Water Week

EWN Publishing

Tasmanian pulp mill debate crosses Strait to create ripples in federal politics

Posted by waterweek on 18 September 2007

The best efforts of both major parties to quarantine the Tamar Valley pulp mill debate south of Bass Strait continued to fail dismally, according to Matthew Denholm reported The Australian (15/9/2007, p.31).

Mill opposition spreads debate: This week, national television audiences (ABC’s ‘Point of Difference’) heard calls for a royal commission into the state Government’s handling of the mill and forestry, Denholm wrote. Voters in Malcolm Turnbull’s Sydney seat of Wentworth had the front page of their local paper plastered with the issue. And Liberal rebel Ben Quin pushed party powerbrokers a step closer to disendorsing him by telling The Australian that forests to be fed to the mill might be worth more left standing as carbon offsets.

Premier’s actions create suspicion: Many on both sides of politics believed federal Environment Minister Turnbull brought the focus on himself by allowing the state to make its decision before his own. Premier Paul Lennon’s closeness to the timber industry, and in particular to pulp mill proponent Gunns Ltd, continued to be an issue in the debate. It started with his dinner with Gunns executive chairman John Gay some years back, when the pro-logging Premier apparently proposed the mill plan. Many were suspicious when Lennon chose a Gunns company to renovate his country home (although both insist all was above board). More recently, Lennon was accused by a planning judge of trying to “lean on” him to dump public hearings about the mill.

Ex-Premier influential director: While the Liberals did not have the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union to keep them dancing to the timber industry’s tune, they did have former Liberal premier Robin Gray. Gray, who unsuccessfully championed the previous mill proposal in 1989, is now a Gunns director. Criticised by the Carter royal commission into a 1989 bribery scandal, Gray retains influence in the conservative establishment of northern Tasmania.

The Australian, 15/9/2007, p. 31

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