Politics Analysis

Tasmanian Liberals’ ecocide

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Former Greens Leader Dr Bob Brown at a peaceful protest against logging in Tasmania's Eastern Tiers, prior to his arrest on Tuesday, 8 November (Image supplied by the Bob Brown Foundation)

The Tasmanian Liberal Government continues its wilful ecocide, as old-growth forests are decimated and dissidents, such as Dr Bob Brown, are arrested. Managing editor Michelle Pini reports.

IN RECENT YEARS, under the Coalition-led Federal Government, an inordinate amount of rhetoric about “freedom of speech” has been spouted and duly broadcast across compliant media outlets.

Unfortunately, government action on this topic has served only to shut down and close off any loopholes that may lead to public debate, challenge powerful corporations or, ultimately, hold governments to account — such as the right to peaceful protest.

Nowhere has this been more evident than on issues concerning the slow but consistent, callous destruction of our natural environment.

What changes or protections, if any, to the democratic right of citizens to protest will be enacted under the new Albanese Labor Government remains to be seen.

However, right now, in the Liberal State of Tasmania ­– perhaps also the state most shaped by a powerful history of environmental protests – the deliberate suppression of dissidence is alive and well.

Veteran conservationist Dr Bob Brown was arrested on Tuesday (8 November) in Tasmania’s Snow Hill during a peaceful protest against ongoing logging of the native habitat of the Swift Parrot — a species classified as critically endangered and of which it is believed only about 200 remain.

A research paper published in 2018 by the Australian National University (ANU) found agreements to protect the critically endangered Swift Parrot in Tasmania had been broken as logging continued.

The paper's lead author Dr Matthew Webb said at the time:

"...There's a lack of political will on the part of the Tasmanian Government to adhere to conservation plans and we've seen logging operations that directly contravene Forestry Tasmania's claims to maintain the integrity of the parrots' breeding habitats."

Dr Webb also indicated that approval for logging of breeding habitat was continued:

"...despite expert advice and scientific evidence that demonstrates the cessation of logging of breeding habitat is urgently required."

It is the second time in two years that the former Greens Leader has been arrested at this Swift Parrot native habitat site. He is expected to be charged by court summons, along with two other conservationists, for “wilful obstruction” and “trespassing”.

A spokesperson for the Bob Brown Foundation told Iwhen Dr Brown defended his charges the last time around (in 2020), it was found that his fears as to the illegality of that particular logging devastation were accurate, causing logging to be halted until they were addressed.

According to Dr Brown, forest logging in Tasmania’s Eastern Tiers region is still being conducted illegally and is “an outrage against nature”.

Two years on, it would appear those particular illegalities (the ones concerning the habitat of endangered species) were either somehow fixed or at least papered over in order to recommence the destruction.

Dr Brown said in a media release received by IA today:

To camp here with Swift Parrots overhead and in the remains of the forest around us is to experience the feeling that Australia is committing a crime against nature. These critically endangered birds are here and nowhere else on Earth, and nesting.


No nests, no birds.


And the [Tasmanian] Government is licensing the destruction of the big trees, the very ones needed for nesting.


The same applies to the Masked Owl which called directly above my campsite last night under the full moon.

Dr Brown also called on Tasmanian Premier Jeremy Rockliff to:

...halt this debacle immediately.


In this era of mass extinction, it is unconscionable that this critically endangered bird’s feeding and breeding habitat in Tasmania is being destroyed for woodchips to China.

Such wilful destruction should be enough to warrant peaceful protest, surely?

Yet, far from considering Dr Brown’s call for an immediate cessation of the native forest logging and an independent review of its impact on the almost-extinct birds, Tasmanian Resources Minister Felix Ellis described the Bob Brown Foundation protests as a continued “attack on [Tasmania’s] sustainable native forestry sector”.

Dr Brown, however, has pointed out that there appears to be no publicly available Forest Practices Plan (FPP) for this native forest, which provides essential habitat for the critically endangered Swift Parrot, as well as the Masked Owl.

IA contacted Resources Minister Ellis for comment but was directed to Sustainable Timber Tasmania as our enquiry was deemed ‘an operational issue’.

Since an FPP is an essential legal requirement in order for native forest logging to be considered “sustainable”, we requested access to this document and, in its absence, we asked how the native forestry sector is meeting its compliance standards in order to be classed as “sustainable”?

Sustainable Timber Tasmania general manager conservation and land management Suzette Weeding replied by email (IA emphasis):

...A partial harvest operation at coupe (SH045A) is being conducted in accordance with the Forest Practices Act 1985, the Forest Practices Code 2020 and the current, certified Forest Practices Plan


...Sustainable Timber Tasmania, in collaboration with an ornithologist, commenced its annual Swift parrot monitoring program...


...At the time of writing, no Swift Parrot sightings have been verified at this coupe (SH045A).

Our request to access the required documentation was not acknowledged and the 'certified Forest Practices Plan' was not forthcoming. 

Without access to this legally required document and given Dr Brown’s first-hand account of what remains of Australia’s Swift Parrot population in the remnants of the native forest in Tasmania’s Eastern Tiers, it would appear that current logging here is continuing illegally.

Interestingly, Sustainable Timbers Tasmania makes the following claim on its website:

'...the work we do is about more than making our forests productive, we're here to keep them healthy and thriving.'

The Tasmanian Government – like all state and federal governments – is the custodian of our natural environment. This privileged position of power should be used, always, to protect and defend our environmental heritage, and especially to preserve rare and endangered species. It is not a licence to propel the vested interests of logging corporations.

To take action to save Swift Parrots, you can sign the petition HERE.

Find out more about critically endangered Swift Parrots HERE.

This is an abridged version of an editorial originally published in the IA weekly newsletter. Subscribe now to read the full version online in the IA members-only area.

Follow IA managing editor Michelle Pini on Twitter @vmp9. Follow Independent Australia on Twitter @independentaus and on Facebook HERE.

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