They're at it again…

Labor’s New Right Fifth Column (in the form of the Forestry Division of the CFMEU) is attempting to have Labor’s National Platform amended to rule out any further reservation of forests for conservation purposes. As one might expect, this move is being backed by some enthusiastic, and characteristically mendacious and inept, barracking from the Murdoch Press.

One such effort is by Steve Lewisin today’s Australian.

The article rehashes the Australian’s house line that anti-environmentalism is popular politics amongst the working class, to whit:

In the drive for Greens preferences, there is a danger for Labor of alienating its traditional support base, particularly in the regions and outer-city electorates so critical to the election outcome.

As I have written previously in this forum and in a number of published articles, it is simply not true that there is a general antipathy towards strong environmental protection and environmentalism in the regions, let alone the outer suburbs. All the available social survey results point in the other direction, as do the results of elections where Labor committed to strong pro-environment policies sufficiently far out from polling day for them to be effectively communicated.

Lewis also manages to misreport what is being proposed in the draft platform. It does not “resurrect” the “2004 Tasmanian forestry policy”. It simply reserves the option of further protection of high conservation value forests – a prudent and sensible option given the possibility of further scientific knowledge which could warrant such conservation, and structural economic change which could ease the employment impacts of such a decision. And Lewis, predictably, overestimates the supposedly baleful influence of Peter Garrett in shaping the policy.

I must concede that Lewis is commendably frank about the extent of the collaboration by the Forestry Division’s leadership with the Howard government and the forest industry bosses, especially in the 2004 election. All that is missing is the phrase “New Right Fifth Column”.

However, Lewis then comes up with this rubbish:

Rudd knows full well that taking on the CFMEU and NAFI and the broader timber fraternity is political suicide.

It was not political suicide for Geoff Gallop and the WA ALP in the 2001 State election, in which forestry policy was a decisive issue. It was not political suicide for Bob Hawke in 1987 and 1990. It was not political suicide for Bob Carr after 1995, and was not political suicide for Peter Beattie when he brokered the South-East Queensland Forest Agreement in 1999. It would not have hurt Latham in 2004 had he accepted Geoff Gallop’s advice and gone for the “thermonuclear option” of protecting 240,000 hectares of forest, without farting around with an inquiry, well out from election day on 2004, and had he not naively trusted Michael O’Connor, Scott McLean, Dick Adams and Pol Lenin not to rat during the heat of an election campaign.

And then the piece de resistance:

The ALP has to win back Bass and Braddon from the Liberal Party to have any chance of winning office… [Howard] relying on Rudd tripping up as he tries to mimic Bob Hawke’s feat as conciliator extraordinaire.

Those of us who are old enough to remember when Bob Hawke came to power in 1983 will know that Hawke achieved this victory without winning Bass, Braddon or indeed any Tasmanian seats. This was because on the issue of saving the south-west Tasmanian wilderness by stopping the Franklin Dam, Hawke was not “conciliator extraordinaire”. By the time of the 1983 Federal election, the Franklin Dam issue was beyond hope of conciliation. Hawke committed to using Federal Government powers to stop the dam, a move which was good policy and, as it turned out, good politics, as the resulting gains on the mainland more than offset the loss of seats in Tasmania. The ratio of mainland seats to Tasmanian seats has increased significantly since then.

BTW, I am not suggesting that Rudd should not try to win Bass and Braddon. In any case one must assume that voters in those seats also have opinions on issues like WorkChoices, climate change, housing affordability and the growing economic squeeze experienced by many Australians despite the economic boom. What I am saying is that Rudd and the ALP should not allow themselves to be bullied into abandoning sound policy by the threat of a repeat of the treachery of 2004.

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Posted in environment, Federal Elections, government, media
24 comments on “They're at it again…
  1. John Greenfield says:

    The very cleverest wedge the Libs could use to defeat Labor is between the workers and the luvvies.

  2. Kim says:

    Gosh, that’s original. It’s a wonder you’re not a highly paid political strategist!

  3. Mr Denmore says:

    There goes the MSM again, fighting the last war. Move on boys…

  4. John Greenfield says:


    Now, now. Be nice. We’ve already had our quota of one agreement per week. Surely, I am allowed the odd dly “luvvie” in return! 😉

  5. pablo says:

    I can’t disagree with the thrust of PN’s post but gee it must be hard being a Labor pollie with a long memory and on a narrow margin from 2004, having to cop the CFMEU’s forestry warriors bully you into support for the rodent line on logging.

    Rudd should stare them down simply by exposing the hypocrisy of Howard’s latest offering to save SE Asian rainforests in the name of climate change.

    But I can see some sort of compromise deal done on Paul Lennon’s paper mill getting the green light in return for ‘unanimous’ CFMEU support for a greenie approach to logging in old growth areas.

  6. grace pettigrew says:

    Thanks for that breath of fresh air Paul. Steve Lewis is a total bore. He thinks he has a finger on the pulse of the nation, in truth his finger is elsewhere.

    Frankly, I am hoping that Rudd goes for the showdown with the Tasmanian CMFEU, and calls them out for the treacherous Howard-huggers they are, and cuts loose that disgraceful Gunns suck-up Lennon.

    Rudd should go over the heads of these rats and speak directly to Tasmanians about economic readjustment, job retraining, and a possible future without forest woodchipping.

  7. steve says:

    Anyway I think you will find that as the election nears climate change and associated issues will become the dominant issues and it will be just as effective for the new Government as the socalled Beasley Black hole was for the Tories in 1996.

    It is a true generational change issue that must be rectified if Australia is going to be a place worth living in in the future.

    As far as I’m concerned the Tories can have the Tasmanian seats and sit back and watch as the tory representatives become ineffective backbench bystanders in the climate change action unfolding around them.

    Just because a midsixty year old Prime Minister isn’t going to be around for the next few decades doesn’t mean plenty of us won’t be here to see a more sane environmental policy enacted.

    Having been caught out once by the Tasmanian Howard cheersquad, I doubt whether it will be allowed to happen in the leadup to the next campaign.

  8. observa says:

    “Rudd should stare them down simply by exposing the hypocrisy of Howard’s latest offering to save SE Asian rainforests in the name of climate change.”

    There is a difference between sustainable forest harvesting and permanent land clearing, whether it’s for wild berries or wood.

  9. observa says:

    Bit off topic but this report has all the hallmarks of stirring the possum,10117,21495438-401,00.html?from=public_rss

  10. steve says:

    Obby, that’s not off topic at all, I also notice the EU putting pressure on Howard to stop being a do nothing in regard to the environment as well. Pressure is mounting and The Australian will have to start reasessing its editorial policy soon if it doesn’t want to be savaged by a new Government in the near future.

  11. observa says:

    Yes steve but the debate is hotting up about the means to get there. Here
    and here
    Gesture politics, or the constitution of the marketplace, that is the question?

  12. BearCave says:

    I disagree with what was said by steve on 3 April 2007 at 12:17 pm:

    “As far as I’m concerned the Tories can have the Tasmanian seats and sit back and watch as the tory representatives become ineffective backbench bystanders in the climate change action unfolding around them.”

    My blog entry today urges Kevin Rudd to strive for a “pragmatic centre” position on issues generally, and probably with this particular issue.

    My partner is originally from Devenport Tasmania, and keeps close watch on the local issues affecting Northern Tasmania, so I’m being given contrary information which suggests that Tasmania could once again be critical for Labor.

    We currently have an unchallenged “dry economic argumentâ€?, while the soft-left try to convince us they can solve all the world’s problems by debating the hard-right on “social and cultural issues onlyâ€?.

    The early days of the war in Iraq, combined with the leftist economic evasiveness that resulted in the landslide election loss against federal Labor in 2004 and the continual hardline defence by the CFMEU over threats to the jobs of its forestry and mining workers, puts in major doubt the capacity of the anti-American, anti-capitalist, and anti-development synthesis of the small-l liberal left to argue reasonably.

    On the other hand, the reason Kevin Rudd is right when he insists he’s “doing a Kevinâ€? rather than “doing a Tonyâ€? (Blair) is because the conservatives have already hijacked the Tony Blair story and argued it as “reason for Labor to move rightwardsâ€? rather than engage in more complex (but not necessarily obscure) thinking.

    In The Australian today, David Burchell resorts to using these words in his article:

    “Despite his recent efforts at political philosophy, Rudd is not equipped or inclined to bring a violent philosophical transformation to Laborâ€?.

    This misunderstands what Labor needs to philosophically achieve.

    However, it’s equally true that we don’t need the sort of small-l liberal evasiveness of economic debate that ultimately lost Labor the last federal election and gave John Howard his Senate rule to bring about many questionable changes to Industrial Relations and the way Australia thinks about productivity.

  13. JuliaC says:

    Well said Grace.

    Appeasing the forestry workers in Tasmania will lose as many votes as are gained.

    The big problem for labor in Tasmania is Lennon. We are reliving the past when the Grey liberal state government tried to foist a dirt polluting pulp mill on us at Wesley Vale. Lennon is behaving in just the same arrogant dictatorial manner – secret deals & sackings of those who express any disquiet. Rudd would be well advised to stay right away.

  14. Paul Norton says:

    the continual hardline defence by the CFMEU over threats to the jobs of its forestry and mining workers…

    For reasons I stated here, the positions of the Mining and Energy Division of the CFMEU and the Forestry Division of the CFMEU should not be conflated.

  15. tim says:

    The whole question of Bass and Braddon is a bit bizarre. Those seats were heading Howard’s way well before Latham’s forestry policy. They were the ideal targets for Howard’s trust me on interest rates campaign, equivalent in a real way to western sydney and south eastern qld. The forestry policy may have swung a handful, but not many, votes in those seats. That vote changer was not Latham’s policy, but the whole picture of Howard being embraced by unionists. And that did more damage on the mainland than in Tassie.

    The circumstances at this election thus far seem to be very different indeed. I’d be very surprised if those seats didn’t go back to Labor, regardless of any forestry policies. O’Connor and friends are just running a scare campaign.

  16. Spiros says:

    Before the election, Rudd should say promise to keep every Tasmanian forestry job, if not add a few more.

    After the election, assuming he wins, Rudd should shut down the Tasmanian forestry industry.

    This kind of thing worked for Prime Minister Howard, because he knew how to massage the message. It can work for Prime Minister Rudd.

    Cynical, I hear you say?

    You bet.

    Whatever it takes.

  17. observa says:

    And when we’ve succeeded in turning you into a Howard with Hair man Spiros, our victory will be complete. Mwahahahahahah!

  18. steve says:

    Obby, Club Troppo has a view from the Business Council of Australia

  19. steve says:

    Bearcave, Glad you disagree. It was just an idea off the top of my head but that’s the way the world turns and the more people who throw their two cents worth in the better.

    I’m sure that the actual position of the CFMEU would not have been the position as outlined in the newspaper anyway. Apart from the free kick given to Howard in the last election campaign I’m sure they have the interests of workers at heart and I know that they would not deliberately favour the Tories if given attractive choices.

  20. Tyro Rex says:

    The Tasmanian division of the CFMEU should be disaffiliated from the party, quite frankly.

  21. Mikey says:

    So they CFMEU supported Howard. And in return he gave them the IR reforms.

    “That’ll learn ’em”.

    People talk about splitting the Labor party, but let’s be clear – no Union in the country will support John Howard this election.

  22. Robert Brown says:

    When will you all realise that a Union’s primary function is to defend the jobs of it’s members. The CFMEU Forestry division are an example to the rest of the Union movement in that they should concentrate their efforts into protecting members jobs rather than worrying about their position within the ALP. No other industry has Labour Governments close down jobs. The timber industry is unique in that it faces attacks from the party that was founded by workers for workers. All Union officials should take a leaf out of Michael O’Connor’s book and stand up for their members instead of jumping on the latest issue bandwagon.

  23. steve says:

    Primary function indeed,Robert Brown but there are also secondary and tertiary functions that need to be worked through in a timely manner so we are not left with the embarrassing spectacle of workers cheering on Tories.

    It was a result of lack of options being left open and nowhere to go when Howard applied the pressure during the final week of an election campaign.

  24. Paul Norton says:

    The timber industry is unique in that it faces attacks from the party that was founded by workers for workers.

    In 2004 the Tasmanian “timber” (actually forest) industry was “attacked” by Labor with the promise of a restructuring package worth 5 years wages for every forestry worker in the state. If a government were to attack my job in a similar manner I’d be turning the other cheek with alacrity.

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