Oz has too much protected forest, PM says writes Asia Sentinel.

Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott set the cat among the pigeons — or the chainsaw among the trees – on March 4 when, speaking at a forestry industry dinner, he said Australia had “too much” protected forest.

Abbott called foresters the “ultimate conservationists” and suggested 74,000 hectares of protected forest in Tasmania be unlocked for use. Was he playing to the gallery? It would sound so. However, the deafening silence from the industry itself in the next day’s media was more telling than predictable outrage by environmentalists and the Greens, Australia’s left-leaning environmentalist party. Many in the industry do not wish for a return to the rabid environmental protests of the past.

Pic: Asia Sentinel.

 

Abbott’s speech seemed more pitched directly to Tasmania, where an election 11 days later was already predicted to swing in the Liberals’ favor for the first time in 16 years. Will Hodgman, now the premier-designate after his March 15 win, was campaigning strongly on repealing forestry laws. His win is seen as a mandate now to do this and he has said as much.

It is important to understand that although logging and forest use are contentious issues around the world, certainly in Australia’s closest neighbor and former protectorate Papua New Guinea, they have been particularly protracted, bitter and vicious in Tasmania. It was partisan environmental disputes that led to the formation of the Greens, a party that began with unwavering environmental ideologies but has now become a legitimate third force in Australian politics, traditionally dominated by the two-party struggle between the conservative Liberals and Labor.

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