Richard Flanagan, Stop the Pulp Mill Rally, Franklin Square, Hobart, Saturday, November 17
First published in the Tasmanian Times
Because we do not accept that Gunns is our government and that their profit line is to be our future. And if the clearly expressed view of the majority of Tasmanians does not persuade our new government we will take the fight to Gunns investors. We will take the fight to their AGMs, and to their board meetings. We will take the fight to the courts and to their international chip and prospective paper buyers. We will take the fight to Australia and we will take the fight to the world. And if, in the end we have all other avenues denied us, if we are left with no other alternative, if it takes standing on the road to the pulp mill site and placing our bodies between their machines and our home, we will stand there, in peace and with pride, united against hate and greed, joined in our love for our island. And if we are arrested and thrown in jail, then we will go to jail in our tens, we will go to jail in our hundreds, we will go to jail in our thousands, and Paul Lennon will have to build seven new prisons to house all the people who will come and who will keep on coming before they even attempt to pour the foundations of one new pulp mill.
MY FAMILY COMES FROM the roughest street in what was then the toughest suburb in Launceston—Burn St, Invermay. There are some great Invermay sayings my Dad used teach me. One is, “Crayfish to no man.” No matter how big and dirty they are, no matter how frightening they are—get up, stand up, and fight.
Tasmanians—we have come here today not to weep for the soul of our beautiful island home, but to save it. We can stop this mill, we must stop this mill, and, by god, we will stop this mill.
I can not bore you describing the terrible road of extraordinary untruths, perverted processes, political interference, intimidation, threats, and thuggery down which this wretched proposal has travelled because you, like me, like us all, have trudged in the wake of that terrible caravan for these past three years.
We have watched our Tasmania raped as they chanted their lies. They redefined rainforest as wet sclerophyll, old growth as mixed growth, clearfelling as aggregated retention, pillage as progress, greed as good, truth as lies, patriots as traitors. We now know that the mill failed to meet numerous RPDC guidelines and was never capable of meeting them. We now know that Gunns’ own evidence was riddled with flaws and inaccuracies. We now know this mill is a monstrosity that threatens not only our health, but our forests, our wildlife, our seas, our water, our economy, our very future.
We now know Gunns can only make money if we pay for their profits with subsidies. In the last twenty years one billion dollars of taxpayers money—our money— has gone in subsidies to the Tasmanian forestry industry, an industry that destroys more and more, employs less and less and takes everything. The AMA has warned Tasmania’s political leaders that they will be personally responsible for any health problems arising from the pulp mill. Only in Tasmania instead of giving money to the hospitals to make the sick well, would a government give money to a company to make the well sick.
They hd the temerity to say it was about forestry jobs. But no Gunns representative, no government spokesperson, no CFMEU brother stood up for logging contractors last year when they went to the wall as Gunns slashed their contracts. The only jobs Paul Lennon really stands for are his own and those of the Gunns board.
To evade the ever growing public outrage, they have sought to destroy every brave person who speaks the truth. Dr Warwick Raverty. Christopher Wright. Terry Martin, Ben Quin. And these were people not even opposed to the mill, but simply concerned at the political interference in what was meant to be a proper, impartial process.
And why is this happening? Christopher Wright, the distinguished judge and the second RPDC head that Premier Paul Lennon tried to lean on, put it most clearly about Paul Lennon. ‘It was plain as the nose on my face,’ Wright has said, ‘that he was trying to please Gunns.’
Nearly two decades after its then chairman Eddie Rouse’s failed attempt to corrupt parliament, Gunns now is so powerful that leading national politicians of all persuasions acknowledge that the real power in Tasmania is not the government but Gunns itself. This goes beyond the sizeable donations Gunns makes to both major parties, both in Tasmania and nationally.
This is not a Tasmania I any longer recognise, this is Bjelke Petersens Queensland, and it is time we took our Tasmania back—back from the lies, from the intimidation, from the threats, from the character assassinations and blacklisting. Because its our Tasmania, not one company’s fiefdom. We have suffered for too many years them turning Tasmanian against Tasmanian, seeking to make us forget that what joins us is always greater than what divides us, that forest worker and conservationist, union man and greenie woman, southerner and northerner, Liberal and Labor and Green all share a great love for our island and for our people.
We say to Australia—Tasmania is here today and Tasmania is saying: we do not want this pulp mill. We want a royal commission into what has happened here, because nothing other than a royal commission will establish the truth of what has gone so terribly wrong in Tasmania, because nothing less can now clear away the stench that surrounds this project, and nothing less will allow Tasmania and its institutions to have a new beginning.
If you care about the heart of this great country on election day do not vote for any candidate of any party that supports the pulp mill. How many politicians’ mansions have to be exposed as having been renovated by a Gunns company? How many CFMEU officials have to be discovered driving cars purchased from Gunns? How many Timber Communities Australia spokespeople have to be revealed as having their wages paid for by the forest industry before it is publicly acknowledged these people do not speak for Tasmania; that they do not speak for Tasmanians; they answer only to the greed of the woodchippers.
How can it be that you can be sacked by Kevin Rudd from the Labor Party for having a cappuccino with disgraced West Australian premier Brian Burke but if you have your home renovated by Gunns you get given $60 million—as the Tasmanian government was three weeks ago in a promise by Martin Ferguson as part of the ALPs transport package—as another subsidy to Gunns pulp mill. How can Kevin Rudd claim to be fair dinkum about climate change when he is promising more money to support a pulp mill that will burn half a million tonnes of forest a year in the monstrosity of its electricity generator?
How can it be that that the forest John Howard promised to save in 2004 is being logged today? How can it be that the forestry jobs John Howard promised to save were sacrificed by Gunns when it slashed its contracts in 2005 and no one held Howard accountable? It can be this way because both Labor and Liberal leadership dance to the donor—and Tasmania pays the cost with the highest unemployment rates and the greatest levels of poverty in the nation. I know it is hard for loyal Labor and Liberal supporters to not vote for their parties, but only that will drive home to the cynical powerbrokers of the Labor and Liberal Parties that they must respond to the wishes of the people rather than dictates of corporate greed.
Because we do not accept that Gunns is our government and that their profit line is to be our future. And if the clearly expressed view of the majority of Tasmanians does not persuade our new government we will take the fight to Gunns investors. We will take the fight to their AGMS, and to their board meetings. We will take the fight to the courts and to their international chip and prospective paper buyers. We will take the fight to Australia and we will take the fight to the world.
And if, in the end we have all other avenues denied us, if we are left with no other alternative, if it takes standing on the road to the pulp mill site and placing our bodies between their machines and our home, we will stand there, in peace and with pride, united against hate and greed, joined in our love for our island. And if we are arrested and thrown in jail, then we will go to jail in our tens, we will go to jail in our hundreds, we will go to jail in our thousands, and Paul Lennon will have to build seven new prisons to house all the people who will come and who will keep on coming before they even attempt to pour the foundations of one new pulp mill.
If it must be, I will stand on that road to the pulp mill. Raise your hand if you will stand there with me, raise your hands so Kevin Rudd can see he was wrong, raise your hand so Peter Garrett can see that people care, raise your hand so John Howard can see this matters, raise your hand so that ANZ, Perpetual, AMP and the Commonwealth Bank can see that will have to deal with the fallout of the biggest civil disobedience campaign in Australian history since the Franklin River blockade if they do not take action now.
Now is the time for turning, now is the season for our change, now must come that moment when we no longer are cowed, when we cease to be silent, when we speak the truth to power and say no to this pulp mill and yes to a future in which we are governed in the spirit in which we live: with goodness, with the interests of others in our heart and not the leash of greed tearing at our throat. Now is that hour, now is our future. The journey is long, the road is dark and frightening, but together we can reach our destination: the Tasmania of which we all dream, where all are welcome and all prosper, made no longer of lies but truth, built not of rich men’s hate but our love for our island and for each other. Our love. Our Tasmania. Let’s take it back.