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Forest Protesters - Tribute

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Wednesday, 9 August 2023

Tags: Forests, Protest, Native Forest Logging

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin- Leader of the Greens) - Ms Butler, I could not agree more. Well spoken. Mr Speaker, I rise tonight to speak about the peaceful defenders of Tasmania's threatened forests.

The right to peaceful protest in Australia is deeply ingrained and held by all of us. It is part of our identity. It is a core value of the Tasmanian Greens. We know that change only comes when we listen to people and give everyone in the community a voice. That involves allowing them to speak and peacefully protest on issues they care passionately about.

Peaceful protest has a long history in Tasmania. It has helped us to protect our wild places. It has helped us to secure the rights of workers, of women and of our LGBTI community, and, especially importantly, of Tasmanian Aboriginal people.

Tasmanians are passionate about their community and its natural places. We will always unite together to make things better. The peaceful defenders of our forest will continue to protest, to draw attention to and make a statement about the extent of environmental destruction under this Liberal Government, and about the special places on the island that need to be permanently protected.

If it were not for them, we would not be seeing the extent of destruction. Forest defenders are fighting every day in Tasmania to ensure, peacefully, that our children and grandchildren have a safe planet to live on and they have the beauty of lutruwita/Tasmania to be around as they grow older.

We know the Liberal Government does not share the same love that we do for the natural environment, and it has taken Tasmania onto a slow but steady march towards a police state. What we have now is draconian, anti-democratic anti-protest laws that were designed by this Government, with the support of Labor, to instil the fear of arrest in the community and to undermine our state's long, proud history of peaceful protest.

The Greens proudly voted against the anti-protest laws when they were introduced last year. We saw them for what they were. The Government was bowing to the interest of corporations, selling out the rights and interests of Tasmanians, selling out our wild places, our biodiversity and our children's heritage. They were bringing in severe sanctions for people who are non violent.

At the time, they were some of the strongest in the country. Since then, successive Labor Party governments around the country have bought in their own versions of draconian anti protest laws.

What we are increasingly seeing is Liberal and Labor governments together, the Labor governments around the rest of the country, overturning the rights of members of the community who are desperate to stop corporations from destroying the natural environment and our life-supporting atmosphere.

Tonight I want to pay tribute to the brave, peaceful protesters in our forests who are standing every day while we are here and putting their bodies on the line to protect the environment for all of us. They are standing up against bulldozers that clear-fell carbon-rich ancient forests. They are standing up for the animals that exist in lutruwita/Tasmania like nowhere else on Earth and those who have no voice in the parliament. They are forest defenders who protest peacefully as their constitutional rights allow them to. We know that our laws are anti-constitutional. People in Tasmania care about our forests so deeply. They are unique to our state, unique in the world.

Last year we said that the draconian anti-protest laws that came through parliament would not deter peaceful protesters in our forests and they would not stop people from standing up against governments and corporate actions that are contributing to the breakdown of the climate and the very fast destruction of diminishing biodiversity.

Five people were arrested at peaceful protests last year following the introduction of these laws. That includes two people arrested at the Venture Minerals mine site in the takayna/Tarkine and three arrests in swift parrot habitat in the Eastern Tiers, one of whom was Bob Brown. Last June, one of our dearest and most renowned wilderness photographers, Rob Blakers, was also arrested in the great forests of the Eastern Tiers. He was peacefully protesting to protect an area of habitat for the critically endangered swift parrot that was being clearfelled. Rob Blakers had last summer photographed it and was privileged to sit there and watch a group of 30 parrots who were nesting and feeding in the area. The 30 swift parrots make up 4 per cent of the remaining wild population, but still this Government continues to allow Forestry Tasmania to log their habitat.

Rob's reaction at the time was: 'How dare they? How can they so brazenly ignore all of the science, all of the advice they have received and just go in and smash this forest?' When he knew what was happening, he felt that he had to take a stand. His heart was breaking from the pain of watching the very trees that had been the nesting and feeding habitat for those 30 swift parrots that he had photographed last year being logged in front of his eyes. It shows that there are no regulations in this state to protect the natural environment that are worth the paper they are written on.

Dr Colette Harmsen is a qualified veterinarian who has worked for the Save the Tasmanian Devil Program for many years. She was jailed in July for three months for continuing to peacefully protest in our forests. It is the first time in 12 years that an activist has received prison time in Tasmania. I recently heard from Colette, who is currently in the Mary Hutchinson Women's Prison. She is in good spirits and has written the following poem that I committed to reading into Hansard:

Rehabilitate me like you should

A forest's use is only wood

A masked owl's home is for the chop

I must obey the loggers' cop

A prison cell where I belong

To protect the Earth

Is never wrong

And if I ever disagree

The paddy wagon is for me

Mr Speaker, we thank these brave protesters. They are on the right side of history and they will continue to protest peacefully despite the threat of incarceration.

There will be logging rallies statewide this weekend and we look forward to hearing the people who stand up.