This letter was sent to various papers, in response to a story, “Coffs MP lashes ‘green ratbags’ over Whian Whian death”, printed in the Northern Star and the Coffs Coast Advocate on 4/11/13…

Andrew Fraser’s speech, NSW Parliament (31/10/13), about North Coast Forest Industries, is worth reading in full: speech from Hansard (page 71).

The first part seems reasonable.  It includes the comment: “The reality is we still need the wood; people still need to build houses.”  We certainly agree with that, as the main reason we bought our property at Whian Whian was to grow timber (for milling).

However, the speech then seems to degenerate into an anti Greens tirade.  Consider the following excerpts: “The Greens clamour…”; “the greens failed to comply with work health and safety regulations…”; and: “the green ratbags”.

Mr Fraser, could you please explain what you mean?  Did you visit the Whian Whian logging site during the blockade?  Did you enquire whether the protestors were, in fact, “Greens”?  Or did you speak about the tragic death of the forester who died during the operation to advance your own political interests?

At the end of the speech, Mr Fraser says:
“If these blockades had happened in any industry in Sydney the police would have been on the doorstep and shifted them out.  These fools create situations where people are not only injured but killed.  It is high time the Government moved to ensure that these green protestors who enter private land and State forests are removed by police.”

As neighbours living near the Whian Whian logging site, we observed:
1. Trespassers on private land were removed by police;
2. The nearby State forest was not closed.  When State forests are not closed (by the government), it is perfectly legal for “green protestors” or any other members of the public, to enter (is it not?)
We would like to know: how is “protection from the disgraceful behaviour of the green ratbags” different in the Northern Rivers to Sydney?

Mr Fraser says “I call on the Government to introduce legislation to ensure this does not happen again”.   What type of legislation do you propose Mr Fraser?  We suggest that, if an effective system of independent environmental assessment of logging sites were implemented, protests by concerned members of the public may decrease.  The owners of the logged property did consent to such an assessment, however it was arranged under difficult conditions, as the logging (and protest) had already started.  The independent assessment showed that the Private Native Forestry code was breached.  Residents also need to be given notice of logging operations in their area.  Then residents could discuss any issues directly with the landowners beforehand.

The right to protest is one of the cornerstones of Australian society.

Please ensure that right is enshrined in any new legislation, Mr Fraser.

Jessica Lowe & Nathan Kesteven, Whian Whian, 14/11/13


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