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Bob Brown Foundation Forest Defenders

Cassy O'Connor MP

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Tuesday, 22 June 2021

Tags: takayna / Tarkine

Ms O'CONNOR - Mr Speaker, not long after Dr Woodruff and I were resoundingly re-elected, we went along with our chief of staff Alice Giblin into takayna to visit the Bob Brown Foundation forest defenders and to see for ourselves what was being proposed in the forests east of Rosebery. These are forests that have been independently verified as having world heritage and national heritage value and at least 285 hectares of them are planned to be smashed, flattened and filled with toxic mine tailings by MMG Australia Pty Ltd which is 74 per cent owned by the Chinese Government.

We stayed in Tullah and had the great privilege of being invited to listen to some of the planning that the forest defenders undertake - very careful and thoughtful planning - in order to prevent MMG from flattening this beautiful rainforest gully. We went to the entrance to the proposed toxic mine dump site. It is the most extraordinary place. The Tarkine is a place like nowhere else on earth and we are the custodians of it. It is important to remember, that MMG itself has said in its documentation to the Federal Government that there are alternative sites.

It is also really important to remember that we are not talking about a tailings dam that 50 or 100 years from now would be a restored landscape. A tailings dam is a forever poisoned site because the content is acid sulphate-forming and therefore at the end of the tailings dam’s life, you have got to cap it with clay and you cannot let anything grow on top of it because those acid sulphates will come to the surface.

We are the custodians of one of the most beautiful, wild and unspoilt places on earth and yet under this Liberal government we have mining and increased logging happening in the Tarkine right now, and we still have a plan to run tracks through one of the most significant archaeological sites on the planet - a plan that has been condemned by the aboriginal community and aboriginal heritage experts which even seven years after that promise was made, has not been met. We are very thankful to the forest defenders because they are defending species such as the Tasmanian devil, the spotted-tailed quoll, the masked owl, wedge-tailed eagle, the Tasmanian azure kingfisher, the white-throated needle tail, the swift parrot - which as we know, as a result of poor land use, and native forest logging and the introduction of the sugar glider - is estimated to be at 300 individual birds. Also there are hawk-tail swifts, grey egrets, sharp-tailed sandpipers, common sandpipers, white-bellied sea eagles, satin flycatchers and Tasmanian forest and woodlands dominated by Black gum or Brookers gum, which are critically endangered forest community.

I want to read now from a speech that actress Bonnie Sveen made at the Bob Brown Foundation’s recent Tarkine exhibition, which is just closing at the Long Gallery today. Bonnie says:

When I think of takayna I think of the potent spirit of the place, that last truly wild place on earth, forests and coastlines we have not stripped and desecrated, rugged perfection, Gondwanan fern gulley, ancient myrtles who I named my eldest twin daughter after. There is not a place or person more worthy of naming after as far as I am concerned. When I was 14 weeks pregnant Nath and I were fortunate to get to do the Tarkine Trails hikes at Tiger Ridge. That is the inspiration for Myrtle.

Experiencing these artworks tonight, I am reminded of what is important, of the future we want to bestow on our young ones, that they might visit her too and be recharged and be healed by her, so they can re-emerge back into their climate crisis-struck lives and continue the brave fight for the natural world. This legacy of protecting what we love, of standing up for precious takayna, it is not something to take lightly as like most things in our aesthetically-driven lives.

I want to personally thank and commend every person who has challenged the mining, logging, the four-wheel drive tracks over middens, the bloody rubber mats and now mining giant MMG, each of the forest defenders, each of the 23 or more -

And as we know, it is now more than 30 people including Anthony Houston, respected businessman -

have been arrested for doing the vital work to delay the development of this toxic tailings dam and heavy metal waste site. We know the Tarkine is home to so many of our unique protected species, the masked owls, bats, orange-bellied parrots, goshawks, quolls, devils and freshwater crayfish, the intricate array of fungi, the emerald moss and the lichen, the aboriginal sites of incredible archaeological and spiritual significance.

Our disgraceful white Australia history - my history, and probably the history of many people in this room - ensured there was no future for the takayna people. We owe it to those mothers and fathers, the elders and the children, to their spirit which lives on in those beautiful ridges and continuing palawa culture, to do everything within our power to protect their sacred homeland and to push closer to frankly all of lutrawita being back in the hands of palawa people.

Now, sadly, we do not know just how bad the climate emergency is and how fast things will escalate. I believe we cannot afford to lose these forests based on the value of their carbon storage alone. So, thank you again to the artists for donating their pieces for this urgent cause. There is not a muse more beautiful or deserving.

Mr Speaker, it is such a privilege to be a Tasmanian, but to go into the Tarkine and to open your heart and to really look at it, surely is to want to protect it. Yet we have this extraordinary wilderness and cultural landscape which is under intensified assault. We are calling on the premier to take a stand here. His own economic and social recovery advisory council made it clear that good strong economic recovery demands of us looking after nature. One of the most important steps he could take is to engage with MMG on alternative sites.