A ‘last ditch’ community petition to the Tasmanian Upper House has netted some 20,000 signatures opposing the Gunn’s pulp mill in just a few weeks. The petition calls for a return to democratic process, equal treatment for all and public participation in planning:


Observers might wonder what it means for a state government to leave from all consideration the impacts of a risky proposal on over 150,000 people while paying themselves handsomely from taxpayer monies. Is representation of taxpayers by our politicians optional?

Is John Howard happy for state governments to redefine their roles at will without regard to the needs and wishes of taxpayers? Why is the federal government supporting the CFMEU’s position?

The Tasmanian pulp mill proposal has only been assessed against the narrowest possible criteria by an overseas pulp mill supplier associated with the project. The investments and aspirations of sensitive industries like tourism and agriculture have been institutionally ignored, communities have been refused any help and have been marginalised for daring to criticise the proposal, while millions of taxpayer dollars have flowed to the proponent and to various infrastructure projects (e.g. roads) that need upgrading to support a ‘world scale’ mill. Rather than intervene in the situation, the federal government has criticised the lack of due process while moving to approve the project.

Everyone in Australia should be concerned by these events. It means that in John Howard’s federalist Australia, a state government can build nuclear power stations, uranium processing sites or desalination plants without any real need to worry about existing industries or communities.

All problems can be overcome by stating that the people’s and industry concerns are not relevant. Arbitrary decision making by governments seriously damages our socio-economic system by destabilising our investment environment, making it almost impossible for investors to plan with any longer term confidence.

More ominously, it also indicates that our democracy no longer works as taxpayer subsidised groups with big lobbying budgets can buy political influence with our money regardless of our objections.

Unless the federal government acts to introduce some sanity into proceedings, Australians will be faced with a terrible choice at the next election – more of Howard who allowed this situation to occur, or Rudd who wants to give the states even more powers.