Australia: Tasmania’s trade mission to Asia blasts off amid protestsBy Rowena Dela Rosa Yoon Sep 12, 2013 10:17AM UTC
Tasmanian Premier Lara Giddings went ahead with her overseas trip aimed at forging ties with Asian leaders and to promote Tasmanian businesses amid raging protests from environmental groups in Hobart.
Giddings, accompanied by a 60-man delegate embarked on a 2-week trade mission to Asia (Sept. 1 -14) to secure markets for Tasmanian forest products. Her itinerary includes major markets in Indonesia, Hongkong, China, and Japan. She is joined by Forestry Tasmania, Ta Ann Tasmania, Neville Smith Timbers (along with Tasmanian Forest Agreement signatories), the Wilderness Society, and the Environment Tasmania.
Giddings made Indonesia a priority as Australia’s nearest neighbour and to indicate the importance of a strategic regional partnership for trade and security.
In Japan, the last leg of her tour, the Premier aims to promote the outcomes and objectives of the Tasmanian Forest Agreement (TFA). Giddings said the cooperative approach is consistent with one of the central objectives of the TFA which is to secure international markets for Tasmanian forest products—“ a scenario that would not have been dreamed of before the TFA.”
The delegates accompanying her entourage is hoped to boost market’s confidence that Tasmania is open for business and is responding to market demands. She said, “Having members of the environmental movement standing alongside industry will send a powerful message to Japanese customers that we have responded to their calls for change.”
The Tasmanian Parliament passed the Initial Reserve Order in which Giddings said is a clear evidence of the TFA being in progress. The $20 million program to support workers and contractors will commence in shortly and hardship cases will be prioritised, Giddings said.
More than 80 Japanese pulp, paper and forestry customers have registered to attend a TFA information seminar in Tokyo on September 13.
Meanwhile, campaigners against wholesale wood products exported to Japan staged another embargo at the Hobart head office of Ta Ann Group. Japanese and local environmental groups led by the Huon Valley Environment Centre (HVEC) rallied on Wednesday to denounce Ta Ann’s business of “Tasmanian forest destruction”.
Akira Harada, director of the Japan Tropical Action Network (JATAN), is visiting from Tokyo and joined the rally.
The centre’s spokesperson Jenny Weber said the protest is held in time of Giddings trade mission to Japan . She said there are still ecological problems with Tasmanian wood products such as the FSC certification which is not a certainty and high conservation value forests are still being logged for Ta Ann’s wood supply.
According to Weber, Ta Ann have not ensured that they do not receive timber from the exempt coupes inside the proposed reserve landscapes, instead they are accepting wood Forestry Tasmania supplies from the contentious logging operations, such as logging in the Esperance. These forests are ending up in product sold to Japan.
The TFA has not delivered an environmentally acceptable product in to the Japanese markets. Timber sourced by Ta Ann in Tasmania is still from old growth and high conservation value forests and ecologically destructive logging practices that are contributing to climate change, Weber said.
Harada also noted Japanese customers do not want to use high conservation value forests products and conflict timber. There are still forests in Tasmania being logged for Ta Ann that have high conservation values. The director said he will visit one in the Esperance in the coming days.
“Ta Ann’s Japanese customers cannot be given certainty of supply, with the new Federal Liberal government and the lack of bi-partisan support for the TFA, any assurances given now may well lead to timber purchases from forests with ongoing logging practices that provide environmentally unsustainable wood. Premier Giddings and her logging industry cohorts cannot provide assurances to international customers in this unpredictable political climate,” Weber said.
“We have a responsibility to ensure that false assurances are not given to the international markets who seek ‘environmentally friendly’ products, when the timber out of Tasmania to Japan fail to meet this test, and only tarnish the important ‘eco’ brand,” Weber concludes.