Miranda’s Daily Blog: Day 68
This past week has been a crazy week in the world of forestry and forests in Tasmania.
About a week ago Ta Ann made an announcement that it had lost about 50% of it’s customer base in Japan and they said for this reason they had to fire a third of their mill staff (accounting to 40 people). The company blamed environmentalists. But refused to make any further comment. What better way to hide your own poor management decisions, then to find someone else to scapegoat, hey? And what better scapegoat to find for such an occasion then environmentalist!
It is yet to be confirmed if Ta Ann’s claims regarding their loss of customers is true. However, even if there has been a change in their market in Japan, who do they have to blame, but themselves? How long did they expect to get away with lying to their customers? With misleadingly marketing their products as environmentally friendly? With stating that the wood comes from plantations when the official reports in Tasmanian are clearly stating that wood from high conservation value forests are being accepted by Ta Ann? And that they are in fact the driving force behind the logging of such forests right now.
This is simply a very bad business plan. And it would be no wonder if they began to lose their customer base. Yes, it is true, environmentalists have been exposing the truth to those customers. But those customers have a right to know that truth. They have a right to know where the wood is coming from that they are buying. It is not the fault of the environmentalists that Ta Ann has built their business on lies. Nor is the fault of environmentalists that Ta Ann has made the decision to continue to further entrench themselves in native forest destruction and to sack workers rather than to change their practices.
It is very strange indeed that those who have lost their jobs have not turned their anger towards the people who made the decision to cut those jobs. They have instead turned their anger (or rather had their anger quiet distinctly directed by Ta Ann and by the government) towards environmentalists. This anger has especially been targeted towards the Huon Valley Environment Center and more specifically towards one individual, Jenny Weber, spokesperson for the Center. Last week there was a rally outside the center, where people were aggressively calling for Jenny to come out. She was in fact, not there, as it was after hours. Instead they turned to the art therapy group next door (unassociated to the Environment Center), where three young women were engaged in a counselling session. These young women were intimidated by the angry crowd, and the woman running the session, was harassed. Later Jenny was harassed as she was driving home from the shops with her children. Then came the facebook threats of violence towards the center and to her personally. This was followed on Saturday by another demonstration in Huonville that once again turned the blame to the Huon Valley Environment Center as the scapegoat for Ta Ann’s job cuts.
The situation was made worse by the misleading comments of the Premier who attempted to justify the actions by saying that workers had been intimidated by dangerous tactics of environmentalists for years, claiming that tree spiking was one of these. These accusations which were false and unable to be proven. The next day there were media releases from all different environmental groups and also the Greens, calling on Lara Giddings to apologise. Which she did (somewhat reluctantly, it seemed) today.
Yet, she still is turning the blame towards people who care about the environment. And she is asking us to be quiet about our concern for the forest. In fact, she sent Jenny Weber a personal letter just the other day, asking Jenny and the Center to stop campaigning! What happened to freedom of speech? Do we not have a democracy in Australia? Don’t those rights apply in Tasmania? Or maybe freedom of speech doesn’t apply here if you have something to say about the forestry industry that they don’t want you to say!
In addition, the Members of the Legislative Council in Tasmania also made a very undemocratic call. A large group of the MLCs said they wouldn’t be passing any forest protection legislation until stopped speaking up for the forests. What a bizarre twist of the democratic process. I thought the way it was supposed to work is that the community had the right to speak up for what we believe the government should be doing and that they would pass legislation based on what their constituency wants. Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t that the principle behind democracy? Yet, here they are, saying they will only pass legislation if we are silent? We’re not going to give you what you want unless you stop asking for it…. it seems a bit out of line to me. In fact I’d say it is an abuse of their power. There was of course, no flip side to that statement… no guarantee that if we all kept our mouths shut and didn’t say another word about the forests, that they would go ahead and protect them. It is quiet obvious to me that we need to keep speaking up for the forests. Because the government clearly does not have the initiative to go ahead and protect them without such reminders. So far, they have only managed to make a promise and then allow the amount of forest that is being logged inside the area ear-marked for protection to actually increase! This seems to be, therefore, no time for people who care about the forest to be silent.
It was absolutely ironic when Lara Giddings, the night of our global action, called on us to “back off” so they could get on with the job! Funny, because that was the whole idea behind the moratorium promised to be in place back in March 2011…That the logging industry would back off from destroying those forests and give the negotiating team space to do the work. That never happened. The forests are still falling close to a year later. And Lara Giddings has the audacity to tell us to back off, when we are simply pointing out the fact that she herself has failed to implement her own promises.
It is good that she has apologised for the false claims about environmentalists tactics. However, Lara Giddings needs to go further than that. She needs to apologise for her role in furthering the scapegoating of environmentalists. She needs to apologise for attempting to silence Jenny Weber and the Huon Valley Environment Center. If she wants to see a solution to the crisis, as she claims she does, then a good place for her to start would be to implement the full conservation agreement that she promised by in August, along with Prime Minister Gillard.
I believe there is a solution to the industry crisis that will benefit the environment and the community. But it wont be possible if Ta Ann continues to have no regard for either. And personally, I am committed to continuing to campaign against Ta Ann for as long as the company continues to be driving Tasmanian forest destruction. None of the events of this past week have deterred me from this.
I hope you will join me in speaking up for these forests. If you haven’t already done so, please sign the online cyber action. This action is asking the corporate customers of Ta Ann to call on the company to stop sourcing wood from native forest destruction.
The global action was a great show of support and a strong message to the Tasmanian government that we will not be silenced! Lets keep that message loud and clear!