Making forests a wedge won the Liberals two Tasmanian seats at the last federal election. They’re hoping to do something similar in Labor heartland with coal next year – but timber issues could leave the Government lost in the woods in one key marginal.

Yesterday, the Federal Court ruled some Forestry Tasmania logging operations breach the Regional Forest Agreement (RFA). The court also found that the company had breached the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act by not protecting three threatened animal species.

Federal Forestry Minister Eric Abetz says Greens claims that the ruling should signal an end to the logging of native forests is nothing but spin. Timber Communities Australia, however, is concerned.

They say the Federal Court’s decision throws into jeopardy the million hectares of Tasmania’s old growth forest now in reserves. They warn the decision creates uncertainty for thousands of Tasmanians as all forest harvesting operations in the new year could be put on hold.

“This is a lousy Christmas present to timber dependent families,” TCA’s Tasmanian manager Barry Chipman says. And those families and those communities may be about to hit back.

All Crikey readers will remember those striking images from Tasmania from the closing days of the 2004 poll – Iron Mark sneaking out a back door to avoid timber workers and CFMEU members cheering on John Howard.

Crikey now understands that the CFMEU may have a nasty surprise planned for the PM.

Yesterday we reported on the Labor preselection for the northern Tasmanian seat of Bass. The Libs picked it up last time. Their bloke, Michael Ferguson, holds it by 2.7 per cent.

Crikey understands that the ALP and the union are setting a trap for the Liberals as nasty as a spiked tree-trunk – Labor will run dead and a CFMEU-backed independent will be the main contender. Ferguson is regarded in the electorate as dead wood. A timber candidate would lop down his chances of re-election.

It fits. Ambitious Labor wannabes should be queuing up for Bass. It’s a bellwether seat. Whoever wins Bass tends to win government. They’re not.

The Fork in the Road tour largely bypassed the seat. And Kruddy and Julia left their jolly green giant Peter Garret back on mainland where he could pander to the doctors’ wives. He can work the leafy suburbs and leave the timber communities to the union that represents the people who earn their livings there.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
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