difference to the election outcome 5 days later, but it will provide senior Examiner staff a good opportunity to rub shoulders with politicians and perhaps further their own future political aspirations. What the public will get from the event?? Who knows. Probably very little.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

A Tactical Error

Yesterday (12 March 2010) there was an interesting, if not predictable, development a week out from the Tasmanian election. Former Labor and Liberal Premiers Gray, Field, Rundle and Lennon made a combined public statement urging Tasmanians to vote for Labor or Liberal, thus avoiding a Green power sharing government.

Rolling out former politicians during an election is not a mistake in itself, however if parties are going to put forward former parliamentarians as advocates they need to be very credible.

Allowing Robin Gray and Paul Lennon to go public and express ‘concern’ about the effects of a hung parliament on ‘democracy’ was a tactical error.

Most Tasmanians are aware that Gray, a former Liberal Premier is a longstanding board member of a Gunns Ltd. Gunns retains the uncritical and unwavering support of both Liberal and Labor parties and has donated money to both parties over the years. Gunns have benefited greatly from Labor and Liberal majority governments.

Gunns is of course the logging company that landed itself at the centre of the recent Tamar Valley pulp mill controversy. A controversy that for many Tasmanians has raised serious questions about the appropriateness of Gunns’ relationship with the state government and the negative effects of that relationship on Tasmania’s democracy.

Paul Lennon as the Premier of Tasmania was the overseer and the key political protagonist in the creation of the pulp mill controversy.

Lennon resigned in May 2008 with an approval rating of 17 per cent.

The fall of Paul Lennon could be linked to a number of scandals, but most Tasmanians would concede that it was his reckless personal obsession with the Gunn’s pulp mill that killed his political career.

Indeed, Paul Lennon’s premiership negatively impacted on the Tasmanian public’s faith in its democracy to the point that in his first media conference as new Premier, Labor colleague David Bartlett declared ....."I accept that recent events in the Tasmanian political scene have led to a degradation of trust in our democracy and anything we can do to reconnect with the Tasmanian people and continue to build their trust will be absolutely vital."

Post Paul Lennon, Premier Bartlett then set about a 10 point plan to ‘restore Tasmanian’s faith in democracy’ - a plan that included a new anti-corruption watchdog.

Of former Premier Robin Gray Tasmanian author Richard Flanagan wrote in his award-winning article ‘Out of Control -The tragedy of Tasmania’s forests’

....... “Though Gunns was founded in Tasmania in 1875, it was not until 1989, when it became part of the written history of corruption in Tasmania, that many Australians first came to hear of the company, then still one of several Tasmanian timber firms. In that year the then chairman of Gunns, Eddie Rouse, became concerned that the election of a Labor-Green Tasmanian government with a one-seat majority might affect his logging profits. Rouse attempted to bribe a Labor member, Jim Cox, to cross the floor, thereby bringing down the government and clearing the way for the pro-logging former premier Robin Gray and the Liberal Party to resume power. Cox went to the police and the plot was exposed; a royal commission and Rouse's fall from grace and imprisonment ensued. But Gunns continued. Today it is a corporation worth more than a billion dollars, the largest company in Tasmania, with an effective monopoly of the island's hardwood logging, and a darling of the Australian stock market.

Yet Gunns remains haunted by the Rouse scandal. The company's board continues to have among its directors former associates of the late Eddie Rouse. The 1991 royal commission found that director David McQuestin, whose friendship with Rouse it characterised as "obsequious", was not "unlawfully involved as a principal offender" with the bribery attempt, although his "compliance with Rouse's direction in the matter was ‘highly improper'" - a "glaring breach of the requisite standards of commercial morality". Robin Gray is also now a director of Gunns; the royal commission found that he "knew of and was involved with Rouse in Rouse's attempt to bribe Cox", and that while his conduct was not unlawful, it was "improper, and grossly so". John Gay, Gunns' managing director in 1989 and now its managing director and executive chairman, was cleared by the royal commission of any involvement with the bribery attempt”.


Rolling out Rundle and Field may be o.k, but putting forward Lennon and Gray as advocates for democracy and stable government was surely unwise and this tactical error will perhaps only confirm in voters minds the disconnect and lack of understanding that they believe exists between themselves and the two big political parties.

It is also interesting to note that in the Tasmanian print media’s reporting of the four leaders story, neither the Mercury nor the Examiner was prepared to highlight Robin Gray’s role as a Gunn’s board member.

Flogging logging in the age of Climate Change

December 2009

As the world’s leaders dithered in Copenhagen last week over the future of the planet, in Australia, Gunns, the CFMEU & other flat-earthers brainstormed ways to hoodwink the world into thinking that converting Tasmania forests into a sterile assembly line for photocopy paper is positive climate change action.

For as long as I can remember now the Tasmanian logging industry - a mob that is quite similar to the Japanese Whaling industry, has been trying to convince the world that slaughtering forests is good for the planet, a highly scientific business and our goddamn right!

That tree farms are forests, that animals like poison, that napalming forests is carbon neutral and pigs really fly.

However in the wake of Copenhagen punters and lovers of nature should take heart as the prospect of Australia’s most disagreeable union and Gunns - the logging company which shareholder activist Steve Mayne described as Australia’s most “ethically challenged”, raping and pillaging its way through Tasmania’s iconic forests en-route to a big nasty Pulp Mill in the Tamar Valley remains as on the nose as ever with Australians.
With the recent failure of the Copenhagen boffins to devise a planetary rescue plan, Australians will be in no mood to sit back and allow the forest fuckers in Australia’s most redneck union to build a taxpayer funded tree and water digester in prime wine country.
If lopping down more of Tasmania’s ancient forests, killing native flora, fauna and Tassie’s clean green brand is Australia’s response to Copenhagen, then the Rudd government will in the eyes of the world look about as committed to climate change action as Tiger Woods is to his missus.
Make no mistake; the eyes of the world will be on the Tamar Valley in Tasmania if Gunns starts building. It will be the environmental shit fight to end all shit fights.
And so, as another Gunns sawmill bites the dust, Tasmania’s numero uno corporate pariah continues to backslide away from any notion of low-impact, climate friendly, au natural timber production back to the world’s basest form of forestry.
Wood chipping and pulping.
Indeed, nowadays it is a complete misnomer to call Gunns a timber company.
Gunns is a big grumpy woodchipper. Woodchipping is, more than ever before, Gunns’ core business.
Clearfelling native forests and supplanting them with exotic tree species for woodchip, spraying poisons, pissing off the locals, killing native wildlife and buggering local waterways is de rigueur for logging companies the (third) world over.

In this respect, Gunns is no different.

Today despite the slick, misleading TV ads and dissembling PR, Tasmania’s woodchip industry is no more climate friendly than Japan is whale friendly.

Yet how ironic that as Gunns closes more sawmills and sacks more workers to position its bottom line for pulp mill finance – a project that had promised to feed poor starving Tasmanian families till the end of time, Gunns has probably now sacked more Tasmanian workers than the proposed mill will ever employ.
Who’d of thunk it?
If… and it is a big if, the pulp mill ever gets cranking the jobs slashed by Gunns to make the mill loan affordable will more than likely outweigh the few jobs Tasmanians may get from the mill.
So much for Paul Lennon’s promised 2000 permanent long-term Tasmanian jobs at the Gunns Pulp Mill.
Gee whizzers, how far fetched do Lennon’s promises sound now?

Now, one would reasonably expect that in the wake of these latest industry job losses that the CFMEU, Timber Communities Australia and FIAT might at the very least be seen going into bat for their members.

Penny Wrong.
Once again the silence is deafening.

Where is everyone’s favourite yokel Barry ‘chippers’ Chipman?
Where is the ‘smoking man’ Terry Edwards?
And where is Labor’s biggest and boofiest neophyte - Scott McLean?
The chronic failure of the goateed mates of Tasmania’s woodchip dependent communities to be seen or heard in times of Gunns job cuts is quite mind-boggling.
Too scared to bite the corporate hand that feeds them and too busy sucking from the mangled, cracked teat of their corporate master to fight for local jobs?
Only the Tasmanian head of Australia’s most disagreeable (because I’m not allowed to use the C word!) union, Scott McLean, went public over the latest round of Gunns job cuts and he unfortunately appeared about as angry as a puppy rolling over for a belly scratch.

What ever happened to big scary-assed union bosses?
The public statements of Mr Mclean, the preselected Labor candidate for the anti-mill electorate of Bass, amounted to nothing more than the regurgitation of the loose assurances given directly to him by Gunns.
Indeed, Mr Mclean sounded more like a corporate spokesperson for Gunns meekly telling the press …
“The job losses are part of a company restructure”
“Gunns had pledged to take on displaced staff at any of its operations around Australia”.
Since when did union bosses talk like that?
Probably around the same time they got into bed with conservative political parties and monopoly logging companies.

The passivity of Tasmanian logging unionists towards their bosses and their penchant for flip-flopping between left and right wing political parties (depends on which party is prepared to rort taxpayers the most) is not a uniquely Tasmanian phenomenon; however it does reflect how closely tied the fortunes of timber industry workers in Tasmania are to the fortunes of Gunns - and how closely Gunns fortunes are tied to those of Tasmania’s two major political parties.

Sounds a bit like institutional corruption really?

Indeed, just as you won’t hear any of Will or Barty’s parties saying nasty things about Gunns, neither will you see the CFMEU, TCA, FIAT or any forestry body in Tasmania taking to the streets and sticking it up Gunns.

No sirreeee.

You won’t see working families being represented in the way the AMWU did for sacked McCain’s workers in Smithton nor will you see politicians or boofy logging union bosses rallying to the sides of bankrupt logging contractors crying “boycott Gunns” and “a fair price for loggers contractors”.
What we do when we are in the CFMEU is blame the greenies and then run off begging to the Feds.
Rent seeking.
We appeal to the crooked political culture and narrow self-interest that has kept the Gunns proposed mill alive to this point.
Indeed, McLean and national secretary John Sutton have called for Federal Industries minister Kim Carr to tap Peter Garrett on the shoulder and get him to fast track the Federal Government’s Environmental process.
In the interests of nation building I, Kim Carr hereby command you Peter Garrett to wind up your environmental assessment and tick the boxes ol’cock.
Dress it up any way you like my friends but what the CFMEU are calling for is the continuation of the favouritism and the sheer abuse of power, which has thus far enabled Australia’s most unpopular and controversial project.
There may be no money in brown paper bags changing hands but the sort of intervention the CFMEU is asking for is tantamount to corruption.
When you are administering taxpayer dollars you can usually get away with rorting the taxpayer a bit here and there; however selling punters a nugget of gold that is in fact just a turd sprayed with gold paint is called fraud.
That is what the CFMEU are asking the Federal Government to do in redefining the Gunns Pulp Mill as “critically-important nation-building infrastructure”
Clearly Mr McLean hasn’t learnt a thing from the demise of his pulp buddy Mr 17% Paul Lennon.
Nor has Mr McLean give any credence to the notion that CFMEU members or Bass voters may have read the news lately?
Indeed, only a week or so back news broke that according to the construction industry union’s Tony Benson there is no workers available in Tasmania to build the pulp mill.
Benson declared that Gunns would struggle to find a workforce if it starts building the $2.5 billion mill within the next two years.
“I can see we’re going to have to bring labour into the state in order to meet the labour requirements on that.” Mr Benson said
Tell us something we don’t know Tone.
Mr McLean’s push for the construction of this mill is in fact completely unrelated to working class families, the public interest or nation building.
It is about maintaining Gunns monopoly and therefore entrenching corporate dependence in the Tasmanian logging industry and maintaining the ‘circle of life’ for the Labor mates.
Oh Gunns will continue to slash the jobs of CFMEU members and Scott McLean will probably jump ship from the union and move into an office at Lindsay St.
Oh come on, I hear you say. That’s so cynical.
Is it?
Scott Mclean and other CFMEU leaders have form when it comes to the flip-flop.
The CFMEU’s W.A branch has recently spat the dummy with the Labor Party.
As Christine Milne argued….
“Michael O’Connor (CFMEU national forestry division), in particular, appears to be playing a dangerous double game, being close to both Labor and Liberals, and McLean already threatened to disaffiliate his union from the Labor Party during the last Tasmanian election if it did not ensure that the forestry industry got what it wanted”.
Indeed, based on his John Howard man-crush of a few years back Scotty Mclean could just as easily be seeking preselection for the Liberal Party at the next election.
One cannot help but entertain such mutinous possibilities when we see the boss of Australia’s toughest and blokiest union acting as a mouthpiece for a company that is laying his members off.
I hear the Japanese Whaling association is looking for advisers.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Bartlett and Gunns

30 Nov 2009

Another Labor Premier Dies By The Gunn

By Rick Pilkington

This year Tasmanians watched in horror as David Bartlett performed one of the most spectacular political backflips since John Howard's GST, writes Rick Pilkington

Seven months out from the next Tasmanian election, a poll of voter intentions shows the Bartlett Labor Government is losing its grip on power.

The quarterly survey by pollster EMRS shows government support down two points to 33 per cent, Liberals up 3 to 44 per cent, and the Greens steady on 21 per cent. As preferred Premier, Liberal leader Will Hodgman heads Premier David Bartlett 40 per cent to 28 per cent.

The news could not be worse for Bartlett, who promised so much when he inherited the top job from the controversial former premier Paul Lennon.

Before he resigned in May 2008, the pro-logging premier Lennon self-destructed in one of the most scandal ridden periods in the state’s history. The fall of Paul Lennon could be linked to a number of issues, but most Tasmanians would concede that it was Lennon’s personal obsession with the Gunns pulp mill that killed his political career.

As a consequence of that scandal and a lack of community support, Gunns’ own bank, ANZ, refused to finance the pulp mill project. Today Gunns is yet to secure project finance because of the serious PR problem that follows the pulp mill in the national and international finance world. Domestically the mill project has no social licence and serious doubt remains over whether it will ever be built.

After Lennon resigned, with an approval rating of 17 per cent, the new Premier David Bartlett immediately set about winning over a jaded public by distancing himself from the former premier — and from Gunns.

At his first media conference as Premier, Bartlett declared "I accept that recent events in the Tasmanian political scene have led to a degradation of trust in our democracy and anything we can do to reconnect with the Tasmanian people and continue to build their trust will be absolutely vital."

Bartlett had seen the risks of tying one’s political fortunes too closely to Gunns and seemed determined not to sacrifice himself for Tasmania’s most powerful company.

"I believe that this Parliament and, therefore the Government have done pretty much all we can [for Gunns pulp mill] and some would say too much … we have drawn a line in the sand regarding any future government involvement in the pulp mill project."

Through a series of rosy public statements, including twice personally telling Tamar Valley residents he didn’t think the project "would get finance or go ahead," Bartlett led Tasmanians to believe that his Government would resolve the pulp mill debate and give Tasmanians closure on the mill issue by Christmas 2008.

To the relief of the Tasmanian people, the new Premier set a time frame for the pulp mill "to live or die by" declaring that "from 30 November 2008, government permits and involvement in the project would end unless Gunns had achieved real finance and real progress on construction".

In declaring "the Tasmanian people have a right to say enough is enough" and finally recognising the rights of other stakeholders, the new Premier appeared dangerously out of step with Tasmania’s powerfully connected silvertails.

In 2009, however, Tasmanians have watched in horror as Premier Bartlett has performed one of the most spectacular political backflips since John Howard’s GST.

David Bartlett did not deliver on his promise that by 30 November 2008 his Government would withdraw permits and involvement in the project unless Gunns had settled questions of finance. A year on, with Gunns yet to meet Bartlett’s conditions, the "line in the sand" has been well and truly washed away.
To make matters worse, after claiming it had been informed of a potential legal problem with expiring State Pulp Mill permits, the Bartlett Government quickly moved to draft the ‘Pulp Mill Clarification Bill’ — yes, another special law for Gunns which extended the pulp mill permit until late 2011.
When questioned about this, Energy and Resources Minister David Llewellyn said "The pulp mill is the biggest thing for Tasmania; it is essential for the Tasmanian economy."

Yet Llewellyn’s statement directly contradicted state Treasurer Michael Aird who recently talked down the planned pulp mill’s importance to Tasmania’s economy, saying that if the pulp mill did not go ahead, it "would have only a marginal impact on the government’s finances".

Despite the best efforts of Bartlett’s bloated and expensive army of spin doctors, Tasmanians have woken up to the double game underway.

In September this year it was revealed that the Premier had secretly re-focused his Government as willing lobbyists for the pulp mill via a secret letter written to the Gunns boss, John Gay, in May 2008.

Soon after, Gunns also blew the whistle on the Tasmanian treasurer Michael Aird when the company put out a media release "thanking" Aird for "agreeing to lobby a prospective pulp mill partner" during a $50,000 taxpayer-funded trip to Europe. Aird had only recently vowed that "the State Government would not interfere on behalf of Gunns".
In a startling turnaround, the Treasurer was forced to admit to a stunned Tasmanian public that he was travelling to Europe to help Gunns secure project finance. Even after intense scrutiny from political opponents and media, Aird withheld the details of his taxpayer-funded trip.

It later came to light that Aird and John Gay travelled together in Scandinavia, visiting various European pulp mills and attending several meetings to attempt to finalise finance for the mill project.
Tasmanians are almost — but not quite — desensitised to being conned by their political leaders over the Gunns pulp mill.

Respected Tasmanian political scientist Richard Herr, who is normally moderate in his public utterances, has been scathing about the Tasmanian Government’s treatment of the public on the mill issue, saying: "Parliament took the stance ‘if we shove the legislation through quickly no-one will notice’ … but the people did notice and will not forget."

Reconnecting with Tasmanians has been a consistent theme in the Bartlett rhetoric during his short tenure but now voters are asking why they should trust the operation and regulation of the world’s fourth largest pulp mill to a man who has so consistently failed to deliver on his word?

Bartlett promised to heal community divisions when he took on the job of premier but his backflip on Gunns has served rather to exacerbate what he referred to as "the degradation of trust in democracy".

As a consequence, the Bartlett-led ALP Government faces an almost impossible task: to win back the trust of the Tasmanian people — again — before the 2010 election.

When asked about the recent EMRS opinion poll disaster Bartlett conceded he may have blown his big chance to restore trust in the Government: "I understand that there is anger in the community … we have not demonstrated to them that we care and we have not demonstrated to the Tasmanian community that we are listening, and we need to do more of both."

Bartlett may well be right. According to Tasmanian psephologist Kevin Bonham, "Labor can forget about climbing the mountain … their challenge now is to avoid falling off the cliff … Labor now has no realistic chance of retaining its majority (with the usual proviso that extraordinary events sometimes change things). The question is whether it can contain the swing to the loss of a few seats, or whether things will just keep getting worse."

Tasmanian voters were optimistic about a seemingly capable and intelligent young Premier but this optimism has been overtaken by the realisation that Bartlett was never going to be bigger than the party. In the end he was just a new head on an old body.

While the Premier will be praying for a voter backflip before Tasmanians go to the polls, re-election seems increasingly unlikely. An 11 per cent deficit for a government on a downward trajectory will take a miracle to turn around.

The Bartlett Government has run out of excuses. And now it is running out of time


In the coming week I will post one of my articles each day. Many of these were written over the last year and pertained to the upcoming election. Lets see if any of my predictions come true.

Here we go.

Welcome to my blog cyber-friends.
Hopefully this blog will accomodate those with an interest in the Tasmanian public sphere who are not satisfied by traditional Tasmanian media.