Forest industry rally

MARCHING TO A SINGLE BEAT: A portion of the estimated 10,000-strong crowd of pro-logging protesters crosses the Tamar St bridge yesterday. (1/2)About 10,000 people marched from York Park to City Park where State and federal, Liberal and Labor politicians joined union and industry leaders in a rare display of pro- forest unity.
Nanjing Night Net

The march was backed by a $60 million fleet of more than 200 log trucks from around the State.

The lunchtime rally came just hours before Mr Latham arrived in Launceston at the start of a two-day tour of Tasmania’s southern Styx forests – today with pro-forestry groups and tomorrow with Greens leader Dr Bob Brown.

Speakers yesterday made no bones about what they wanted – a Federal Opposition Leader prepared to stick with the Regional Forest Agreement and not do any deal with the Greens in the hope of winning Green preferences in Melbourne and Sydney at this year’s election.

Only a handful of anti-forestry protesters watched the placard- carrying marchers parade along Invermay Rd and Tamar St to City Park.

An anti-forestry placard was snatched from the hands of one man on the Tamar St bridge but the march and rally were virtually incident- free.

National assistant secretary of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy union Michael O’Connor told the rally the union would mount an Australia-wide campaign to defend the jobs of Tasmanian timber workers.

“While we currently enjoy the support of both Mr Howard and Mr Latham we are not going to sit on our hands while Bob Brown and his cronies attempt to make the destruction of Tasmanian jobs the price for Green preferences,” he said.

Mr O’Connor said the union would embellish thousands of members in key regional seats.

Forest Industries Association chief executive Terry Edwards said yesterday was the day Tasmania’s forest workers fought back.

“It sent a message to federal and State politicians that the industry and its workers have given away enough and will give no more,” he said.

Forest and Forest Industry Council chairman Allan Dagger said the huge turnout would give fresh heart to people in the industry – people who he claimed had been vilified and treated as second-class citizens for too long.

“March 16, 2004, will be seen as a significant day in the history of Tasmania’s forests.”

Australian Workers Union national secretary Bill Shorten told the rally that Tasmania must not go the way of Western Australia, which had almost destroyed its timber industry, putting thousands out of work and crippling communities.

“We can’t afford to let Tasmania become a Green museum,” he said.

Forests minister Bryan Green claimed that since the Greens had lost the balance of power in Tasmania the State’s shackles had come off and it had gone forward.

“I will be taking Mark Latham through the forests and will show him they are sustainable and capable of producing 300,000cum of timber annually forever,” he said.

Opposition Leader Rene Hidding said that since 1997, when the Federal and State Liberal governments signed the RFA, the two major parties had backed the agreement to protect forestry jobs for 20 years.

He warned Mr Latham not to play politics with 10,000 jobs but to support Tasmania’s push for downstream processing with the development of a pulp mill and paper mill.

Lyons Labor MHR Dick Adams told the rally that people were entitled to their views, but if they wanted to worship trees they should not try to force others out of their jobs so they could.

The rally’s resolution was to be presented to Mr Latham last night.

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