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Change needed in Tasmania

November 19, 2011
Sunday, February 14, 2010 – 11:00
By Tim Dobson, Hobart

The spectre of the locally powerful woodchipping corporation Gunns and its relationship with the government hangs over the impending state election like a murky cloud. This is despite construction of Gunns’ proposed pulp mill remaining stalled, due to public pressure and its inability to raise finance.

The February 9 Hobart Mercury reported that “the State government has compulsorily acquired land on the East Tamar earmarked for the Gunns Ltd pulp mill pipeline.

“Documents obtained via the Freedom of Information Act reveal Gunns has been negotiating with the Department of Infrastructure, Energy and Resources for more than two years for the pipeline to be accommodated in the road reserve for the Dilston Bypass.”

This would be illegal, Tasmanian Greens leader Nick McKim said. Community group TAP Into a Better Tasmania said in April 2008, “taxpayer funding diverted to support pulp mill and logging amounts to a one time capital cost of $399 million (so far) and ongoing costs of $360 million per year”.

The government’s relationship with Gunns, however, is just one reason for the slide in Labor’s support indicated by opinion polls.

Recently the state government undemocratically acquired control of water and sewerage provision from local government. The result has been increased prices. The government has also introduced unpopular education reforms.

The state’s health system is in a shambles. The January 29 Mercury reported “one in 10 Tasmanians on elective surgery lists waited more than a year for their operations. That is more than triple the national average delay.”

The Greens continue to be a strong third force in Tasmania. In the 2006 state elections, they received 16.6% of the vote. Their four state MPs have opposed the government’s anti-people agenda.

The government has sought to ensure the Labor-Liberal duopoly remains. It has arranged a televised debate, without the Greens.

Defending this, Bartlett said: “Nick McKim is never going to be premier and as important as he thinks he is, that is the facts.”

McKim has indicated a willingness to go into coalition with either party, but not to work with a government engaged in corruption or serious misconduct.

Socialist Alliance will be running two candidates: Melanie Barnes in Denison and Jenny Forward in Franklin. SA is campaigning with the slogan: “Resource public services, not Gunns: For a healthy, socially just, sustainable and democratic state.”

The SA candidates are calling for expanded public ownership under democratic control as a way to deal with the major problems facing the state.

This includes increasing funding to public health, education and housing; cutting greenhouse gas emissions by protecting old-growth forests, converting to 100% renewable energy by 2020; stopping subsidies to big polluters; returning water and sewerage to local control with state government back-up; and for free and massively expanded public transport.

Barnes told Green Left Weekly: “It’s clear the Labor government’s neglect of public services is hurting the majority of Tasmanians. We need to see an end to the state government subsidising companies such as Gunns and instead use that money for public health, education and housing.

“The government is also not providing the emergency response that is needed to deal with climate change. The state government must commit towards strong targets, such as 100% renewable energy by 2020. The only way this can be achieved is if public ownership is expanded.

“Private businesses are only interested in profits. Public ownership is much more likely to put a safe climate first.”

From GLW issue 826

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