Tasmanian parliamentarians took to the chamber this morning to begin three days of deliberations on the Tamar Valley pulp mill, with votes expected in both houses on Thursday.

It is widely acknowledged that Gunns has the Tasmanian parliamentary vote in the bag, but what makes the conclusion interesting is that the final green light will come from Malcolm Turnbull’s panel of scientists, who won’t begin their deliberations until Friday this week at the earliest.

It also ignores a potential legal challenge by the Tasmanian Greens, who claim to have a “legal bombshell” which proves one of the Lennon Government’s reports on the pulp mill is unlawful.

Prepared for the Tasmanian Greens by Peter Tree SC, the advice claims that the Sweco Pic report doesn’t comply with the laws that give parliament the power to approve the pulp mill. The legislation compelled Sweco Pic to advise the government on whether or not the project “should” proceed, and reasons as to why the project should proceed. Yet the Greens claim the report fails to offer that advice and hence may contravene the Act.

29. …The most obvious point that needs to be made is that inexplicably the Consultants have at every relevant occasion used the word “can” rather than should. No explanation has been offered in the report for this departure from the clear language of the Act. Clearly the two words have different meaning, particularly in this statutory context.

31. It therefore follows that in my view the Report does not comply with s.4(3) of the Act, and it therefore follows that the consultants have not complied with that provision either.

In response, Tasmanian Planning Minister and Deputy Premier Steven Kons has released a letter from Sweco Pic that says “the project should proceed and there are no matters why it shouldn’t proceed.” Speaking to Radio National this morning, Peter Tree claims the Greens have grounds for action:

I can’t read either in the consultant’s report that’s been tabled or in this additional letter Mr Kons has provided today anything which is even remotely like a reason as to why the project should proceed.

If there was any doubt within Gunns about the outcome of the Tasmanian parliamentary vote, or jitters based on impending legal action, it isn’t being expressed by CEO John Gay, who, despite the mounting pressure on Malcolm Turnbull, yesterday claimed that the mill has a 95% chance of starting construction next week. Where does he get such confidence?

Peter Fray

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