Last Thursday, after Tasmania police suddenly dropped 15-month-old charges against me and five fellow forest defenders in the Hobart Magistrates Court, I wrote to Premier Gutwein asking him why. The charges were for alleged trespass in the northeast forests where logging was going ahead despite critically endangered Swift parrots being present. We faced up to six months imprisonment.
Though challenged in the court to reveal the government’s reasons for dropping the charges, none was given despite such a prolonged waste of time and money for the the Tasmania police, environmentalists and Forestry Tasmania. We are now pursuing costs.
The best Premier Gutwein can do here, through his non-performing minister, Guy Barnett, is label peaceful defenders of Tasmania’s wild and scenic beauty as ‘radical extremists’. He owes the people of Tasmania, who are the owners of the forest the corporations serially invade and wreck, better than that.
Back in 1949, there was a Royal Commission into the relationship between the premier and forest interests. In 1972, there was public uproar and the Attorney-General resigned over Premier Reece’s validating legislation for the illegal flooding of Lake Pedder by the Hydro-Electric Commission. In 1989 came a second Royal Commission after logging supremo Edmund Rouse was charged with trying to topple the government by bribing a Labor member of the House of Assembly. Now we have the potential need for validating legislation for illegal logging on Premier Gutwein’s watch.
That is, Premier Gutwein is mulling over the need to get parliament to make legal Forestry Tasmania’s illegal practices. How widespread the invalid logging has been and over what period of time remains to be seen. For the time being the premier is covering up.
The core problem in all these infamous proceedings is corporate capture of political leaders who have lost their sense of the Tasmanian public’s right to know that their heritage is being managed in their best interests.
Premier Gutwein should come clean. If he does seek retrospective validation of illegal logging, the parliament should reject it.