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Thursday, November 22, 2007

Open Letter to Tasmanian Timber Workers from Socialist Alliance Candidates Susan & Matt Holloway, Hobart

Dear fellow workers,

The Socialist Alliance is totally committed to workers’ rights. But we are also totally opposed to Gunns’ pulp mill.

We’re not against all pulp mills, but we are against this one. It would poison the environment, endanger other industries in the region, and put other workers’ livelihoods at risk. More jobs would be lost in industries adversely affected by the pulp mill than would be created.

And it would not provide long-lasting benefits to timber workers and their families. The only lasting winners would be Gunns and its big shareholders.

Gunns’ mill would pour cancer-causing chemicals, furans and dioxins, into Bass Strait and pump more than 100 million tonnes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. It would trash the forests and when there’s not enough profit to be made, pull out, leaving workers and local communities in the lurch.

The mill would threaten the organic status of Tamar Valley vineyards and farms. And it would threatens people’s health — that’s why the Australian Medical Association opposes it.

The economic report commissioned by the Tasmanian Roundtable for Sustainable Industries found that even though the pulp mill may add 280 jobs to the Tasmanian economy, it would be at a cost of 216 lives lost in extra deaths from respiratory disease and log truck accidents.

In addition, the negative impact of the pulp mill would cost 1044 jobs in the tourism industry and at least 175 jobs in local fishing businesses.

Then there are the government subsidies, state and federal. The subsidies to be handed to Gunns for the mill would far exceed the benefits reaped from increased company tax payments.

The direct subsidies paid to the pulp mill for associated infrastructure, feasibility studies, new roads and rail would total $30 million from the state government and $65 million from the federal government. Canberra would also hand Gunns a subsidy of $242 million through the tax benefits of plantation managed investment schemes over the mill’s 24-year life.

That money could and should be spent on creating sustainable timber-based industries and jobs. Since 2004 more than 300 jobs have been lost in the Tasmanian forestry industry and highly mechanised projects like this pulp mill will continue the trend.

Gunns has no ongoing commitment to timber workers. We already see this with log truck drivers having their contracts ditched, leaving them with huge debts to pay for their trucks.

Gunns doesn’t care about environmental impacts but working people must. We workers would have to live with the environmental and economic consequences of a bad project development like the pulp mill.

If big businesses such as Gunns really were the "friends" of the workers and the environment, they wouldn’t be building this pulp mill, but would follow scientific and industry best practice. That would mean a plantation-based, chlorine-free, closed-loop pulp mill that doesn’t use a Kraft (sulphur-based) pulping process.

In this election the only alternative to the non-choice that the major parties offer (counterposing jobs with the environment) is for timber workers, environmentalists and industry experts to develop their own plans for a sustainable, forest-based industry that provides jobs while protecting our environment and our communities.

Timber workers should demand that their union adopt this approach and stop simply backing whatever Gunns, the timber industry and the Lennon state government proposes.

That’s what the Socialist Alliance stands for. It’s why we’re standing in the present election. Stop this pulp mill, and let’s build an alternative future for Tasmania’s timber workers, environment and communities!

Susan Austin & Matt Holloway

[Susan Austin is the Socialist Alliance candidate for Denison and Matt Holloway is the candidate for Franklin.]

From: Comment & Analysis, Green Left Weekly issue #732 21 November 2007.

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