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Press conference transcript: Tarkine protection and forest furnaces

Tarkine 4WD tracks and forest furnaces

I totally support the actions of the Tasmanian Aboriginal community who are taking to court the government for the fact that they are going to re-open four-wheel-drive tracks in the Tarkine which will jeopardise aboriginal heritage. It is just shocking that this government is determined to behave in such a manner, as vandals, that is all you can call it.

It was bad enough that Minister Burke under the last government failed to protect the Tarkine in its entirety as the Heritage Council had recommended. But he could not avoid protecting those Aboriginal sites. It is an incredibly rich area of Aboriginal heritage and to now see the government open up all of these tracks, many of which have been closed for a very long time, it is just appalling. It will be environmentally shocking, but culturally it will damage, no doubt at all, damage Aboriginal heritage. And the Aboriginal community deserve all of our support in taking this matter to court.

The Tasmanian government has released its energy paper and one thing in it that should make people very concerned is that they are putting half a million dollars into investigating forest furnaces. We all know that there is no market for native forest woodchips. That is why the whole forest peace process started, to talk about how to transition out of native forests. This government federally and in Tasmania are desperate, ideologically committed to knocking over native forests and destroying biodiversity. But they do not have a market. What they will now try to do is burn those forests in forest furnaces and Tony Abbott has enabled that with his direct action legislation through the Parliament that took out the prohibition on using native forests for generating electricity. This will just see people once again having to fight for the forests as the government tries to use burning native forests as a way of justifying ongoing native forest logging.

Question: Last week we saw Save the Tarkine win a court battle, this week we are seeing another court battle for the Tarkine. What does it say when these sorts of groups have to keep taking the government to court?

It is pretty clear that both at the federal and state level they do not care about the environment. They do not care about cultural heritage. All they care about is dig it up, cut it down and ship it away. The government ought to be humiliated, both the former Labor government in Tasmania and the current Liberal government at the extent to which their grovelling to the mining industry has been exposed. Along come some companies which they did not do proper due diligence on. It is clear you would never have an iron ore mine in Tasmania that could compete with the Pilbara, seriously, who did the due diligence to get this mining licence in the first place? But there you had Lara Giddings and there you had Will Hodgman talking about not the long-term benefits and jobs to be had on the back of tourism, protection and long-term strategies, but rather going into the election pitching for Braddon, presuming that people in Braddon would not know that these companies were never likely to be viable, that the jobs would never eventuate. It is awful to see how Tasmanians and the level of unemployment particularly in Braddon have been exploited to justify destruction of the Tarkine in the way that the government is currently going about it.

22 December 2014, Hobart

 

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