MPs get 10-day
pulp mill junket
• Matthew Denholm
• July 03, 2007
TAXPAYERS will fund a 10-day trip for Tasmanian independent
upper house MPs to study pulp mills in Europe and South America.
Legislative Council president Don Wing last night confirmed
state government funding was available for five MPs to tour
pulp mills overseas before a vote on Gunns' proposed Tasmanian
Although the Lennon Government justifies the spending as
being in the interests of informing MPs before the vote on
Gunns' $2billion project, several representatives expressed
concern about other motives behind the tour.
Independent MP for Rosevears Kerry Finch told The Australian
he would not be going on the trip, believing it to be of questionable
"It is being put on by the Government, someone from
the Government is going with them - it's not a good look,"
Mr Finch said.
He believed sufficient material on the Gunns project already
exists and that information on overseas pulp mills is readily
available without having to leave the country.
However, five of the 11 independent legislative councillors
have seen merit in the tour and have accepted the offer of
Lobbying of the independent MPs is intensifying. On Friday,
Gunns took them on a tour of the Tamar Valley mill construction
site, north of Launceston.
The company, which has hired a retired legislative councillor
of 24 years experience, Tony Fletcher, to lobby his former
colleagues, also provided them with a briefing, lunch and
helicopter ride over the site and forest plantations.
The state Government is expected to release a consultant's
assessment of the project as early as this week.
Under the Lennon Government's fast-track process, the final
say on whether the project proceeds effectively rests with
the Legislative Council, where the Government needs the support
of four of the 11 independents to win the vote.
The project also requires federal environmental approval.
The Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union yesterday
failed in an attempt to join the Howard Government in defending
a legal case that threatens to halt the federal assessment
of the mill.
The CFMEU had hoped to be able to cross-examine witnesses
in the case, in which the Wilderness Society and an anti-mill
business group are challenging the legality of a paper-based
assessment ordered by federal Environment Minister Malcolm
Federal Court judge Shane Marshall rejected the application,
ruling that the union would not be directly affected by any
orders issued by him or relief sought by the applicants in
He ordered the union to pay costs associated with its failed
application. The case is scheduled for a three-day hearing
The Wilderness Society alleges Mr Turnbull allowed Gunns
to "process shop" by deciding the project would
be subject only to a paper-based assessment after the company
withdrew from a broader integrated approval process.
Justice Marshall said the CFMEU could still seek to intervene
to make submissions on individual issues, but would not be
able to cross-examine witnesses in the case.