This is not the first time the Liberal and Labor parties have combined to defeat the vote of the Greens. But yesterday, to combine to defeat the vote of the Greens and the Nationals who were prepared to cross the floor of the Federal Parliament — with a couple of liberals abstaining? This is new territory.

They have done it before in Tasmania, even altering the electoral system to reduce the representation of Greens in that Parliament. The issue, of course, is forestry. In this case legislation passed now is to allow plantations grown mostly for pulp on farmland, already with federal tax subsidies, to also be used as “carbon offsets”.

What is it with forestry in Australia? From the 1980s, various Labor figures were in, at best, warm water for accepting donations from the Timber Industry and not declaring them. Don Burke is the latest celebrity to be brought in by the timber lobby to promote Gunns’ Pulp Mill. Garret went to water so fast on forestry it may have been a religious miracle. Trish Caswell was once a very poor choice to run the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF). She met with a forest industry ‘front’ conservation group while preparing for her “new job” — their names did sound like conservation groups. She too later joined the timber industry lobby as did another past ACF head, Phillip Toyne. A past Tasmanian premier is on the board of Gunns and the current premier is wedded to their proposed Pulp Mill.

Perhaps it was the ongoing subsidies to the timber industry and forestry that attracted Mark Latham to the idea of buying the timber industry out of a significant area of Tasmanian forests the federal election before last. Whatever, he got thoroughly screwed. The CMFEU was prepared to back the Liberal Party and the then Prime Minister John Howard during an election campaign. For this transgression, the CMFEU suffered nothing from the ALP, despite organising one of the ‘great’ political betrayals in Australian history.

These plantation forests suck water from the ground, even from the Murray Darling, yet investorsm — unlike farmers — pay nothing for it. Their pathetic carbon storage — when compared to the indigenous bush — is brought to a halt as they are logged and mostly turned to chips for paper. Much of this paper rots to produce methane — 10 times the greenhouse gas of CO2.

The print media is published on ‘the stuff’ or is run by companies that invest in both forestry and paper production — so journalism has been a bit thin.

This makes Australia look like a tin pot banana republic — it is a shame job.

The Nationals that crossed the floor to join the Greens have both guts and integrity. They should be rewarded with a Truth and Reconciliation Commission into Forestry in Australia — there would likely be just too many people in it too deep to ever support a Royal Commission.

Peter Fray

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