Forests forever

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20 07 12 - 11:58
east gippsland action team jan 1990

On the eve of the Melbourne by-election, I've just been reading some media articles from 1990 when I was Coordinator of the East Gippsland Coalition. These are from the time of the protest actions we held at Brown Mountain on the edge of the Errinundra Plateau. (This is the same area where the Supreme Court last year found that logging should stop because the area is home to the endangered Long Footed Potoroo.)

These articles are a great reminder of the rich history of the fight for our forests (which went back a long way prior to 1990 too).

Our protests in the lead up to the 1990 federal election were powerful enough to bring the federal and state Labor governments to the table to forge an agreement to stop logging for 3 years, to give the state government a chance to see if there were 'prudent and feasible alternatives' to logging. On this basis we stopped the protests. (There was $20 million of federal money given to the East Gippsland timber industry as part of this deal too by the way.)

Of course there were 'prudent and feasible alternatives', but a devious misinterpretation of what the terms 'prudent and feasible' meant lead to the consequent state government study finding that no, there were no alternatives, and that logging in these high conservation forests should be permitted. In short we were lied to and manipulated in order to get us out of the way in the lead up to the election.

The experience galvanised me into throwing myself into forming The Greens in Victoria, and the rest is the proverbial.

Thinking back now over the 20 years of building The Greens since then, what we are aiming to do is to give these forests, and all peoples, species and environments a voice in our parliaments, and allow democracy to prevail, rather than the demands of planet destroying corporations.  We know that the great majority of Australians support protecting our forests, yet our views aren't listened to.

In the Earth Garden article, which was written before we realised we'd been had, I express an optimistic view that logging wouldn't restart in these forests after the three years, because 'attitudes would have changed so much by that time that... they won't even consider going back into these virgin forests'.

I still had the mistaken and naive belief at that stage that the major parties presided over a democracy, where if enough voters were in favour of something, then policies and practices would change.

It was being sold out that led me to realise that having a supportive community wasn't enough, we needed people in our parliaments to translate that support into legislation. Twenty years on we are now well on the way to putting those people there.

And Cathy Oke winning Melbourne tomorrow will be another huge step forward!

'Irreplacable Virgin Forests Earth Garden March - May 1990

A Cry in the Wilderness New Idea 170390

'Direct Action, Camera and Trees Fall in Chorus, The Sunday Age, 140190

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