Category Archives: Politics

Has one act changed our course forever?

KL

Kevin Lyons (Tasmanian deputy premier 1969 – 1972)

http://www.themercury.com.au/news/tasmania/has-one-act-changed-our-course-forever/news-story/d1b6601e86aafbed4f06f20233e3c10f

This excellent short article in last Saturdays Mercury (5/8/2017) newspaper provides interesting background to how first the Hydro and then the forest industry became willing participants in the environmental wars that have dominated Tasmanian politics for the past 45 years.

The alleged bribing of a State MP and the bringing down of an elected Government provided the spark that went on to become first the dam wars (1970-1983) and then the forestry wars/crisis (1983-present).

The arrival of a party (the United Tasmania Group that went on to become the Greens) focused on the environment was a double-edged sword. It delivered victories for the natural world, and attracted support from disaffected Labor and Liberal voters.

However, without a mandate to govern, the presence of the Greens has helped marginalise the environment as a party-political issue rather than as a matter that should be front and centre of all human endeavour.

Anti-Green sentiment is now a factor in the voting patterns of a cohort of Tasmanians large enough to deliver power to whichever major party is prepared to harvest the negativity.

It is a vicious cycle. Divisions in our community are amplified by major parties competing for the anti-Green vote. Governing parties incite this conflict to maintain power. We have seen it all the way through from premiers such as Reece to Robin Gray and Paul Lennon, with overt displays of aggression and ridicule to green ideas in a bid to firm their voter base.

The forest industry is not mentioned specifically but any Tasmanian knows immediately what the author is talking about. Up until 2011 the forest industry was a more-than-willing participant in these high-stakes political games.

But the only winners in political games are the politicians. Everyone else loses!

And so many Tasmanians still believe the political rhetoric as if it was gospel. Finger pointing has become a Tasmanian obsession.

A vicious and destructive cycle indeed!

Recommended reading.

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Special Timbers Welfare State

TSSMP

A mere 7 years after the last special species management plan was produced by Forestry Tasmania in 2010 comes another attempt at failed forest policy in Tasmania.

http://www.stategrowth.tas.gov.au/forestry/special_species_timber_management_plan

This new Plan will open up 420,000 ha of pristine public native rainforest and oldgrowth for taxpayer funded plundering by the special timbers industry. This includes 225,000 ha of rainforest and oldgrowth in conservation reserves.

The Plan is essentially a help-yourself DIY approach to public forest management, with an Open Season on the last of Tasmania’s rainforest and oldgrowth.

After the Executive Summary the Plan begins by trying to tell us how important the special timbers industry is; total industry employment, total value, etc.

It’s like the Government telling us that Centrelink is a commercial business not welfare.

The Tasmanian Government believes in Welfare State Forestry, even whilst in competition with private tree growers! So profitability, good commercial management and responsible forest management are out the door.

This draft Plan is not a business plan.

This draft special timbers management plan begins with the premise that Tasmania’s last remaining oldgrowth and rainforests exist to be plundered…….at taxpayers expense……for the exclusive benefit of a handful of local woodworkers!

This draft special timbers management plan does not begin with the premise that Tasmania’s premium timbers should be sold into competitive open markets to help fund schools, roads and hospitals.

Nor does the Plan even consider whether these forests are more valuable left untouched.

In 2010 the special timbers industry was formally admitted into Tasmania’s Welfare State. This new draft management plan now takes that Welfare State to a whole new level of plunder, waste and welfare.

The only basis for a successful forest industry is profitable tree growing.

This Plan represents the exact opposite. It’s a disaster for current and potential private blackwood growers.

The draft Plan is open for submissions until 9am Monday 28 August 2017. Submissions can be sent directly to the Department of State Growth by emailing: specialspecies@stategrowth.tas.gov.au

The Plan will become law once it is signed and gazetted by the Minister.

It can’t be “fixed”!

Trucks

http://www.themercury.com.au/news/opinion/latest-policy-proposals-would-have-done-nothing-to-resolve-issues-in-tasmanias-forestry-industry/news-story/4d90132d87faf0c065a6725126f0334c

This excellent article in today’s Mercury newspaper succinctly captures the pain suffering and the high cost to Tasmania of the failures of the last 35 years.

But I certainly don’t agree with the authors final note that the political system can somehow find a solution to the problem.

The one fundamental lesson of the last 35 years is that Tasmania’s political system cannot solve the forestry crisis.

Whilst we continue to log public native forest there will always be politics, conflict, corruption and waste.

That is the fundamental lesson.

This is true not just in Tasmania, which provides the most extreme case, but in all Australian States where public native forest is logged.

Putting our hopes in the political system again, when all indications are that the forthcoming State election will be a bitter and divisive contest with forestry once more a major issue, is sheer lunacy; a classic example of Einstein’s definition of insanity.

No political party (Liberal, Labor or Greens) has a plan to resolve Tasmania’s forestry crisis.

It is time to stop the endless madness.

It is time for the Tasmanian community to speak.

Insanity …

LogTruck

http://tasmaniantimes.com/index.php?/weblog/article/insanity-1/

Here’s an excellent article by economist Graeme Wells on the failures and incredible waste of past and present Government forest policy in Tasmania. It makes for sober reading.

Unfortunately Tasmania’s political system only exacerbates the problem.

When will Tasmania get a fully commercial, profitable forest industry?

Tasmanian Government Response to the Strategic Growth Plan

MACSGP2017

http://www.stategrowth.tas.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0011/149438/Tasmanian_Government_Response_To_Growth_Plan.pdf

The Tasmanian Government has released a statement outlining its response to the forest industry Strategic Growth Plan, which I previously reviewed:

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/2017/05/08/a-strategic-growth-plan-for-the-tasmanian-forests-fine-timber-and-wood-fibre-industry/

The Response keeps the focus of forest policy firmly on a public forest resource and a failed, self-declared bankrupt public forest manager.

Any transition to profitable private tree growers is completely out of the question.

Absolutely nothing has changed!

The bulk of the Response is about what the long suffering Tasmanian taxpayer will continue to do for the forest industry.

The continuing wanton waste of taxpayer’s money on the forest industry is beyond belief! The forest industry has access to the Treasury piggy bank like no other industry in Tasmania!

It now appears certain that the Tasmanian taxpayer will take over responsibility for funding the construction and maintenance of all thousands of kilometres of forestry roads on public land. This is a direct contravention of competitive neutrality.

Remember there are private forest growers who receive none of these taxpayer benefits.

Finally on to special timbers discussed on page 4 of the Response.

As part of the continuing forest industry gravy train, the Tasmanian taxpayer is throwing money at a propaganda initiative to tell us about the benefits of continuing to plunder the last of Tasmania’s oldgrowth and rainforests for the benefit of a handful of venerable craftspeople.

Tasmanian Special Timber Woodcraft Sector Community, Market Awareness and Engagement Program Funding

Funding of $115 000 has been provided to the Tasmanian Special Timbers Alliance for the development and implementation of a Tasmanian Special Timber Woodcraft Sector Community, Market Awareness and Engagement Program. This program will support the implementation of the Special Species Management Plan.

It is all so sad, pathetic and predictable.

Forestry in Tasmania continues to be nothing but waste, politics, and conflict.

Many Tasmanians seem more than happy with this outcome.

As a forester I find the situation incomprehensible.

40 years of this nonsense and it just goes on and on….

When will Tasmania get a fully commercial profitable forest industry?

Not in the foreseeable future that is for certain!

NSW Forestry Industry Roadmap 2016

NSWFIR

http://www.crownland.nsw.gov.au/forestry/industry-roadmap

This Roadmap was released by the New South Wales (NSW) State Government in August last year.

Yet another forest industry taskforce, yet another forest industry plan.

Do I really want to review it? Just a cursory glance tells me it is another Dead Plan Walking.

Come the next change of State Government this Plan will be history.

The Roadmap has “4 Pillars”. They are:

  1. Regulatory modernisation;
  2. Balancing supply and demand;
  3. Community understanding and confidence;
  4. Industry innovation and new markets.

Nothing there about profitability or commercial performance.  Tree growing in NSW remains a community service. NSW farmers will be pleased about that!

So what are some of the glaring errors and omissions of the Roadmap?

  • The NSW Forest Industries Taskforce, just like the Tasmanian Forestry Advisory Council, is comprised of only forest industry representatives. This Roadmap is a 100% political document. In contrast the Victorian Forest Industry Taskforce includes a range of community representatives;
  • The complete lack of profitable tree growers;
  • The commercial management and profitability of NSW Forestry Corporation (the State’s largest tree grower) is completely ignored;
  • Transparent competitive log markets are completely absent. Apparently the price of logs is completely irrelevant to the future of the forest industry;
  • The complete absence of costings and a budget for the Roadmap. How much is THIS plan going to cost the taxpayer? Haven’t they payed the forest industry enough already?
  • The NSW Government will aim to improve community acceptance of the forestry industry as a sustainable and renewable industry” (p.11). What a terrible statement to make. It sounds like something Joseph Goebbels, Nazi Propaganda Minister, would say. More industry propaganda in other words.
  • There is no mention at all about improving the profitability of the industry – either growers or processors.

One of the issues that is highlighted for me by the Roadmap is the fact that plantation regulation is so completely different across all Australian States. Australian plantation owners cannot compete on a level playing field, even within Australia, because the regulations around plantation establishment and management differ significantly between States. No doubt this is also true with most primary industries.

Does the Roadmap have anything useful to say?

About the only useful thing the Roadmap says is that the Government will move to put both private and public forest growers on the same regulatory playing field. It is certainly curious how competitive neutrality continues to get such a low priority in the forest industry. As for commercial performance that continues to be completely ignored.

Here are three vital reports that the Roadmap completely ignores:

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/tag/impediments-to-investment-in-long-rotation-timber-plantations/

http://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0015/38031/farm-forestry-strategy-nsw.pdf

I also note that the NSW Department of Primary Industries website no longer includes forestry as a primary industry. Clearly NSW farmers are just not interested.

This Roadmap is 14 pages of tedious political/industry marketing hype and nonsense.

I’ve read it all so many times before over many decades. This is nothing more than the continuation of failed forest industry policy. All around Australia the forest industry exists in a perverse parallel universe, where commercial performance is irrelevant and taxpayer subsidies are vital.

When will NSW get a fully commercial profitable forest industry?

A Strategic Growth Plan for the Tasmanian Forests, Fine Timber and Wood Fibre Industry

MACSGP2017

http://www.stategrowth.tas.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0004/148855/Strategic_Growth_Plan.PDF (1.3 MB pdf)

The Tasmanian Ministerial Advisory Council on Forestry has finally produced a Strategic Plan for the industry.

Yes another strategic plan for the forest industry!!

Our public library shelves are at breaking point, weighed down by the dozens of these plans, strategies and reviews that have been produced over the past 40 years, all to no avail.

Two issues ensure that the use-by date of this Plan has already expired:

  1. The State Government deliberately excluded non-industry representatives from the Advisory Council. This Plan only represents the interests of a small select group of Tasmanians. It is a 100% political document! This Plan is only as good as the next election if that!
  2. The two most contentious issues of a) public forest management, and b) the future management of Forestry Tasmania, should have been dealt with a separate section within the Plan. Instead these issues are woven through the document, fundamentally compromising the entire Plan. If the forest industry cannot unchain itself from these two issues, and focus on profitable tree growing, then the forest industry is doomed.

If the future of the forest industry is to be based on profitable tree growing then this Plan fails completely!

Reviewing the Plan is therefore an academic/intellectual/painful exercise.

As a forester having read many previous forest industry plans and strategies, reading this Plan is painful and frustrating. Besides the poor structure and legibility, much of the contents are straight out of previous plans I’ve read. There are very few new ideas in this Plan.

The surreality of the Plan is overwhelming, in that the Plan completely ignores the current hostile political, social and economic context of the forest industry.

The Pros

“The future growth potential of private plantations is significant”. This statement on page 6 of the Plan says a lot about the future growth of the forest industry. Unfortunately it is not expanded upon anywhere else in the Plan.

“Government involvement will be as an enabler rather than as a commercial participant.” This statement on page 9 of the Plan is the most curious feature of the Plan. It stands alone with no further detail or explanation of what it might mean. It can be interpreted in a variety of ways.

“It is recommended the Forest Practices Act and the implementation of its provisions be reviewed in keeping with progressive developments in forest practices and science”. A review of the FPA is certainly needed, especially around plantation development and management. Forest plantations should exist within the same regulatory environment as any other primary industry, just like in New Zealand – a level playing field.

“While the industry comprises a diversity of often competing interests and business models, individual stakeholders also share a range of common interests. Within this context, there is a need for an umbrella organisation to develop and represent the shared interests of the whole of the value chain on matters of common concern”. The Plan calls for the formation of a new industry representative body. Private forest growers are the future of the forest industry. They need strong leadership and a strong voice.

That’s it! Four statements in the Plan that I think have some merit and potential. The rest of the Plan is padding or worse.

The Cons

The main con is the absence of non-industry representation on the Advisory Council, making this Plan a 100% political document;

The Plan assumes indefinite ongoing access to taxpayer subsidised public forest resource;

The complete absence of profitable tree growers and profitable tree-growing as the basis of any successful forest industry;

Log pricing is not discussed nor are transparent competitive markets;

The Plan is not a response to a review of the forest industry. Firstly we need a document that lists the major problems and challenges facing the forest industry. Then we need a strategy that addresses those problems and challenges. The logic needs to be transparent – problem, solution, outcome! By itself this document provides the reader with no context by which to judge the strategy, let alone any possible outcomes. I would classify this as a major flaw.

These Plans are always about what the Government can do for the industry, never about what the industry must do for itself; and

Hence always involve spending large amounts of taxpayer money;

Private Forests Tasmania is not mentioned in the Plan!!

The Plan retains the stupid rhetoric about “resource security”. The forest industry does not need “resource security”! The very successful New Zealand forest industry does not talk about resource security, because the NZ industry is based on a private forest resource. “Resource security” in NZ only comes from profitability; either pay a good market price or go out of business! “Resource security” is a forest industry euphemism for loss-making, taxpayer-subsidised, politically protected industry. “Resource security” is anti-competitive and against the principles of competitive neutrality. Private forest growers should not be subject to “resource security” so neither should the public forest grower. In my opinion the word “sustainable” has come to serve the same purpose within the industry. The Plan uses the word “sustainable” ad nauseum whilst the word “profit” appears only once!

The inability of the Strategy to recognise and address issues of competitive neutrality, such as the proposal that the State Government fund forest road construction and maintenance (p. 20). Government money must then also go to private forest growers for road construction and maintenance in order to achieve competitive neutrality!

The section on Meeting Community Expectations (p. 13) is a complete joke, in fact it is laughable.

The section on Special Species Timbers (p. 17) is a joke;

The section on Private Forests (p. 14) is completely inadequate. The objective of private forest growers is profitability. Improving profitability and competitiveness is not discussed in the Plan at all.

I could go on, but the patient is already in the Terminal Ward.

The weaknesses and omissions in this Plan mean that it has already been consigned to the dust bin of history. In 3 years time the Strategic Plan of 2017 will be long forgotten. Yet another failure by the Tasmanian forest industry to reinvent itself.

Another 3 years wasted. More subsidies, more politics, more community conflict can only follow.

PS. Another significant omission from the Plan is the subject of a budget and funding. Of course we all know that the long suffering taxpayer will be asked once again to throw money at the forest industry by way of this Plan, to the tune of $100s millions of dollars. Given the billions of dollars that have been wasted on the forest industry over the past 30 years, taxpayers should be extremely wary of supporting any forest industry plan that does not include significant forest policy and industry reform. This Plan contains very few recommendations for policy and industry reform.

PPS. If the forest industry and the Tasmanian community are serious about the future of the industry then I recommend these two reports as a good place to begin:

https://blackwoodgrowers.com.au/2016/02/25/two-significant-forest-industry-reports-that-went-nowhere/.

These reports contain plenty of great recommendations for reform, none of which have ever been implemented.

PPPS.

Speaking of redundant Forestry Growth Plans does anyone remember this one?

http://www.forestrytas.com.au/uploads/File/pdf/corp_plan_2000.pdf

It’s a complete joke!! By December 2003 ………

Complete cloud cuckoo land stuff. And here we are 14 years later still in cloud cuckoo land. Pathetic!