Ringbarker of the Year

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2012   Jeff Seeney

Entrusted Position of Public Authority:      ‘Queensland’s LNP Deputy Premier and Minister for State Development

 

Publicised Source:    ‘Environmentalists outraged as State Government considers redrawing boundaries of Great Barrier Reef World Heritage area’

[Source: ‘Environmentalists outraged as State Government considers redrawing boundaries of Great Barrier Reef World Heritage area’, by Jason Tin, The (Brisbane) Courier-Mail, plus AAP, 20120413, ^http://www.couriermail.com.au/news/queensland/push-to-redraw-reef-protection-zones/story-e6freoof-1226325288022]

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IN a move that has outraged environmentalists, the State Government is considering a push to remove several Queensland ports from the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage area.

Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney claims the boundaries of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage area should be redrawn, with the embattled Gladstone Harbour the first port on his list of exclusion zones.

Mr Seeney said the Government was committed to protecting the Great Barrier Reef but argued the Gladstone Harbour was not a part of it.

“If there is going to be a continual misrepresentation of those boundaries then I think that will build a case for the realignment of the boundaries,”  he said.

“It is obviously a misrepresentation to talk about Gladstone Harbour being part of the Great Barrier Reef.”

Mr Seeney added other ports could be considered for exclusion from the area.  However, any such proposal would meet with resistance from the Federal Government, with Environment Minister Tony Burke saying the current boundaries were appropriate.

“The Government has no plans to change the boundary of the property,” he said.

Greens member and environmental medicine specialist Dr Andrew Jeremijenko was outraged by the suggestions.

“There’s a lot of rare and endangered species that use Gladstone Harbour,” he said.  “There’s no gate at the end of the Great Barrier Reef  Gladstone Harbour is used as a migratory place.”

Dr Jeremijenko said the harbour was facing problems that could no longer be ignored.

“Fishermen are coming forward and saying `the water’s making me sick’,” he said.  “What Jeff Seeney’s saying is that he doesn’t care about the fishing industry and the tourism industry he just wants this to be a developed harbour.”

The harbour has been the subject of ongoing controversy, but the cause of its problems remain unclear.

Fisherman Jim Ellis believes the mystery infection that’s leaving him crippled is a direct result of the condition of the Gladstone Harbour.  The 58-year-old fisherman’s left leg has swollen up and developed a rash that has left doctors baffled.

“It’s very, very crippling,” Mr Ellis said. “It swelled up to 2 1/2 times the size of the other leg.”

He believes the illness is linked to his handling of sharks from the harbour, which he says are visibly “sick inside, as well as outside”.
Mr Ellis said he is angered anyone would suggest there is nothing wrong with the water.  “I feel like slapping them,” he said.

Gladstone Ports Corporation declined to comment.

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2011   Dr Chris Back

Entrusted Position of Public Authority:      ‘Australia’s Liberal Senator for West Australia’ 

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Publicised Source:      ‘Fake footage claims from Senator Chris Back rock federal inquiry into live cattle exports’

[Source:  ‘Fake footage claims from Senator Chris Back rock federal inquiry into live cattle exports’ by Malcolm Farr, National Political Editor, news.com.au, 20110810, ^http://www.news.com.au/national/fake-footage-claims-from-senator-chris-back-rock-federal-inquiry-into-live-cattle-exports/story-e6frfkw0-1226112311320 ]

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  • Senator claims he was given information that footage faked
  • Alleges driver bribed slaughtermen to abuse cattle for film
  • Animals Australia denies knowledge of bribes, rejects claims

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Accusation … Liberal Senator Dr Chris Back has claimed Animals Australia paid for the Indonesia cattle abuse footage.

DRAMATIC claims that video of Australian cattle being cruelly mistreated in Indonesia was faked,and led to the beating of an abattoir worker and the rape of his wife rocked a federal inquiry in Canberra today.

Release of the video by the animal rights group Animals Australia and its broadcast on ABC’s Four Corners program in May led to a ban on the $320 million a year live cattle exports to Indonesia in June, and it is only now being lifted.

The claim the footage was fake was made by West Australian Liberal Senator Chris Back, who said he did not believe executives of Animals Australia were involved in the alleged deception.

Animals Australia denied knowledge of bribes and said the claims were a distraction from an inquiry into Australia’s live beef trade.

Senator Back told the inquiry he had been informed a taxi driver had arranged the mistreatment of the cattle with a bribe of 150,000 rupiah, and the abuse was then captured on video.

When the ban was imposed and the abattoir closed, the slaughterman in the video was blamed by his co-workers who beat him and raped his wife, said Senator Back.

Animals Australia said it had not paid for cattle to be abused, that the person involved was an animal rights activist and not a driver, and rejected other claims by Senator Back.

Senator Back said he would demand the committee inquiry be extended into the circumstances of how the “footage was shown on national television (and) within days a campaign of emails, of some tens of thousands” led to the live cattle ban.

“The advise that has come to me is that a driver in Indonesia paid money to slaughtermen in at least two abattoirs so that the footage would be obtained,” Senator Back told reporters outside the inquiry room.   He said had an affidavit from “an Australian man who has spoken to that worker (who was beaten up) having visited him at that facility”.

“What I was advised, as I have just said in the hearing, was that the man who was paid 150,000 rupiah – which is about eight day’s salary – that that person has since been turned on by his co-workers and that has been the retribution,” said Senator Back.

Animals Australia quickly rejected all aspects of the senator’s claims and defended the British cameraman who had taken the video.

“This is really disappointing that time has been wasted that could have been better served focussing on the key (animal) welfare in this place,” said Lyn White, communications director of Animals Australia.  “It was not a taxi driver. It was an animal activist from a local group we were working with. And certainly I have no knowledge of any payments being made.”

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2010   Robert Green

Entrusted Position of Public Authority:      ‘CEO of Victorian Government’s industrial logger, VicForests

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Publicised Source #1:   ‘Caught – VicForests fiddling figures on Environmental Performance’

[Source:   ‘Caught – VicForests fiddling figures on Environmental Performance’, by Environment East Gippsland, 20100920, ^http://www.eastgippsland.net.au/?q=node/628]

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‘Recent checks by EEG of VicForests corporate reports have found examples of VicForests blatantly misrepresenting its environmental performance in a recent corporate report. VicForests has boasted in its 2008 Corporate Plan Highlights report that there had been “measurable improvements in the environmental performance of forest management operations on State forest.”

VicForests has boasted in its 2008 Corporate Plan Highlights report that there had been “measurable improvements in the environmental performance of forest management operations on State forest.” In support of this claim, VicForests presented a graph based on EPA Audits of Compliance to try and prove that things had really looked up in Victorian State forests since the Department of Sustainability and Environment had been dumped as manager of logging operation.

Figure 1 graphs the improvement in VicForests’ environmental compliance scores in EPA audits undertaken since 2004/05. It also shows the downward trend in the number of recommendations that the EPA has made for improved performance. Compliance has improved and the number of recommendations has decreased since VicForests took over responsibility for commercial activities on State forest.

VicForests plotted two series of data to try and prove its point

  • Counts of the number of recommendations made in each report
  • Scores from the EPA Audits

In the graph, VicForests tries to create the impression that the EPA was becoming less concerned about environmental breaches since VicForests had taken over from the Department of Sustainability and Environment in 2004. VicForests has used a number of tricks that could have come straight out of “How to Lie with Statistics” and is a textbook case of statistical misrepresentation.

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Trick 1: Selective omission of data

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This one is a favourite of climate sceptics and other data benders. If you have a series of results over a number of years and the results at either end get in the way of the point you are trying to make just chop of the offending bits of the series.

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Trick 2: Count anything and pretend it’s relevant to the issue
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To prove its point, VicForests decided to use the number of recommendations made by the EPA as a measure of noncompliance with the Code. The trouble with this approach is that problems discovered in later Audits will not end up as a recommendation if the problem has already being raised as a recommendation in an earlier report. A more realistic comparison would have been to count the number of new recommendations AND all the open recommendations. (You can see these results in the table below). However, there is a bigger problem with the VicForests approach – many problems identified in these Audits did not end up creating a recommendation. For example, in the 2007 report, over one third of the measurements made to check soils were incorrect. In East Gippsland, Vicforests had failed to complete regeneration surveys for more than 80% of the coupes and the auditors found 4 major environmental breaches but neither of these matters ended up as a recommendation.

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Trick 3: Hide any other incriminating data

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This one is VicForests’ best trick; in 2005, VicForests was in charge of logging when the following 4 major environmental breaches were detected by an EPA Special Audit:

  • Logging of a part of the Errinundra National Park
  • Illegal logging outside approved boundaries at two other East Gippsland coupes
  • A large part of an SPZ for Superb Parrots was destroyed by illegal logging in the Barmah state Forest

This appalling bungling resulted in the EPA making another 20 recommendation in 2005, but none of these appear in the Vicforests graph.

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Trick 4: Pretend the audits are conducted in a political vacuum

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The final EPA audit was conducted during 2007 and released the following year. The review was carried out under very difficult conditions. The Department of Sustainability and Environment had decided to review the EPA Audit program. The review was conducted by Sinclair Knight Merz, and their report makes very clear the widespread hostility to the EPA coming from industry groups and VicForests. VicForests was apparently peeved at having its fantastic work scrutinised by outsiders whose work they considered substandard. Comments had been made during stakeholder forums that some participants did not even believe that auditors had any jurisdiction to make recommendations. DSE ignored the recommendation of the review to keep the audit program as an independent review and shut it down in 2008. Given the hostility shown to the EPA, it is hardly surprising they bothered making many recommendations.

Even though VicForests use of a count of recommendations is pretty wonky, the extent of misrepresentation becomes clearer when the missing years are added to the data.

Here you can see that even if VicForests method is followed, their claim that things got much better after they took over in 2004/05 is nonsense – after 2003/04, there is a big increase the following year. The figure for 2005/06 does not include the 20 recommendations from the Special Audit.

In 2003/04, the EPA started reporting the number of environmental breaches. These could be things like logging in an SPZ, felling trees into a buffer etc. Using Trick 3, VicForests has conveniently forgotten to plot these figures, because the pattern it is trying to present to the public of steady improvement is absent.

In addition to these tricks, VicForests had one further trick up its sleeves..

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Trick 5: Pretend that data for different years is comparable

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This trick mostly applies to the blue graph showing a tiny increase in the EPAs overall result for each audit. In fact these scores are not at all easy to compare because they are based on a small sample of all the coupes. The selection of these coupes was very biased – in the three years covered in the graph, the Central Gippsland FMA was included in every audit, but the Dandenong FMA was not checked once!

Also, the way the audit score was calculated effectively hid any signs of serious ecological damage done to the forest. For example if in 2007, the auditors had found all the habitat trees burnt on the East Gippsland coupes then the overall result would have dropped by about 1%. The audit process gave more weight to checking that all the logger’s litter had been cleared from the logging coupe than ecologically important things like habitat tree protection. The audit process often found serious environmental breaches detected (for example, one of the 109 Environmental Impacts in the table above) but the overall audit score could still end up being quite high. VicForests publicity is very misleading in suggesting that a small increase in an audit score has anything to do with the lack of environmental damage caused by logging.

After having the book thrown at them by the EPA in 2005, you’d need a hide as thick as a rhinoceros to keep pumping out corporate spin without missing a beat but Vicforests seems filled with these types who just can’t see the forest for the wood.

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Publicised Source #2:   ”Logging ‘a threat to wildlife’

[Source: ‘Logging ‘a threat to wildlife’, by Kate Hagan, Sale, March 2, 2010, ^http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/logging-a-threat-to-wildlife-20100301-pdlh.html]

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‘STATE-SANCTIONED logging of old-growth forest in East Gippsland poses a risk to threatened and endangered species and is at odds with the government’s own legislation, an environment group has said.

Environment East Gippsland is suing VicForests, the government agency responsible for logging in state forests, over plans to log about 60 hectares at Brown Mountain, which greens and the timber industry see as a symbolic battleground.

The group won an injunction last year preventing logging in the area before the trial, which began in the Supreme Court sitting at Sale yesterday.

The group acted after Environment Minister Gavin Jennings lifted a seven-month moratorium on logging at Brown Mountain, saying government scientists had found no evidence of endangered species there.

But in an opening address yesterday, Debbie Mortimer, SC, for Environment East Gippsland, said VicForests relied on ”desktop planning”, using often outdated records that were at odds with evidence from field experts on the ground.

She listed nine species in the area that were recognised as being ”in a demonstrable state of decline” and prone to extinction, including the square-tailed kite, powerful owl, spot-tailed quoll and giant burrowing frog.

She said the long-footed potoroo, which the federal government listed as an endangered species, was particularly vulnerable.

”To an outsider it’s tempting to characterise this as a case about trees and whether they should be cut down,” Ms Mortimer said. ”In our submission that is to see this forest only as a kind of farm … for the purpose of harvesting trees.

”Our case is to see it as an ecosystem that grows and decays on its own cycles. Flora and fauna depend on it. It is complex and not fully understood.”

Ms Mortimer said logging in Brown Mountain was incompatible with a ”suite of legislation” enacted in Victoria aimed at protecting and conserving biodiversity.

She said the legislation was ”not intended to turn tracts of forests into islands where isolated populations of species inevitably lack biodiversity and the optimal breeding conditions and habitat range to recover and flourish.

”We do not dispute that native forest logging involves very different, frequently competing interests. What we seek to demonstrate is that logging of old-growth forests inhabited by many threatened species … under the present administration by VicForests favours logging in a way that the legislative and regulatory scheme does not envisage or allow.”

She said forests were a ”community resource” that belonged to all Victorians.

The case before Justice Robert Osborn is due to continue today, when lawyers for VicForests are due to respond.

“If we hadn’t sued VicForests, Brown Mountain would have been illegally logged by now. And Brown Mountain is just one area. The government is logging publicly owned forests every day without endangered species surveys.”

“We are calling on the government to respect the judgment by stopping logging in native forests that may contain rare wildlife, until the full implications of this judgment are examined.”

“VicForests, the Government-owned logging monopoly, has a legal responsibility to protect endangered wildlife. They can’t just go in and log blindfolded.”

“Victorians have always known native forest logging is immoral, uneconomic, unaccountable, unsustainable and unpopular. Today we’ve proved that where endangered species are present, or likely to be present, it’s potentially illegal as well”.

[Source: ‘Supreme Court: Victory for Brown Mountain against VicForest loggers’, by by Sheila Newman, CanDoBetter.net, 20100812, ^http://candobetter.net/node/2136]

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2012 sequel…

 

Publicised Source #3:   ”VicForests must pay up now for its illegal logging’

[Source: ‘VicForests must pay up now for its illegal logging’, by Sheila Newman, CanDoBetter.net, 20120320, ^http://candobetter.net/node/2826, sourced from www.eastgippsland.net.au]

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VicForests must this week pay Environment East Gippsland $630,000 in legal costs which it incurred defending its wrong action in planning to destroy wildlife habitat forest in Australia. This, and a pending case also mentioned in this article, is a welcome indication of independence in Victoria’s judiciary, despite wide corruption of the democratic system in Victoria and the rest of Australia.

Environment East Gippsland has received notice from the Supreme Court that VicForests must this week pay the group which sued them in 2010, $630,000 of its legal costs for the Brown Mountain landmark court case.

The legal bills of the state government’s logging agency VicForests are now estimated to be millions. This latest payment covers the bulk of legal costs of EEG which successfully sued VicForests for planning to destroy protected wildlife habitat. The Supreme Court ordered that VicForests pay 90% of EEG’s costs in the Brown Mountain ruling 18 months ago.

“As well as the Brown Mountain case, another two cases have been brought against VicForests this year by community groups“, said Jill Redwood of EEG. “and a most unprecedented case is set to be heard in late March, where the DSE is charging VicForests with unauthorized logging and contravening their license. This was as a result of VicForests logging a protected rainforest in East Gippsland.

“It seems this government logging monopoly is more suited to operating in Indonesia.”

“Thank goodness we have a legal system that can be used as a last resort – even if it costs small non-profit organisations hundreds of thousands of dollars. Rather than adhere to the laws, VicForests instead spends public money employing spin doctors to tell the media that they are a law abiding logging agency”.

“After the bills are paid, what remains in our bank account will be going straight back into the legal fight to protect our forests”, said Jill Redwood. “The government’s logging agency will continue to be in court if they continue to illegally destroy public native forests” said Jill Redwood.’

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2009  Bob Gordon

Entrusted Position of Public Authority:      ‘CEO of Tasmanian Government’s industrial logger, Forestry Tasmania

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Publicised Source:    ‘The Cracking of Our Hearts’

[Source: ‘The cracking of our hearts’, speech by Ula Majewski, Still Wild Still Threatened, 20090113, reproduced on Tasmanian Times, 20090114, ^http://tasmaniantimes.com/index.php/article/the-cracking-of-our-hearts]

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Good afternoon. Thank you for coming out to support Tasmania’s old growth forests. As we stand here, Tasmania Police and Forestry Tasmania are attempting to demolish Camp Florentine, which has been defending these beautiful forests for over two years, and smash a 4km logging road through the exquisite old growth forests located in the valley.

As Bob (Brown) and Vica (Bayley) have said, the Upper Florentine Valley is one of our most spectacular wild places. It contains vast tracts of pristine old growth tall eucalypt forest and rainforest and is bordered on three sides by world heritage. The valley contains outstanding examples of indigenous and european cultural heritage. Last year, the World Heritage Committee came out and strongly recommended that the Tasmanian and Australian Governments seriously consider placing the Upper Florentine, the Styx and the Weld Valleys into the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. The IUCN went even further, highly recommending that a moratorium on logging in these areas be put in place immediately. Peter Garrett and Minister O’Byrne refused, coming out and saying that everything was fine.

Apart from these pristine forests providing threatened species habitat, being amazing places for the community to go and just marvel, they also store a huge amount of carbon. And as more and more science comes out about the role of carbon in our old growth forests and about the role of these forests in protecting our planet from dangerous climate change, it seems more and more ludicrous that they continue to road, log, woodchip and burn these forests.

Every year, specific areas within Tasmania’s publicly owned old growth and high conservation value forests are dissected into logging coupes, which are then identified with a particular code – for example, FO44A, FO45A or FO45B. These are then positioned within the time-line of a harvesting schedule. These forests that, in some sense, could be said to exist in a place beyond the adequacy of language, are reduced to a string of letters and numbers. Red lines are traced in Forestry Tasmania across topographical maps using computer based modelling systems, effectively tattooing the landscape with a precise calligraphy of impending eradication.

There is nothing quite like the silence of a freshly cut clearfell or a freshly cut aggregated retention coupe, just as there is nothing quite like the terrible roar of a chainsaw or an excavator splitting open the dawn air. In these blasted landscapes, the voice falls silent; narrative is systematically rendered nonexistent. To stand within this silence, in the choked up confusion of mud and splintered stumps, to come across the jagged remains of a tree under which you sat a few weeks before, is to truly understand the terrible parameters of ignorance and disrespect that are compelled by something as fundamental and as simple as human greed.

In the Upper Florentine Valley, Forestry Tasmania plans to build 10.8km of roading over the next two and a half years. If this roading goes ahead, some of our most precious forested ecosystems will be ripped apart and left open to industrial scale devastation at the hands of woodchipping barons Gunns Limited. 84% of the timber harvested from these forests will be woodchipped and exported by Gunns Limited to places like Japan to make office paper. Yesterday we stood on the Gordon River Road in the Upper Florentine Valley. We watched a huge monster of an excavator clanking and rumbling off the back of a truck and into a forest which I love beyond any form of articulation. Our hearts were cracking. However, there are still forest activists perched high in the canopy of the Upper Florentine Valley. Our dear friend Adrian is locked into a tunnel in the middle of Forestry Tasmania’s logging road, preventing the machines from going any further.Tasmania is the largest exporter of woodchips in Australia, exporting more woodchips than all the other states combined. Last year, Forestry Tasmania released figures which showed that wood from publicly owned native forests will be sold to Gunns Limited, the world’s largest exporter of hardwood chips from between $12.50 and $13.75 per tonne from 1 January 2008. Managing Director of Forestry Tasmania, Bob Gordon, has also confirmed that 500 000 tonnes of woodchips sourced from our old growth forests will be exported annually.

Although Gunns cut the majority of Tasmania’s 170 forest harvesting businesses’ long-term woodchip contracts by over 40 percent in 2006, the company reported a $75 million annual net profit for the 2006-2007 financial year. Over the past few months, Tasmanian forest contractors have been lobbying the Australian Government for assistance packages to exit the industry with dignity. Over the last decade, Forestry Tasmania and the forestry industry have received at least $326 million in federal and state based taxpayer funded subsidies through the Tasmanian RFA and TCFA financial packages alone. Last year, Forestry Tasmania, the GBE responsible for managing our public forests in an environmentally, socially and economically sustainable manner, reported an annual loss in excess of $30 million.

Taken together, these factors suggest a markedly different situation than the one that continues to be propagated and peddled by the logging industry in Tasmania. A different picture begins to emerge which has little to do with conflict between loggers and greenies and everything to do with local jobs, taxpayers’ dollars and publicly owned old growth and high conservation value forests being destroyed by Forestry Tasmania – identified by ANU economist Judith Ajani as “a profitless wood supply service” – and Gunns Ltd. in order to maximise profits for the largest and wealthiest corporation on the island, predominantly through the export of enormous volumes of woodchips.

We are currently facing a global climate emergency. It is an act of utter daylight lunacy to continue logging and burning our precious carbon dense forests. However, right across our island, in forests like the Weld Valley, the Styx Valley, in the Blue Tier, in the Wedge, in the Arve, in the exquisite tall eucalypt forests of the Tarkine and in the Great Western Tiers, Forestry Tasmania and Gunns Limited are ripping apart some our most precious natural heritage.

Myself and 12 of my dear friends are being sued by Gunns Limited for taking peaceful action at Triabunna chip mill and standing up against this outrageous destruction. Right now in the Upper Florentine Valley, activists are speaking out and standing strong in defence of our world class ancient forests.

We are calling out loud to the our community here in Tasmania and across the nation. We are calling out to the Tasmanian and Australian Governments. We are calling out to the global community to speak out and take a stand together against the forces that would destroy our communities, our beautiful island and our most precious and exquisite old growth and high conservation value forests here in Tasmania.

 

Speech by Ula Majewski, Parliament Lawns, Hobart, 20090113:

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There is nothing quite like the silence of a freshly cut clearfell or a freshly cut aggregated retention coupe, just as there is nothing quite like the terrible roar of a chainsaw or an excavator splitting open the dawn air. In these blasted landscapes, the voice falls silent; narrative is systematically rendered nonexistent. To stand within this silence, in the choked up confusion of mud and splintered stumps, to come across the jagged remains of a tree under which you sat a few weeks before, is to truly understand the terrible parameters of ignorance and disrespect that are compelled by something as fundamental and as simple as human greed.

In the Upper Florentine Valley, Forestry Tasmania plans to build 10.8km of roading over the next two and a half years. If this roading goes ahead, some of our most precious forested ecosystems will be ripped apart and left open to industrial scale devastation at the hands of woodchipping barons Gunns Limited. 84% of the timber harvested from these forests will be woodchipped and exported by Gunns Limited to places like Japan to make office paper. Yesterday we stood on the Gordon River Road in the Upper Florentine Valley. We watched a huge monster of an excavator clanking and rumbling off the back of a truck and into a forest which I love beyond any form of articulation. Our hearts were cracking. However, there are still forest activists perched high in the canopy of the Upper Florentine Valley. Our dear friend Adrian is locked into a tunnel in the middle of Forestry Tasmania’s logging road, preventing the machines from going any further.’

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Stihl Industrial Logging

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Australian Government Industrial Loggers – stihl going for it in 2012:

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  1. DERM Forest Products (Queensland) ^visit site
  2. Forest Products Commission (WA) ^visit site
  3. Forestry NSW ^visit site
  4. Forestry SA ^visit site
  5. Forestry Tasmania ^visit site
  6. VicForests ^visit site

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