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Last week’s dynamiting of the 40,000-years-old Aboriginal site in Western Australia is a moment of national shame, former Greens leader Bob Brown said today.
“While some of the world’s most ancient human-made wonders, including a human hair plaited belt and a kangaroo bone tool, were removed from the site, the blasting of the rock shelters has destroyed forever the context in which the people who made them lived. This was a living-place going way back before the last Ice Age.
“Rio Tinto’s vandalism in destroying this part of global heritage deserves the worldwide condemnation it will get, but nothing can recover this lost place for the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura traditional owners. It is no wonder Aboriginal people feel the invasion has not ended - because it hasn’t,” Brown said.
“The most excruciating aspect of this heritage crime is the complicity of the state and federal governments from 2013 until 2020. They all approved. Such government-promoted vandalism of Australia’s human heritage is continuing at a monumental scale as with the creeping desecration of the world’s largest collection of ancient rock carvings at Marujuga, near Karratha, for the convenience and cost-cutting advantage of gas corporations including Woodside.”
“It is high time this nation had Aboriginal heritage protection laws which gave Indigenous people a clear and unequivocal veto on projects which threaten their heritage,” Brown said.
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Federal government referral of the transmission lines to connect a controversial wind farm in a migratory bird pathway has revealed further threats to twenty two threatened species and 129 Aboriginal heritage sites as well as large scale clearing of rainforests and native forests.
UPC Renewables’ belated Federal EPBC referral of the first 115km section of their proposed high voltage transmission line has shown the company's greenwash claims to be empty.
“The proposed UPC Robbins Island wind farm is a biodiversity and heritage catastrophe in the planning. I find it hard to imagine how UPC could have found a more damaging project," said Bob Brown Foundation Campaigner Scott Jordan.
"The proposed transmission line will carve a seventy kilometre long, sixty metre wide swathe through carbon rich rainforest, wet eucalypt and blackwood forests. It will compromise threatened Black gum and Brookers gum ecological communities and six and a half kilometres of verified National and World Heritage value areas,” Scott Jordan said.
"UPC's own reports shows it may impact twenty-two threatened fauna species, three threatened flora species, five Tasmanian Geoconservation Sites and 129 registered Aboriginal heritage sites. All this on top of the migratory bird armageddon that is the wind farm itself,” Scott Jordan said.
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BOB BROWN FOUNDATION: “We will continue to act for Australia’s environment.”
Leading environment group, the Bob Brown Foundation, based in Hobart, says it will take on the Liberal Party’s campaign to suppress environmental action and debate. A junior Liberal senator, backed by power broker Eric Abetz, has renewed calls for the BBF to have its charitable tax-deductible status revoked.
BBF’s CEO Steven Chaffer says that other charities like Hillsong Church have tax-deductible incomes that dwarf that of the environment groups. He backed up the foundation’s high-profile campaigns to save Australia’s forests and wildlife saying that “a charity that politely sits on its hands, ignoring the very problem it was set up to address, is failing in its obligations to its supporters and the wider community.”
After months of staying home during the COVID-19 lockdown, while government exempted clearfelling and fire-bombing of Tasmania’s wild forests continued, BBF defenders stopped cable logging of a Mt Field forest, in central Tasmania, for two days, last week.
“Without that peaceful action, the Australian public would never have known that their forests and wildlife are being destroyed,” Mr Chaffer said.
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Four people have been arrested today while protesting in forests north of Mt Field National Park, this area has two documented Wedge-tailed Eagle nests in adjacent forests. One of the people arrested, Ana Bursek, spent two nights atop a giant cable-logging machine.
“Anna Bursek’s two night sit atop a cable-logging tower to save Mt Field‘s eagles deserves an Order of Australia. Defending the nesting sites of Tasmania’s Wedge-tailed Eagles, the largest in the nation, is upholding the goals of environmental laws which Australian governments breach with outrageous indifference. Anna and fellow forest defenders, arrested today, have a regard for wild and scenic Tasmania entirely missing from the Tasmanian and federal cabinet rooms,” said Bob Brown.
Three of the forest defenders arrested today are concerned that Tasmania Police arrested them without giving warning to leave first.
“We were peacefully protesting today in logging coupe DU015A, providing ground support to a protester who was in a platform atop a cable-logger. We were also present in the same logging coupe yesterday and were asked to leave by police. There was no timeframe given on this directive to leave and we complied with police directions. During today’s protest, we were preparing to leave the protest site when the police suddenly and unexpectedly arrested three of us for trespassing. This is very unusual behaviour, and these arrests were completely unnecessary as we were already on our way out. Myself and the two other protesters were taken to the Hobart police station, all our phones and gear confiscated, and we were provided with bail conditions stating that we are not to enter or remain on any Sustainable Timber Tasmania land state-wide. We are committed to defending Tasmania’s native forests from destructive logging,” Dr Lisa Searle said.
“Intact forests remain standing in this coupe that is habitat for the endangered Wedge-Tailed Eagle and should be protected. An immediate moratorium needs to be put in place over all native forests in Tasmania and Premier Gutwein can take the opportunity to take real climate action and protect these wildlife-rich carbon stores,” Bob Brown Foundation’s Campaign Manager Jenny Weber said.
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Tasmania’s forest defenders have halted, at least temporarily, the total destruction of native forest and wildlife on the slope beneath Mt Field National Park. Cable logging has been destroying endangered Wedge-tailed Eagle habitat before the species’ breeding season will stop the logging due to two eagle nests in adjacent forests.
“In an age of mass extinction due to loss of habitat, this needless destruction is a crime against future generations,” Bob Brown said today.
“The courage of ordinary people going out to this wild place to stop the carnage has attracted wide public support and admiration - as have similar ongoing forest protests in Victoria and New South Wales. That a massive cable-logging machine has been stopped at Mt Field by a lone woman camped atop it overnight will draw more public sympathy. Our campaign asserts the public’s right to know that Tasmanians’ forests and wildlife are being pulverised at public expense for markets which could and should be supplied by plantation timber.”
“Logging of Tasmania’s irreplaceable native forests is certainly not an ‘essential service’ but has been continuing while the rest of the world has been in lockdown. We are now on day two of this blockade and will not leave until these horrific forest-destroying machines leave. We are a voice for these forests and wildlife-filled ecosystems and call for an end to native forest logging,” Dr Lisa Searle, forest defender on site, said.
“Clearfell cable logging stripping Tasmanian forests to bare earth will be followed by burning with a napalm-like substance dropped from a helicopter, shameful practices that are criminal in this climate and biodiversity emergency. Research shows that Tasmanian Wedge-tailed Eagles don’t stray far from home and now these homes look out on a horror wasteland,” Bob Brown Foundation’s Campaign Manager Jenny Weber said.
“Premier Gutwein should intervene to protect these Wedge-tailed Eagle nests, and their environs, from being destroyed for no essential purpose. This is Australia’s largest bird of prey and our governments continue to destroy its unique forest habitat,” Jenny Weber said.
Meanwhile, seven forest defenders from earlier protests against destruction in takayna / Tarkine face the Magistrates Court in Hobart today. “These hearings should be about crimes against nature - that would have ministers and industry heads in the dock instead,” Jenny Weber said
Here is the government’s DPIPWE website information: Wedge-tailed Eagle - The Tasmanian Wedge-tailed Eagle (Aquila audax fleayi) is an endemic subspecies and is listed as endangered under the Tasmanian Threatened Species Protection Act 1995. It is included in the Federal list as an endangered subspecies. Why is it a threatened species here in Tasmania? The Wedge-tailed Eagle is listed as endangered in Tasmania for several reasons. The bird was listed as endangered due to a low number of breeding pairs, high rates of unnatural mortality, and loss and disturbance of breeding habitat.
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A forest defender has today been arrested for trespass after attaching herself to a logging machine in forests being destroyed near Mt Field National Park. A second forest defender is still perched atop a cable logging machine in the forests after logging was halted today.
“I took a stand today to defend the last tracts of native forests in Tasmania. Cable logging is destructive for forests and water catchments. The forests we are protesting in have two Wedge-tailed Eagle nests and they are being stripped bare,” Sarah Van Est, arrested forest defender said today.
“Our Foundation has returned to frontline forest defence today to highlight the urgent need to halt destruction of remnant, wildlife-filled ecosystems. These are ancient forests that Premier Gutwein gave loggers free rein to continue smashing even though Tasmania has more plantations than required to meet all its essential wood needs. Native forests need urgent protection from logging and loggers can transition into jobs managing the forests for carbon storage and responsive roles in this age of a climate emergency such as elite fire-fighters,“ Bob Brown Foundation’s Jenny Weber said.
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Bob Brown Foundation has written today to Tasmania Police Commissioner, Darren Hine, seeking a meeting and indicating that we intend to press for a full investigation into reported incidents of alleged tree spikes in logs at the Karanja and McKay sawmills.
"We have a proud record of non-violent forest protest in Tasmania and unequivocally condemn the use of violence or the threat of violence. Our Foundation has today condemned this alleged incident without reservation," said Jenny Weber, Bob Brown Foundation Campaign Manager.
"We have written to the Police Commissioner to ask that any investigation looks at all possibilities as to who perpetrated this incident and not just listen to the logging industry and its supporters," she said.
"Bob Brown Foundation has been the direct and indirect target of the accusations relating to this tree spiking incident. As is always the case in Tasmania, the timber industry and political representatives of both the Government and opposition parties have been quick to point the finger at forest protesters in spite of the lack of evidence or any history of the use of tree spikes in Tasmania," she said
In Tasmania, there is a long history, spanning more thirty years of false allegations against forest conservationists ranging from planting a bomb (Black River 1993) to tree spiking and vandalism of machinery. All have been false. Where the perpetrators have been identified, motives have ranged from insurance fraud, infighting between contractors and disaffected forestry workers acting out of malice. In 1995 Superintendent Haldane from the Bairnsdale CIB in Victoria cautioned police officers against jumping to conclusions that environmentalists would be to blame for damage to equipment. In cases over recent years in Victoria concerning criminal damage to logging equipment, the guilty parties were rival logging contractors,” concluded Ms Weber.
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“Our Foundation has no knowledge of or involvement in this alleged incident. We are always non-violent in our defence of the forests and have been all our lives,” Bob Brown Foundation’s Campaign Manager Jenny Weber said.
“We are calling for a full and thorough police enquiry, including into the logging companies and any workers that may have been involved in this incident. This is a set-up.” Jenny Weber said.
“There have been similar previous claims but all turned out to be hoaxes. The most recent was when Premier Giddings had to apologise to me and fellow forest defenders in 2012 after accusing us of using tree spiking as a tactic in our campaign against native forest logging. In 1993 there was the notorious frame-up by pro-loggers who placed the so-called Black River ‘bomb’ on a railway track days before the federal election,” Jenny Weber said.
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Ten forest defenders are in Tasmania’s wild and scenic forests this morning to highlight the urgent need to end the destruction of remnant, wildlife-filled ecosystems. They have halted cable-logging on the north slopes below Mt Field National Park. One protester is perched on top of a cable-logging machine.
“Cable-logging these steep slopes strips them to bare earth. The forest is home to endangered wedge-tailed eagles and has two nests for these mighty species, Australia’s largest bird of prey,” Bob Brown Foundation Campaign Manager Jenny Weber said.
“Premier Gutwein gave the loggers free rein to continue smashing Tasmania’s wild forests through this pandemic time, calling this destruction ‘essential’ work while locking up the forests from the public. Tasmania has more plantations than required to meet all its essential wood needs. This logging is not essential, but the native forests are - for the survival of species and mitigation of the impacts of this climate emergency,” Dr Lisa Searle said on-site.
“During this pandemic, we have done the right thing for the community and stayed home, but the loggers kept going. We have returned to put a spotlight on the loss of Tasmania’s precious forests. We are a voice for the forests and will continue to keep the public informed on what is happening to their forests,” she said.
“There can be better jobs managing the forests for carbon storage and responsive roles in this age of a climate emergency such as elite fire-fighters,” Jenny Weber said.
“World experts have warned of even more deadly and destructive disease outbreaks unless the destruction of the natural world is halted. Tasmania should follow New Zealand’s lead by protecting all native forests,” she said.
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For the second time in a week, a group of forest defenders have faced Hobart Magistrates Court relating to charges over logging protests.
Tania Wilby and Laura McKew received $200 fines each with no conviction recorded. Two other activists still await their hearing today.
"In the long tradition of non-violent action, these forest defenders stood up against the wrongs of our society, the destruction of Tasmania's native forests. These people should be applauded for their essential work highlighting the loss of irreplaceable ecosystems," said Bob Brown Campaign Manager, Jenny Weber.
"While the world shuts down during the pandemic, the logging of ancient forests continues. These brave heroes remind us that peaceful protests are still needed to highlight the crimes of industrial-scale logging in Tasmania," said Ms Weber.