Janet Albrechtsen’s column in today’s Australian recites the phrase “Latham’s disastrous logging policy”.
By a happy coincidence I have come across the Tasmanian forest industry’s own estimate of the employment consequences of phasing out old growth logging in Tasmania, as Federal Labor was promising to do in 2004. The 2004 study, by forest industry economist Bruce Felmingham on behalf of the Forest Industry Association of Tasmania, projected that 1,345 forestry workers would be displaced by this policy. This estimate was disputed by other stakeholders in the debate, but for the sake of the argument let us assume the estimate to be correct. We then find that Labor’s 2004 proposal for an $800 million forest industry restructuring package would have amounted to $594,795.54 for each displaced worker.
If the forest industry’s forecast exaggerated the employment effect by a factor of two (and industry forecasts of “job losses” from environmental protection decisions typically overestimate them by orders of magnitude) we then find that Latham’s disastrous restructuring package would have inflicted over a million dollars worth of disastrous income support, retraining and re-employment on each worker.
To put this into some sort of perspective, since I was retrenched from my old job on the cusp of Keating’s “recession we had to have” in July 2000, for a small fraction of $594,795.54 I have been able to retrain to the level of a First Class Honours degree and a Ph.D., and be gainfully employed as a consequence in a much more remunerative and satisfying career than when I was receiving a minimum wage to field endless carping complaints from Stalinists, cranks and ASIO provocateurs.
To put it into a perspective which a larger number of readers can identify with, on Saturday night many readers of LP, many readers of The Australian, no doubt a goodly number of Tasmanian forestry workers and perhaps even a few Murdoch press journos will be sitting with their eyes glued to their TV screens, Lotto tickets clutched in their nervous little hands, hoping against all odds that the tumbling numbers will visit upon them a disaster of comparable magnitude to that with which Latham was threatening Tasmanian forestry workers.
Indeed, the only way I can think of to lavish more largesse on Tasmanian forestry workers would be to give each of them a dollar for every time a writer for The Australian has used the phrase “Latham’s disastrous forest/logging policy” since the 2004 election. Even Michael O’Connor would consider that an offer too good to refuse!