20 March, 2014

Don't give up on Australia's endangered species

David Lindenmayer
The Guardian, 20 March 2014

Endangered: the leadbeater's possum. Photograph: Healesville Sanctuary

Recently, there has been a lot of discussion in the scientific community about whether we should allow some species to go extinct. The argument put forward is that the number of endangered species is so great, it isn’t worth the resources to attempt to save them all. But in a wealthy country like Australia – which has some of the best ecologists, conservation biologists and conservation scientists in the world – it is critical that we do far better in managing the nation’s natural resources. A loss of biodiversity is an indicator of poor environmental management. Suggesting that we should let yet more species go extinct on this continent is too defeatist and does not inform the public about what is needed to solve the country’s biodiversity issues.

The approach to allowing species extinction has been around for some time. It’s called “ecological triage”, whereby limited resources for conservation funding are targeted at the subset of species for which management success is most likely. The approach stems from the same process used in medicine to set priorities for allocating efforts to treat patients. The ecological triage approach is thought by some to be essential because it is believed that many resources are directed to species on the brink of extinction that are doomed in the long run, and too few are targeted at declining flora and fauna that are still recoverable.

As a counter to these ideas of ecological triage, some conservation biologists believe that parallels between emergency medicine and conservation biology are inappropriate. For example, they consider that it makes extinction acceptable and allow decision-makers to get away with allocating insufficient resources to address environmental problems. More than a decade ago, scientists Cameron and Soderquist argued in Nature that nations such as Australia should reject the concept of ecological triage because it is has the knowledge, time and ability to save threatened and endangered species.

My own opinion is that rather than arguing about which species to save and which ones to let go extinct, five key things need to be done.

1. We need to make some general calculations about how much money is needed to adequately conserve Australia’s biodiversity.

2. We must develop the funding framework to support effective conservation and land management efforts. Piecemeal, short-term and underfunded attempts characterise the environmental management arena in Australia – usually with limited success. Large-scale and long-term initiatives like an environmental levy (like the Medicare levy) or a GST on food with the funds directed in land management are possible options. Levies can work and if managed appropriately (and transparently) can raise sufficient funds to solve major problems and spread the burden across all of society to generate a public good outcome.

3. We must identify the management actions and expenditure of resources that will provide the maximum benefit.

4. We need to do the proper management interventions to tackle the processes threatening biodiversity in particular ecosystems – be it limiting industrial clearfelling in the wet forests of Victoria to conserving populations of the endangered leadbeater’s possum, continuing strategic fox-baiting to reduce feral predators and maintaining populations of animals like the eastern bristlebird, or protecting woodland remnants and re-vegetating patches of woodland on farmland to help recover temperate woodland birds.

5. We must do the monitoring so that we can tell what management is working (and then keep it going), and what is not, so that it can be changed. This last step is critical as it essential to show investors – the Australian public – what was the environmental return on the investment.

Debates about letting species go extinct are important to stimulate discussion among the public, policymakers and politicians about the long-term trajectory of conservation. This nation must properly identify the expenditure of resources, management actions and monitoring that will conserve its natural heritage.

17 March, 2014

PM Tony Abbott hopes for 'renaissance of forestry' following Liberal election victory in Tasmania

ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation), 17 March 2014

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has reaffirmed his commitment to seek to remove 74,000 hectares of Tasmanian forest from the World Heritage List as part of a "renaissance of forestry" in the state.

The newly-elected Liberal Government in Tasmania, led by Premier-elect Will Hodgman, has promised to rip up the state's Forestry Agreement as well as re-open listed forests to logging.

Under the Tasmanian peace deal, 170,000 hectares of forest was added to the World Heritage area.

Mr Abbott says the Federal Government is committed to growing the forestry industry in the state.

"We want to see a renaissance of forestry in Tasmania," he said.

"Will Hodgman wants to see a renaissance of forestry in Tasmania and we'll work very constructively with the new state government to try to make that happen."

The Prime Minister declared earlier this month that too many of Australia's forests are "locked up".

He has vowed to set up a new advisory council to support the timber industry.

"We have quite enough national parks. We have quite enough locked up forests already. In fact, in an important respect, we have too much locked up forest," Mr Abbott told a timber industry dinner in Canberra earlier this month.

The Federal Government argues part of the land locked up in Tasmania's World Heritage area has already been partially logged or degraded and it should be opened up to the forestry industry.

Liberals post best-ever Tas results

Tasmania's Liberals posted their best-ever election result on Saturday night, claiming at least 14 of the 25 seats on offer on the back of a 12 per cent swing.

It ends Mr Hodgman's reign as the country's longest-serving opposition leader.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten believes state Labor's power-sharing deal with the Greens cost the party at the ballot box.

After 16 years in power Labor suffered its worst result in six decades, winning 27 per cent of the vote and just six seats.

Premier Lara Giddings dumped the Greens from Cabinet shortly before announcing the election date.

Mr Shorten says the years in partnership were not good for the Labor brand.

"In Tasmania the Labor government had been in for 16 years that's a very long time and there's no doubt that Labor having an agreement [with the Greens] was marked down by Tasmanian voters," he said.

Meanwhile, the state's electoral commission has revealed 163 postal votes were destroyed after they were irreparably damaged by a letter-opening machine.

More than 2,300 ballot papers for the Hobart-based seat of Denison were damaged during preparation for the count on Saturday evening.

The Tasmanian Electoral Commission (TEC) said 2,175 ballot papers were repaired but 163 were damaged so badly they had to be counted as informal.

The incident has been blamed on the machine not being used properly and poor quality control.

State Electoral Commissioner Julian Type said it was not likely to impact the result.

15 March, 2014

Goodies and baddies lost in Tasmanian logjam, PM Tony Abbott will find

Richard Denniss
The Canberra Times, March 15, 2014

Fairytales of the forest could have an unhappy ending for Tasmania's jobless, as the Prime Minister will soon learn.

According to Tony Abbott, loggers are "the ultimate conservationists". Seriously. Photo: Steven Siewert

Tony Abbott recently described the people who take the chainsaws to Tasmania's native forests as ''the ultimate conservationists''.

Seriously. In his speech to the 2014 Forestworks Dinner, the Prime Minister claimed that because the loggers' future income depends on the availability of trees, they - and not the derided greenies - are the true custodians of our wilderness.

By that logic, the men who fire explosive-tipped harpoons into whales in the Southern Ocean would fit the Abbott definition of ''real conservationists''. Indeed, any self-respecting rhino poacher in Africa must surely see themselves as a far-sighted conservationist.

But the illogic of the Prime Minister's speech didn't stop there. Having defined the native forest loggers as the real conservationists, Mr Abbott went on to explain that his government's determination to remove 74,000 hectares of Tasmanian forest from the World Heritage Listing was based on the fact the areas were no longer ''pristine'' because, wait for it, some of them have been previously logged.

It seems that whoever wrote the first part of the speech didn't bother to talk to whoever wrote the second part, and in turn that the Prime Minister didn't read it before he gave it. Surely a Rhodes Scholar would have picked up a howler like that?

Or perhaps not. Maybe in the modern political world the debate moves so fast that facts and consistency are not as important as headlines and campaign bunting.

But even if the modern political speech is nothing more than a sound-grab looking for a photo opportunity, Mr Abbott's recent effort deserves closer scrutiny. It may well be the silliest speech given by a prime minister in recent years, but it certainly tells us a lot about his world view and the kind of decisions he is likely to make.

As with his approach to foreign policy, this speech assures us the Prime Minister sees economic debates in terms of ''goodies'' and ''baddies'' as well.

When it comes to Tasmania's forests, the ''goodies''' in this speech were obviously the ''ultimate conservationists'' - also known as the loggers. And the ''baddies'' in the story were the environmentalists who want to ''lock up the forests''.

The baddies, we are told, want to ''ban men and women from enjoying'' the environment, while of the goodies, Mr Abbott says, ''you intelligently make the most of the good things that God has given us''. By that he presumably means knocking down trees with bulldozers and dropping napalm from helicopters on what's left behind.

Having introduced the heroes and villains of his story, the Prime Minister's speech turns to the ''great quest''. Along with our heroes the loggers, Mr Abbott simply wants to create jobs and prosperity for the people of Tasmania. But to succeed in this mission, he must first vanquish the villains who have been holding Tasmania's jobs captive in their World Heritage-listed forests. ''We want the timber industry to be a vital part of Australia's economic future,'' he told the loggers.

But this is where the fairytale and economic reality begin to diverge. While there is no doubt Mr Abbott and the loggers want the logging industry to grow, the problem is the overseas customers don't. The world is buying less timber as more high-rise housing is built from concrete and steel, and when the world does buy timber it prefers softwood such as pine rather than the hardwoods found in Tasmania's magnificent forests, and when the world's consumers do want hardwood they prefer it to come from plantations rather than native forests.

The car industry is leaving Australia because the world doesn't want to buy the kind of cars we like to make and because overseas consumers can get the cars they do like from cheaper places than Australia.

While Mr Abbott has said no government ever subsidised their way to prosperity, and Treasurer Joe Hockey has said he wants to end the age of entitlement, the Coalition government seems determined to prop up the Tasmanian native forest loggers while waving a cheerful farewell to the car industry.

Over the past 25 years, the loggers have received more than $750 million to ease the pain associated with the fact the world doesn't want to buy their product any more.

When digital cameras replaced film cameras, the photo development labs didn't get a cent. But despite the fact the loggers' falling fortunes have been softened by an enormous mattress made of taxpayer cash, the Coalition is now painting the loggers as the victims.

While the brave loggers battling against the evil greenies may well make for the kind of simple story political strategists love these days, such stories do nothing to help the 19,000 unemployed people in Tasmania. Given that native forest logging employs only about 1 per cent of Tasmanians, it should come as no surprise the vast majority of Tasmania's jobless have never, and will never, work in the native forest logging industry.

While in the vacuum of modern political debate being ''anti-environmentalist'' means you must be ''pro-jobs'', the reality of the Tasmanian state economy is that 99 per cent of the population are not employed in native forest logging. Even if the Prime Minister's strategically selected sound bites combined with another truckload of taxpayer cash managed to double the size of the native forest logging industry, it would still be a tiny employer.

Indeed, even at twice its current size, native forest logging would still be dwarfed by the tourism industry, and Tasmania's unemployment rate would still be the highest in the country. Tasmania used to be the hub of whaling on the east coast of Australia. Men with saws once cut enormous trees and sold Australia the wood we once wanted. But, as with whale oil, the Australian public doesn't want to buy native forest hardwood any more. If they want hardwood, it's cheaper and better for the environment to get it from plantations. And when the world's paper mills want woodchips, they prefer the cheaper plantation product too.

There is nothing to stop the Prime Minister telling himself, or the public, fairytales about goodies and baddies and the quest to find jobs in magical forests. But there is no chance such stories will solve Tasmania's problems. Mr Abbott promised to create a million new jobs before the last election, and so far he is lagging badly. Speeches such as last week's might gee up the troops and shift the blame, but they do nothing to solve the underlying problems.

Dr Richard Denniss is executive director of the Australia Institute, a Canberra-based think tank, www.tai.org.au

14 March, 2014

Last-minute plea to keep Tasmania’s forest peace deal intact as Liberals head to likely election win

Perth Now,  MARCH 14, 2014

ENVIRONMENTAL groups and timber workers have joined forces in launching a last-minute plea for the Liberals to change their mind on ripping up the Tasmanian Forest Agreement.

Signatories to the peace deal said yesterday the Liberals would be taking the state back to the bad old days of the forest wars that tarnished the state for decades.

But the Liberal Party yesterday remained unmoved and reaffirmed its belief it would have a mandate to rip up the agreement if it sweeps into power tomorrow.


The calls come as a Newspoll shows the Liberals are headed into the election in considerably better shape than 2010.

In the week before the 2010 election, which resulted in Labor and the Liberals securing 10 setats each and the Greens five, the polling results were tigher — the Liberals holding 39 per cent compared with Labor (36.9) and the Greens (21.6).


The Newspoll, undertaken this week and published in The Australian today, shows the popularity of the Liberals at 53 per cent compared with Labor (23 per cent) and the Greens (16 per cent).

Opposition leader Will Hodgman said he would not be bullied on the forestry issue.

“We do not support the forest deal, it failed on so many fronts,” Mr Hodgman said.

“I am in no doubt we can continue to sell our world-class products including those out of our forests.

“I am happy to talk to anyone but will not be held to ransom by Green groups who want to close the industry down.’’

CFMEU national president Forestry & Furnishing Products Division Jane Calvert joined forces with the environmental groups yesterday calling on the Liberals to rethink their vow.

CFMEU spokesman Jane Calvert wants the Liberals to rethink their pledge to rip up the forest peace deal.

“When the timber workers’ union sat down to break bread with our traditional enemies — the conservationists — back in 2010, we did so for good reason,” Ms Calvert told the Mercury yesterday.

“The agreement and its legislation are far from perfect.

“But in the four years since talks began, no political party, political leader or critic of the agreement has put forward a credible alternative to address the impending change in resource, shifting market preference and need for investment.

“The agreement and legislation have resulted in an unprecedented cessation of conflict in the forest, and growing confidence in markets.”

Wilderness Society spokesman Vica Bayley and Environment Tasmania spokesman Phil Pullinger appeared to be choosing their words carefully yesterday, stating they were still committed to the agreement.

Wilderness Society spokesman Vica Bayley has been chosing his words carefully in relation
But the pair also made it clear they could no longer offer their support, and endorsement, to overseas and domestic markets if reserves under the agreement were scrapped by the Tasmanian Liberals.

“It does not take too much creativity from any of us to think about what will happen if they start logging World Heritage forests,” Mr Bayley said.


Liberals warned over TFA stance

Rosemary Bolger
The Examiner (Launceston), 14 March 2014

ENVIRONMENT groups have stepped up the pressure on the Liberal Party, warning there will be no such thing as non-contested wood if the Tasmanian Forests Agreement is torn up.

At the final stage of the election campaign, the Wilderness Society and Environment Tasmania urged the Liberal Party to rethink their plan to tear up the deal, but stopped short of issuing a threat.

"It is the Liberal Party that will be making a choice to remove the capacity for the industry to have a stable future," Dr Phill Pullinger said.

"This is a package deal. It was, it is, a finely-balanced agreement, and you can't pull out one thread."

The groups have welcomed timber veneer company Ta Ann Tasmania's commitment to only source wood from outside areas that are protected under the deal, even if the Liberals reopen them to logging.

However, that doesn't guarantee support for the company's products made from the so-called "non-contentious" areas, if it's not underpinned by the TFA.

"The whole industry becomes contentious again," Wilderness Society spokesman Vica Bayley said.

He rejected the Liberals' claim to have a mandate to unwind the agreement.

Liberals forestry spokesman Peter Gutwein said he would not be "greenmailed".

"Threats by environmental groups that the Liberals plan to rip up the sham forestry deal will reignite protests will not sway a majority Liberal government from taking the action needed to rebuild our forest industry," Mr Gutwein said.

Labor has vowed to continue to implement the Tasmanian Forests Agreement. That is the key plank of the party's forestry policy unveiled yesterday at Ta Ann's Smithton mill.

Deputy Premier Bryan Green said a re-elected Labor government would also negotiate a new regional forest agreement with the Commonwealth.

The policy includes $5.8 million in new spending, including money for research into plantation products, $1.5 million to offset costs of transporting forest residues to Bell Bay, and more assistance for workers.

Mr Green said the Liberals had failed to provide a credible alternative.

Forest activists ordered to rip down tree house

Beau Donelly
The Age, March 14, 2014

Conservationists have been ordered to rip down a tree house in a state forest north-east of Melbourne that was built to highlight the plight of Victoria's faunal emblem.

Mansfield Magistrates Court ruled on Wednesday that the bright red tree house, built last year to protest against logging in the Toolangi State Forest, be removed.

If the unidentified owner of the 14-square-metre structure does not pull it down within 28 days it will be forfeited to authorities for disposal.

The Department of Environment and Primary Industries said every effort was made to identify the owner and reach a solution without going to court.

Endangered: Hannah Patchett and others have been living in the Toolangi tree house to raise awareness about the threat of logging to the Leadbeater's possum. Photo: Simon Schluter

“DEPI respects people's right to enjoy the forest, however unlawful structures cannot be condoned,” spokesman Peter Farrell said. “DEPI asks that people respect the fact that structures cannot be erected without a licence, lease or authority.”

Friends of Little Red Toolangi Treehouse spokeswoman Amy Calton, who is part of the ground crew at the site, said the group had not decided whether to comply with the order to tear the treehouse down.
“We have no plans to just pack up and give up now that this has happened,” she said. “We don't want to lose it as a community centre so we plan to keep it going, but how that comes about is unknown at this stage.”

Ms Calton criticised the department for taking legal action, saying the tree house never threatened logging activities. “It's simply there to point the finger at destructive logging practices going on in the state,” she said.
“The area is still under threat but at the moment there's no logging activity so really all we have is an education centre. That DEPI would decide that this is such a threat to their activities that they require it to be taken down is a really sad thing.”

The tree house is perched 30 metres off the ground in a pocket of mountain ash forest that forms vital habitat for the critically endangered Leadbeater's possum.

Since November activists including Hannah Patchett have maintained a vigil by living in the structure to raise awareness about the threat of logging to the species of possum, which lost almost half its habitat during the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires.

Conservationists said the treehouse stood as an “environmental beacon” that raised awareness about logging practices in Victorian forests.

Friends of Toolangi Forest spokesman Bernard Mace said the court ruling marked a “sad day” for supporters.

“The tree house is a focal point for the conservation movement and symbolises the courageous and creative efforts of environmentalists striving to protect native forests from VicForests' clearfell logging operations,” he said.

VicForests declined to comment about the case.

13 March, 2014

Tasmania's World Heritage Area: World Heritage Committee advisor raises concerns over plan to reduce protected area

Jake Sturmer, environment reporter
ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation), Thu 13 Mar 2014

Senator Colbeck has published photographs he says show recent harvesting in some of the extended world heritage listed areas

PHOTO: The Coalition Government vowed to reduce the World Heritage area as part of an election commitment.

A key advisor to the World Heritage Committee has flagged concerns with the Federal Government's plan to delist 74,000 hectares of Tasmania's World Heritage Area.

In 2013, the committee approved an extension to the area, adding about 172,000 hectares to take the total protected area to about 1.6 million hectares.

The Federal Government vowed to reduce the area to help Tasmania's economy as part of an election commitment.

As part of the World Heritage Area boundary change, areas of the Southern Forests, the Styx and the Florentine were given protection.

The Government has said areas of genuine high conservation value are not part of the delisting plan, including tall forests in the Great Western Tiers.

A Senate inquiry is investigating the issue and in a submission, the Australian arm of the International Council on Monuments and Sites said it believed allowing the reduction in the area would likely reduce the credibility of the World Heritage listing.

The council is one of three advisory bodies for the World Heritage Committee and provides evaluations of cultural and mixed properties proposed for inscription on the World Heritage List.

"We are alarmed that this proposal ... fails to respect that due process was followed by the World Heritage Committee and that Outstanding Universal Value has been established as a prerequisite for the decision to support the 2013 Boundary Modification," the submission said.

We hence query how the Australian Government states it believes the excision of identified areas from the property will enhance the credibility of the World Heritage Listing.
International Council on Monuments and Sites submission
"We hence query how the Australian Government states it believes the excision of identified areas from the property will enhance the credibility of the World Heritage Listing.

"The opposite seems more likely."

The council's submission said it was too early to suggest any changes to the boundaries.

"As the Australian Government is to submit a progress report on this assessment of cultural values ... in 2015, it is premature to be proposing any modification before that time," it said.

"The evaluation of cultural values is a priority and no boundary modifications should be considered until that report is provided."

What do you think about the plans to delist part of Tasmania's World Heritage Area? Have your say
In its submission, the Institute of Foresters of Australia said the World Heritage Committee made its 2013 decision based on a flawed assessment from the previous federal government.

"The process and conclusions were in fact a hasty and superficial analysis of conservation values where no peer review was undertaken," it said.

"Many claims and conclusions were based on limited information.

"These claims were open to scientific interpretation and, in many situations, have been shown to be in error."

The IFA said it supported a reassessment of the 2013 decision.

'Degraded' forests detract from World Heritage Area: Hunt

Environment Minister Greg Hunt last month said he supported most of the 2013 extensions to the World Heritage area, but that large parts had already been logged.

Mr Hunt said the area was added amidst "enormous local controversy" and was against the wishes of some in the community.

"What has been put to the committee for reconsideration is 117 degraded or logged areas, so these were areas that many people feel should never have been added because they significantly detract from what is one of the great World Heritage Areas," he said at the time.

Mr Hunt has been contacted for comment.

Tasmania's forest peace deal was designed to end decades of conflict.

Under the deal, environment groups are supporting the timber industry in exchange for old growth forests being protected in the 172,000 hectare boundary extension.

Tasmania's Liberal leader Will Hodgman has said he will tear up the agreement if he wins office in Saturday's election.

Abbott's address triggers 'unprecedented' move by WCPA

Meanwhile 114 members of the World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA) have written to the Prime Minister, criticising his comments that Australia had "enough national parks".

Tony Abbott told a timber industry dinner this month that too many of Australia's forests are "locked up".

The WCPA's vice chair Marc Hockings says those remarks triggered serious concerns among its members, prompting the commission to take the "unprecedented" step.

"This was really the most recent in what we see as a large number of examples where governments around Australia have been stepping back from a commitment to national parks and protected areas," he said.

"Even though WCPA is very much a non-political organisation, we needed to stand up and strongly make the point that national parks and protected areas are really important for our society."

The WCPA is a body of experts that advises governments and organisations around the world on conservation issues.

Lawyers, scientists and conservationists were among 114 Oceania members to sign the letter.

The commission is part of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which is also one of the key advisors for the World Heritage Committee.

But Professor Hockings says they are completely disconnected from the committee's upcoming decision about the Tasmanian forests or Great Barrier Reef.

"The decisions and recommendations of IUCN that will go to the World Heritage Committee meeting are not prepared by the Australian members of IUCN," he said.

"But I think that's another example of the way in which we've seen the retreat from a commitment to protected areas."

The Prime Minister's office has been contacted for comment.

Do you know more about this? Email investigations@abc.net.au

07 March, 2014

'Devastating' changes allow forests to be burned for power


The O’Farrell government has opened the way for the state’s forests to be used to generate electricity in a move blasted by the Greens as “devastating”.

Anthony Roberts, the Minister for Resources and Energy, said on Friday that modifications to environmental protection regulations would allow trees otherwise destined for pulp and paper production to be burnt in power stations. Invasive native species and offcuts of sawlogs could also be burnt for power.

Mr Roberts said the move would be monitored by the Environment Protection Authority “to ensure there is no increase in the intensity of clearing or logging”.

Maree McCaskill, managing director of the NSW Forest Products Association, welcomed the decision saying it would ‘‘allow better use of a by-product that’s currently not being used’’.

Some of the waste material was now being left on the forest floor, adding to fuel loads that raised fire risks, she said. ‘‘Finally, we’ll able to link up the full renewable cycle.’’

However, upper house Greens MP John Kaye said the move would expose new native species to logging and perpetuate the ailing woodchip industry that currently consumes about 1 million tonnes of trees a year from the forests in the state’s south-east.  Subsidies for the native forest industry already cost $8 million a year, he said.

“The one chance we had of saving those forests has now been lost, into the furnaces of power stations,” Mr Kaye said, adding that carbon emissions are likely to be as high as six times that of burning coal.

Labor action
Labor’s leader in the upper house and environment spokesman Luke Foley said his party would join the Greens in seeking to disallow the action - which took effect from 2pm on Friday - when the chamber resumes in the week after next.

‘‘We made it illegal to burn native vegetation to generate power,’’ Mr Foley said. ‘‘It’s an achievement of the Carr Labor government that is being reversed by the Coalition.’’

Jeff Angel, executive director of the Total Environment Centre, called the move – to be gazetted by the government later on Friday – “greenwash”, and said his organisation would call for consumers to boycott the power generated from biomaterials.

“This new law is an attack on the environment because it is underlain by the O’Farrell government’s progressive weakening of forest and woodland fauna protections, and is a strut for the clear-felling by the woodchippers who are losing pulp market share,” Mr Angel said.

A spokesman for Mr Roberts, though, said the change would allow consumers, particularly mines in the state’s west, to use “a cleaner, more renewable-friendly form of energy”.

“It’s not designed to grow the renewable or biomass industry by doing more logging,” the spokesman said. “It’s to make better use of the waste that’s there at the moment.”

All private electricity operators will have to keep a detailed record of the amount of biomass they receive and burn and where the material is sourced from, Mr Roberts said. The Forestry Corporation of NSW will also publicly report on its website the volumes and state forest areas supplying the biomass.

“The EPA will audit this information, including using satellite imagery where appropriate to ensure environmental values are not compromised,” he said.

And another thing, The environment

The Age, 7/3/14

Tony Abbott was going to plant trees to combat climate change. Now he threatens them by his cavalier attitude to our national parks. The ''green army'' will face confusion.
Jean Tansey, Berwick

I think it is time we sent Mr Abbott the Dr Seuss book The Lorax.
Bob Greaves, Mount Eliza

Next Mr Abbott will be telling us the Japanese whalers are the ''ultimate conservationists''.
Annie Wilson, Inverloch

06 March, 2014

Former forestry boss warns of heritage risk to international markets

Anne Mather 
The Mercury,  March 06, 2014 

TONY Abbott’s push to scrap parts of the World Heritage Area risks scaring off Tasmania’s world markets, the Labor Party has warned.

Critics warned the Prime Minister’s push to unlock parts of the WHA and create a new forestry advisory council would reignite the forestry wars, send jitters through markets and cost jobs.

Deputy Premier Bryan Green and former Forestry Tasmania managing director Bob Gordon, who is running as a Labor candidate in Lyons, said Mr Abbott’s stance would do more harm than good.

“I think any move to remove areas that are already World Heritage runs the severe risk that Tasmania will lose its forest certification,” Mr Gordon said at his campaign launch yesterday.

Mr Gordon said any product harvested from an area that was once WHA would “never be purchased by any customer in the world”.

Mr Green warned Australia would be internationally embarrassed if it repealed a WHA listing.

“The Liberals are suggesting that by repealing world heritage and high conservation forests that that will somehow save the industry. That’s rubbish because what chance would Tasmanian timber from those areas ever have of being sold anywhere around the world?” Mr Green said.

The comments follow Mr Abbott’s speech to a forestry industry dinner in Canberra on Tuesday night, in which he said too much of Tasmania’s forests were “locked up”.

Mr Abbott outlined the Federal Government’s push to revoke the recent addition of 74,000ha into WHA listing.

“We don’t support, as a Government and as a Coalition, further lock-ups of our forests,” Mr Abbott said.

“We have quite enough national parks. We have quite enough locked up forests already. In fact, in an important respect, we have too much locked up forest.”

Wilderness Society spokesman Vica Bayley said Mr Abbott was courting conflict.

Australian Workers’ Union national secretary Paul Howes, who was in Hobart yesterday, said Labor knew how to protect the environment and jobs.

05 March, 2014

Tony Abbott says too much Tasmanian forest 'locked up', forms new council to support timber industry

ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation), 5 March 2014

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has declared that too many of Australia's forests are "locked up" and vowed to set up a new advisory council to support the timber industry.

Speaking at a timber industry dinner in Canberra last night, Mr Abbott also recommitted to repealing part of Tasmania's Wilderness World Heritage Area made under the forest peace deal.

His comments have prompted anger from the Greens, who have labelled him the "dig it up, cut it down Prime Minister".

Under the Tasmanian peace deal, 170,000 hectares of forest was added to the World Heritage area.

The Government has formally asked the World Heritage Committee to delist 74,000 hectares - a position Mr Abbott reaffirmed last night.

"We don't support, as a Government and as a Coalition, further lock-ups of our forests. We just don't support it," Mr Abbott said.

"We have quite enough national parks. We have quite enough locked up forests already. In fact, in an important respect, we have too much locked up forest.

"Why should we lock up as some sort of World Heritage sanctuary country that has been logged, degraded or planted for timber?

"Getting that 74,000 hectares out of World Heritage Listing, it's still going to leave half of Tasmania protected forever, but that will be an important sign to you, to Tasmanians, to the world, that we support the timber industry."

Do you think Australia has enough national parks and protected forests? Have your say.
Mr Abbott told the dinner that Tasmania's forest workers have a friend in Canberra.

"When I look out tonight at an audience of people who work with timber, who work in forests, I don't see people who are environmental vandals; I see people who are the ultimate conservationists," he said.

"And I want to salute you as people who love the natural world, as people who love what Mother Nature gives us, and who want to husband it for the long-term best interests of humanity."

Greens condemn 'massive assault on the environment'

But Greens leader Christine Milne says the Prime Minister's words send a clear message to the world "that Australia does not value its world heritage areas or its national parks".

"People are going to be pretty upset that Tony Abbott is mounting this massive assault on the environment," she said.

Any move to repeal the World Heritage classification on Tasmanian forests would ultimately prove destructive to the state's logging industry, she added.

"Tony Abbott has got it so wrong. The logging industry was on its knees in Tasmania because around the world nobody wants to buy timber products that come from old growth forest," she said.

"There's now a high level of recognition that we need to be protecting the last of our primary forests around the world."

VIDEO: Abbott a 'dig it up, cut it down' prime minister, says Greens (ABC News)
Senator Milne said a recent "peace deal" with Tasmania's conservation movement had given loggers "some chance of a future in the plantations", but that Mr Abbott had threatened to "send Tasmania back to decades of conflict".

"What he'll actually do is destroy the forest industry, not to mention Tasmania's clean, green and clever brand which is our main asset and that comes from our World Heritage area," she said.

Mr Abbott also used his address criticised the Tasmanian Greens for everything from the state's ailing economy to its poor educational outcomes.

"We all know Tasmania has the lowest wages in Australia, it has the lowest GDP per head, it's got the lowest life expectancy, it's got the lowest educational retainment in the country and it's got the highest unemployment, and funnily enough for the last eight years it has had a government in large measure dominated by the Greens," he said.

While appointments to the new Forestry Advisory Council are still being finalised, Institute of Foresters national director Rob De Fegely has been named as co-chair.

Is forestry the backbone of the Tasmanian economy?

Infographic from The Australia Institute

For more information see Chipping away at Tasmania's future, The Australia Institute 

No more national parks as Tony Abbott pledges to support loggers as the 'ultimate conservationists'

Matthew Knott
The Age, March 5, 2014

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has said he will not support the creation of any more national parks in a speech lauding timber workers as "the ultimate conservationists".

Mr Abbott also told a timber industry dinner on Tuesday night that he would create a new Forestry Advisory Council to support the industry.

The council will be co-chaired by Rob de Fegely, President of the Institute of Foresters Australia. Mr de Fegely is former Liberal Party election candidate for the seat of Eden Monaro.

''We don't support, as a government and as a Coalition, further lockouts of our forests,'' Mr Abbott said.

''We have quite enough National Parks, we have quite enough locked up forests already. In fact, in an important respect, we have too much locked up forest.''

Mr Abbott said the federal government was pushing to delist a world heritage listing of 74,000 hectares of forest in Tasmania. Mr Abbott said the area – which was protected under Tasmania's forest peace deal – was not pristine forest and was too degraded to be considered a sanctuary.

Tasmanians go to the polls on March 15 with jobs and the forestry industry big issues as Labor struggles to hold onto government.

''I don't buy the Green ideology, which has done so much damage to our country over the last couple of decades and I'm pleased to see that there are some sensible Labor Party people who don't buy it either,'' Mr Abbott said.

''[W]hen I look out tonight at an audience of people who work with timber, who work in forests, I don't see people who are environmental bandits, I see people who are the ultimate conservationists.
''I salute you as people who love the natural world, as people who love what Mother Nature gives us and who want to husband it for the long-term best interests of humanity.''

Mr Abbott said Canberra would now be ''friendly country'' rather than ''hostile territory'' for the forestry industry following the change of government.

Vic government timber business just chasing its tail

Mathew Dunckley
The Australian Financial Review, Wednesday 5 March 2014

Imagine a world where the state owns a school demolition business.  It roams the countryside knocking down perfectly fine public scvhools chosen by the state government.  This company then sells the rubble to merchants.

Not that anyone really wants to buy it, so the school-dozing company barely breaks even despite government subsidies.  The obscene arrangement is made on the basis that several hundred school rubble jobs are at stake.  This patently nuts.  It is also the world in which we live right now.

In Victoria, state-owned "business" VicForests demolishes state-owned native forests and sells the logs to a handful of mills, who struggle to profit from flogging the resulting product.  This is done almost solely to preserve native timber jobs.  It is too generous to even call it a make-work scheme.  At least when such schemes were used after World War 1 and in the Great Depression, Victoria created assets such as the Great Ocean Road.  This system consumes a state asset.

The supposed social contract was neatly described in a review of VicForests' first five years of operation by consulting agency URS in 2010.  It says dividends paid to the state should  "in theory represent the resource rent extracted from the forests wood products (minus the costs incurred in the management of the process).  As VicForests does not have to carry the productive asset for the whole of its lifecycle, the rent should not only cover these costs but also cover any forgone surplus, from society's point of view, in not allocating the forest to other, non-consumptive, uses."

Too right.  But unfortunately the dividends are next to non-existent. VicForests has paid total dividends of $5 million since its inception in 2004.  If it coughs up the $250,000 it has proposed as a dividend this year, it will be its first cheque since 2007.  Imagine the Treasurer's delight when it arrives.

The reason for the lack of dividends is VicForests has made $13.5 million in profits.  Total.  That's for a business that, since 2007, turned over more than $100 million a year.  The bottom line profit last year was $802,000 on revenue of $106 million a year.  The previous year $119 million came in the door generating a $96,000 loss.

This is despite state government gifted advantages - not least feedstock - that is as good as free.  Yes, the trees VicForests cuts down are provided at the grand cost of having to care for their replacements for seven years as part of a "make good".  That compares to the 83 years regeneration time frame for mountain ash and 113 years for mixed forests.  VicForests also gets access to cheap government-backed debt (extended to even cover cash flow issues), tax breaks and occasional grants.  If it were a private business and asking for this level of assistance, what would be the answer in this new entitlement-less age?

If it were a private business and asking for this level of assistance, what would be the answer in this new entitlement-less age?

The number of jobs protected through all this financial running on the spot is hotly contested.  VicForests employs 114 staff.  A further 400 or so are employed in harvest and haulage.  Then there are those also employed in 30 or so mills around the state with VicForests contracts, which depend to varying degrees on native timber and toss in some limited manufacturing.

This, the state's Auditor-General reported, amounted to "considerable" benefits for regional communities.  VicForests also has challenges not its own making.  The high dollar has hurt, as has competition from plantations and overseas as well as falling demand.  The market is so bad that last year 250,000 cubic metres of residual wood, 16 percent of the total harvest, that would once have been carted off for pulp, was left on the forest floor and burnt.  Those in the know report heavy government interference preventing VicForests from addressing issues.  An example is the continued logging of highly marginal stretches of far eastern Victoria, which is political no-go.

VicForests is also forbidden from exporting unprocessed native logs and cannot operate in the plantation forest space where other state forestry companies have profitably focused their efforts.

Ardent supporters of VicForests suggest it will struggle to survive in the long term.  There are plenty in Victorian politics who have also formed the same view.

There are rumblings in the major parties that the time has come to reassess this arrangement.  VicForests itself is looking for a parachute.  It has flagged marketing forests as carbon offsets.  You see, even VicForests thinks it can make more money not cutting down the trees.

Mathew is our Melbourne bureau chief, covering Victoria politics and state issues.

Tony Abbott is wrong - Australia’s forest protection more important in age of climate change

Media Release

Australia’s forest advocacy groups have responded to Prime Minister Tony Abbott's attack on forests and praise for the industry that destroys them.  Many of Australia’s forest conservation groups have been working to have the remaining forests and the wildlife within them protected over the decades.

WA Forest Alliance spokesperson Jess Beckerling said, “Fancy thinking that loggers, who are clearfelling ancient ecosystems at taxpayers’ expense, are the ‘ultimate conservationists’. It goes to show that the Prime Minister has no idea what protection of Australia’s most precious places even means. Tony Abbott is running a shameless attack against the places we love; our forests, marine parks, the Great Barrier Reef. It's no wonder we're seeing a resurgence of peaceful direct action around the country."

Peg Putt, CEO of Markets For Change, said, "The Prime Minister's determination to log precious native forests when it is documented to be ecologically unsustainable jeopardises the markets of the forest industry which these days demand high environmental credentials in the wood products they sell."

"He would assist the industry into a viable future more effectively and create more secure jobs if he supported utilising existing plantations for value added product and took the pressure off nature, Peg Putt said.

"Converting the ailing woodchipping export trade into industrial scale incineration of forests to produce electricity is a plan that will harm the climate and horrify consumers," Peg Putt said.

Jill Redwood from Environment East Gippsland said, “Just as the latest CSIRO report shows Australia’s extreme weather is set to get worse and become the norm, our PM is advocating the further clearfelling and logging of natural forests in order to keep a failing native forest industry struggling against the tide.”

“If there was an international court to try the world’s worst environmental criminals Tony Abbott would be in the dock! He is an appalling/embarrassing example as the leader of a developed nation, at a time when the world’s natural environments are all under extreme stress,” Jill Redwood said.

“Forests are critical in the fight to moderate our climate. There are plantations enough ready to process right now into sawn timber as well as woodchips for paper, without the need to cut down one more stick of native forest” said Jill Redwood.

Tim Gentles from Goongerah Environment Centre said, "The Abbott government has shown themselves to be dangerously irrational when it comes to the economic and environmental reality of native forest logging. Tony Abbott appears happy to undo the protection of our loved and iconic forests whilst allowing millions of taxpayer dollars to disappear for the benefit of offshore companies like Ta Ann and Nippon Paper."

Harriett Swift spokesperson for South East Region Conservation Alliance said, “At a time when the national government should be looking at protecting native forests as an affordable way of combating climate change, Mr Abbott is declaring war on them.  Mr Abbott has made it blindingly clear why his government is not prepared to subject the logging industry to the same hard line ‘no subsidy’ ideology that other industries are facing. Abbott pledged to treat this industry that has privileged subsidies at the expense of tax-payers, “You aren’t just any industry,” he told them.”

  • Markets For Change
  • Friends of the Earth
  • Goongerah Environment Centre VIC
  • Environment East Gippsland VIC
  • Huon Valley Environment Centre TAS
  • South East Region Conservation Alliance NSW
  • Still Wild Still Threatened TAS
  • My Environment VIC

04 March, 2014

Address to the 2014 ForestWorks Dinner, Canberra

Tony Abbott, Prime Minister of Australia
pm.gov.au, Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Julie, I want to thank you very much indeed for that kind introduction. It’s nice to have a list of things recounted to an appreciative audience – it really is nice.

But the most important fact, at least insofar I suspect as this audience is concerned, is omitted from the official resume, because I had the great good fortune of having as my maternal grandfather a shipwright and as many of you would know a shipwright is a marine carpenter. That’s what a shipwright is. A shipwright is a marine carpenter, at least that’s what a shipwright was back in the 1920s when many of our large ships were still made of timber.

My carpenter granddad recruited me to help build a workbench for the new family home when I was in year seven. He joined me in building a timber canoe which I paddled around the Lane Cove River National Park in year eight. He got me to help him to build a large timber shed down the back of my mum and dad’s place when I was in year 9 and for my sixteenth birthday when I was in year ten he gave me a toolset which, until just a couple of years ago when it was lost in a flash flood at home, was still the tools which I used around the house to do the kinds of things which every half useful husband should be able to do!

I can’t say that having a shipwright grandfather made me a craftsman; it didn’t. I didn’t develop the extraordinary craftsmanship of Marty Teare who presented me earlier today with a truly magnificent example of an Australian-made chair which will adorn my parliamentary office - I hope for many years to come.

I didn’t become a craftsman, but I did learn to appreciate the value of timber and the importance of working with one’s hands.

I came to appreciate the forest wasn’t just a place of beauty, but it was a source of resources; of the ultimate renewable resource, of the ultimate biodegradable resource.

So when I look out at an audience such as this this evening, when I look out tonight at an audience of people who work with timber, who work in forests, I don’t see people who are environmental bandits, I see people who are the ultimate conservationists. That’s what I see and I want to salute you. I salute you as people who love the natural world, as people who love what Mother Nature gives us and who want to husband it for the long-term best interests of humanity.

I want to say this: we will never build a strong economy by trashing our environment, but we will never help our environment by trashing the economy either.  You understand - what I regret to say not everyone does – that it is possible to combine respect for the environment and respect for nature with healthy private business.

Man and the environment are meant for each other. The last thing we do – the last thing we should want – if we want to genuinely improve our environment is to want to ban men and women from enjoying it, is to ban men and women from making the most of it and that’s what you do. You intelligently make the most of the good things that God has given us.

So my friends, when I say that I want Australia to be open for business, I mean open for business for the forestry industry.

When I say that Australia is not only open for business, but it is under new management, I mean that the people in charge in Canberra – here – value what the forestry industry does and it would be quite a long time since you’ve experienced that in Canberra.

I hope that you will be the beneficiaries of the general economic policies that the Coalition is putting into practice.

You will benefit from the abolition of the carbon tax, ultimately from the abolition of the mining tax.

Many of you will benefit from the cutting of the company tax rate.

Most of you will benefit from the reduction in red and green-tape that we are determined to deliver.

And while it’s not the job of the national government to build the kind of country roads and logging trails which you’re all very familiar with, if we do invest more, as we will and are, in the major infrastructure that our country needs, that obviously means that state and local governments can do more for the kind of infrastructure that you depend upon in your daily life.

I am pleased to say that in the six months since the change of government here in Canberra, Greg Hunt, an Environment Minister who appreciates that the environment is meant for man and not just the other way around, has provided environmental approvals for projects worth some $400 million. I am pleased and proud to have an Environment Minister who wants to see projects go ahead.

I am pleased that because of Greg Hunt’s good work, we now have assessment bilaterals – a one stop shop in other words – for environmental approvals with New South Wales and Queensland, and are working on these with the other states and have high hopes of getting there well before the end of the year.

I’m pleased that we’ve also got a Korean free trade agreement and are working well towards free trade agreements with Japan and with China.

But you’re not just any other industry. You are an industry which has been officially frowned upon for too long.

For three years you were officially frowned upon here in Canberra because we had – I regret to say – a government that was over influenced by the Greens.

I’m delighted to see a number of Labor Members of Parliament in the audience tonight – I see Joel Fitzgibbon. I see Brendan O’Connor. I think Senator Kim Carr is here in the audience. It’s good to see some Labor Members who aren’t embarrassed at coming to a dinner with foresters! Give them the applause they deserve.

Coalition Members – too numerous to mention – all of you, because this is a Coalition. This is a Liberal/National Coalition that values what you do and wants you to be able to make the most of your life.

We don’t support, as a Government and as a Coalition, further lockouts of our forests. We just don’t support it.

We have quite enough National Parks, we have quite enough locked up forests already. In fact, in an important respect, we have too much locked up forest.

One of the first acts of the incoming Government was to begin the process to try to get out of world heritage listing 74,000 hectares of country in Tasmania, because that 74,000 hectares is not pristine forest. It’s forest which has been logged, it’s forest which has been degraded, in some cases, it’s plantation timber that was actually planted to be logged.

Now I’m all in favour of protecting pristine wilderness in proportion – I am all in favour of that. But why should we lock up, as some kind of world heritage sanctuary, country which has been logged, degraded or planted for timber? Why should we do that? Frankly, when this Government comes across examples of actions which are contrary to common sense, we do our best to reverse them. That’s what we do – we try to ensure that government does not do that which is contrary to common sense.

You know, getting that 74,000 hectares out of the world heritage listing is still going to leave half of Tasmania protected forever, but that will be an important sign to you, to Tasmanians and to the world that we respect the timber industry and we want the timber industry to have a vigorous and dynamic future, not just a past. We want the timber industry to be a vital part of Australia’s economic future, not just something that was a relic of our history. That’s what this Government wants.

I don’t buy the Green ideology which has done so much damage to our country over the last couple of decades and I’m pleased to see that there are some sensible Labor Party people who don’t buy it either. I know they’re a minority inside their own Party, but I applaud those who don’t buy the Green ideology. You only have to look – and I see Joel smiling - probably the influence of Madam Speaker sitting next to you. I know you want to stay here Joel, not to be expelled.

But the Green ideology has done so much damage to Tasmania. We all know that Tasmania has the lowest wages in our country. It’s got the lowest GPD per head in our country. It’s got the lowest life expectancy in our country. It’s got the lowest education attainments in our country and it’s got the highest unemployment in our country and funnily enough, for the last eight years it’s had a government, in large measure, dominated by the Greens. For the last four years it’s had a government which was Green dominated, even though prior to that election, the leader of the government said that it would never happen – well, sadly it did happen. The deal with the devil that was never going to happen did happen and I say, the only way to ensure that this Green ideology which has done so much damage to Tasmania and more recently done so much damage to our country, is expunged, is not just to change the government in Canberra but to change the government in Hobart as well.

I promised my great friend that I was not going to make a party political speech tonight and I said nothing about the ALP here in Canberra at this present time, because I know people like Joel are doing their best to ensure the best values of the Labor Party are once more appreciated and respected .

But I do want to say that everyone here tonight that as far as this Prime Minister is concerned, as far as the Minister for Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce, is concerned, as far as the very hard-working Parliamentary Secretary for Forestry, Senator Richard Colbeck, is concerned, you aren’t just any industry, you are a great industry and a great sector. We believe in you.

We believe in you and we relish and we revel in your appearance in such numbers in this building tonight.

I am so pleased that for the first time in many years, you can come into this building and not feel that you are in hostile territory. I want to assure you that this is friendly country. This is friendly country and I want to see many more buildings in the years to come built in this country that are as beautifully fitted-out with marvellous timber products as this building is here.

The forestry industry of this country has done great things for this building and may it do great things for so many more buildings in our country and around the world in the years and the decades to come.

Finally I want to say that we don’t claim, in this Government, to be experts on everything; we don’t claim to know everything about this industry.

Yes, we have an abundance of goodwill towards your industry. Yes, we want your industry to flourish, but we know that we will do better by your industry if we are as well informed as possible and that’s why I announce tonight that there will be a Forestry Industry Advisory Council, shortly to be finalised by the Government, but I can announce tonight that the co-chairman of that will be Rob de Fegely who is well known to your industry.

I’m sure you’ll keep us on the straight and narrow so to speak insofar as far as your industry is concerned and I’m sure that he will ensure that we make the kind of decisions that ensure that my colleagues and I are welcome at next year’s dinner.


02 March, 2014

One-sided debate

Ross Hampton, Deakin
Canberra Times, March 02, 2014

IT IS no surprise to the forest and forest-products industries that some researchers seek to use narrowly defined research to support their aim of destroying forestry and the 40,000 regional jobs it sustains; but it is rather more disappointing that The Canberra Times fails to provide readers with any counter view. (''Young forests threatened by fires, logging'', February 23, p9). Had the reporter made an effort to contact the Canberra-based peak industry group for forestry, I could have provided any number of eminent scientists to show that forestry is helping save our bush. For example, readers would be interested to read that the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel and Climate Change) says a working forest (which includes timber harvesting) provides the best carbon store over time. While it's reported that the forum's organiser said he brought together forestry experts to push for evidence-based forestry policy, it is a shame that The Canberra Times chose to print only one side of the debate.