Category Archives: Politics

Standing Tall?

Farmer

What can you say about Tasmania farmers trying to grow trees for profit in what must be one of the most hostile marketplaces in the world for growing trees.

Why hostile? Tasmania is equivalent to the forest industry Middle East – a political/commercial/social war zone for the past 35 years with no peace in sight.

Are they deluded? Are they brave? Are they profitable?

They are certainly dedicated and passionate.

These farmers need to be wearing full body armour.

The ABC rural program Landline recently did a segment of farm forestry in Tasmania.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-11-04/standing-tall:-tasmanias-forestry-future/9119218

As demand for timber outstrips local supply, the CSIRO is encouraging Tasmanian farmers and private landowners to join the agroforestry sector.

Even that one promotion sentence by the ABC is enough to make me despair.

Here’s a news story the ABC did about the Landline feature:

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-11-05/tasmania-farmers-sow-agroforestry-seeds-as-demand-for-wood-rises/9109216

It’s not a story I find very encouraging. In fact if I was a farmer reading this I’d be having a quiet laugh over my coffee.

As a forester I’ve been reading stories like these for the past 40 years whilst watching the forest industry march to oblivion. It’s the same old story, which hasn’t changed in 40 years. Obviously the story doesn’t work. Why?

One of the problems for these farmers is that they have no power in the political, social or commercial marketplace. They have no voice. No one represents their interests.

Notionally the Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association (TFGA) is supposed to represent the interests of farm forestry, but they do nothing. Why? Because doing something means standing up to the politicians and a sycophantic industry.

The TFGA can’t even create a farm forestry vision for the future. Not a single policy.

http://www.tfga.com.au/

So farmers like Graham and Roger are in No Man’s Land, caught between warring parties.

The ONLY basis for a successful forest industry is profitable tree growers, with minimal political and community conflict.

Tasmania is a very long way from that objective.

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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.

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?