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Posts Tagged ‘Gunns

When Life Hands You a Lennon….

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sorry this stream of contrariness is a bit behind the times. I have been busy negotiating an arrangement with the International Panel on Climate Change. Now I can offset carbon emissions that I create by burning plastic bags, furniture, and SUV drivers simply by agreeing not to mine coal, rape penguins, or nuke the Vatican. It’s a tough trading scheme but we’ve all got to do our bit.

Tasmania never ceases to amaze – bigger than Glebe, less corrupt than Zimbabwe, more lively than Stan Zemanek, and better looked after than the Fritzls (pre-rescue, at least). But even by Tassie’s own standards of enviro-political chaos and angst, news emerging from that state over the last month has been like a prolonged advertisement for a WTF theme park.

In late May, ANZ Bank confirmed the rumour that had for weeks been spontaneously swelling the nipples of environmentalists. They would not be acting on behalf of their client, Gunns, to help secure the $2 billion needed to build the world’s largest pulp mill. Some prematurely celebrated the death of the project.

But it is still likely that Jaakko Poyry, Gunns’ pulp mill consultant, will organize the money through less scrupulous international financial colleagues of their own. To do so would not only guarantee their commission, but make it possible for Gunns to actually pay up.

Seemingly bigger, better news came the following week. On the morning of Monday the 26th of May, Premier Paul Lennon aka Big Red, aka The Guy in the Pulp Mill ads, aka Gunns’ Elected Representative, aka The Forest F*cker, announced his resignation. After less than five years and many more decimated ecosystems, Premier Lennon decided to follow in the footsteps of every single east coast Labor Premier before him.

Echoing Lee Harvey Oswald, Lennon declared “I’ve given it my best shot.”

Content with his legacy and bathed in the love of his people, he had gone for a walk in the park and realized that it was time to retire and be bronzed by tulip-clad virgins, placed on an altar made entirely from the feathers of endangered eagles, and worshipped with offerings of old growth at the rising of each morning’s Sun henceforth.

There was, of course, unkind speculation that he was stepping down to avoid being pushed – given that an opinion poll the week before had seen his approval amongst Tasmanians rating a sub-George-Bush 17 per cent. Those are nearly Brendan Nelson numbers.

Unkind and as yet unaddressed rumours have circulated that the poll was actually commissioned by Federal Labor. While it would make sense for Federal Labor to jettison a Labor Premier for whom two deputies have already fallen on their sword amid suggestion of deceptive conduct, one might expect that an inquiry, a committee, and a Lennon Watch scheme would have first been established before launching such an effective and timely strategy.

Even less kind – though almost plausible in a T.I.T. (This Is Tasmania) way – was the suggestion that Lennon didn’t stand aside for family and personal reasons, that he didn’t stand aside out of political foresight, that he didn’t stand aside because he had become less bankable than an old-growth-eating pulp mill or even because he was perceived as less credible than Eddie McGuire.

Some tied his resignation on the Monday to the death of a Gunns’ board member, with the subsequent job opening, on the Saturday immediately before.

It’s enough to make you Very Old Men In Ties.

Lennon was immediately replaced as Premier by David Bartlett, a squinty-eyed bucket of water ten years his junior. His first eighteen hours in office were promising. He considered withholding tens of millions of public dollars from questionably sound private projects and mumbled something about a corruption inquiry before descending into the time-honoured practice of contorted linguistics.

The closest he has since come to promising a return to democracy in The Land of the Wrong White Crowd has been to propose a visionary new system of governance involving merit-based appointments. This, of course, is code for ‘business as usual’.

Because in Tasmania, as in News South Wales, ‘merit’ means one thing: Mates Employed Regardless of Intellectual Talent.

The battle for sanity continues…..

MELTDOWN: Yankee Subprime, Tassie Pulp = Merry Xmas!

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This piece has just arrived from a Tasmanian hee-roe by the name of Bob McMahon. He’s one of the many heavy lifters active in the fight against Gunns proposed pulp mill in Tasmania’s Tamar Valley, and although he can flippantly fire of the term ‘civil war’ when his blood’s up, i think it’s only because he means it. Check out more of his work at A Better Australia.

“As cold waters to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country.”  Thus spoke King Solomon (Proverbs 25.25). His wisdom resounds down the ages and brings good cheer to the Tamar Valley in this Christmas week of 2007.

Where is this ‘far country’ and what is the ‘good news’?

The far country is America. The beginning of the good news, the incipiently good news you might say, occurred a few months ago. That was the start of a ‘credit squeeze’ in America due to the subprime mortgage crisis. Loan defaults in the housing market, in particular the 3.5 million ‘homeowners’ who were sold loans they had no chance of repaying over the long term, or even the short term, sparked the squeeze.

No problem for us in Australia, the local economists assured us, because we did not go in for subprime type lending, that is, reckless lending to mortgagees (or companies?) with insufficient assets or cash flow to make loan repayments. We have been altogether more circumspect in Australia. We were immune from that sort of thing we were told. No mention of companies like Centro with assets and exposure in the USA.

Several days ago the pundits had changed their tune following the Centro avalanche, because the problem wasn’t confined to the domestic housing market, nor was it peculiar to the USA. Britain got clobbered. Now it’s Australia’s turn.

Companies, like Centro, which are highly leveraged – short term borrowing, bridging finance at high rates that have to be re-negotiated, borrowings at a high proportion of assets and earning potential etc. – are in for a rough ride. There are a lot of shareholders and investors in superannuation funds exposed to speculative property trusts which surfed in on the big wave of credit expansion, who are feeling rather sick right now. So much for our immunity.

Now the really good news flashed up red on the screen when the squeeze turned into a meltdown which the US Federal Reserve was unable to control with interest rate cuts and wads of money shovelled into the banks to soften the impact, on them, of their own junk loans. Once the credit squeeze ceased to be a mere liquidity problem and started to look like a money market collapse, prescient Tasmanians dared to quietly rejoice and put off their Christmas shopping for a day or two to watch the screens instead: Bloomberg, Squawk Box, Sky, ASX etc.

Some of you might be puzzled as to how this meltdown could possibly be good news for Tasmania?  It is good news because risk capital suddenly got much more expensive, or even impossible to get, not just in Australia but worldwide. Risk capital got a whole lot riskier if you were in the market, like the ANZ, to supply a couple of billion to finance a dodgy business in Tasmania spruiked by a hurdy-gurdy of Scandinavians who had taken advantage, if the truth be known but the Scandinavians would be the last to say so in public, of a board of dimwits.

Yes, that’s right. At a time when pulp mills all over the developed world are closing down because they can’t possibly compete with the developing world (the ‘global south’) or are being bailed out of insolvency with mountains of taxpayers’ money, the Finns were able to flog off a stupendously smelly, long dead fish disguised as a rainbow trout flashing silver in a mountain stream, to Dad and Dave and the bastard from the bush. Taken advantage of, you might say. Pretend international players taken for a ride by real international players.

Serve them right you might say. Let them borrow their two billion, let them borrow twice as much as the company is valued on the stock market, let them be leveraged so highly the earth is dislodged from its orbit around the sun, let them build the pulp mill, because, by 2010 the world will be a meaner place with rat devouring rat and nobody will want the world’s most expensive and environmentally ghastly pulp and the company will be doomed.

I know many readers might think that is justice on about the right scale given the level of contempt shown by the pulp mill proponents (and complicit governments) for the concerns of the people. I would disagree but not out of any love for the company. Let it be napalmed from a great height one part of me says.

But another part of me says let it survive and be marinated in the odium of the people until such time as it changes its ways and the current board of directors is gone to where boards of directors on the dark side go, but let us not have the pulp mill, not any cost, not even at the cost of Gunns sliding off the continental shelf into the abyss.

The risk is well and truly back in risk capital where it rightfully belongs. Many will be scorched as the subprime, slick credit and delusional accounting schemes work through the world economy, transforming world money markets into gut-shot dogs in the process. There will be an untold number of victims, deserved and undeserved and there will be a few winners as well.

The people of Tasmania are beginning to look like winners. Merry Christmas.

 

Bob McMahon

http://www.abetteraustralia.com

 It may also be of interest to Bob and other readers that one of the latest developments in the subprime shockwave is a legal matter which could potentially tear banks wide open. In a way, loans are like property. Smaller banks sell loan agreements and contracts on to bigger banks or investment groups. The debt of the homeowner continues, but is now to the new ‘owner’. But for a recently emerged technicality. A loan that is already in default cannot legally be transferred. Legal eagles are scrambling to navigate around this issue, but it may well be – in the extreme realms of possibility – that loans in default which have been on-sold may have in effect been annulled. Watch this space.

Written by typingisnotactivism

December 20, 2007 at 11:46 pm

PM Rudd’s first domestic courtesy of the Greens

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By any objective measure, the vote in most of Australia was heavily influenced by Green preferences and should be seen as a call to the Rudd Government to consider a more environmentally friendly way to deal with this issue of the pulp mill.

– Dr Warwick Raverty, 26th November, 2007

It is certain that under Prime Minister Kevin Rudd (*aahhh*) Australia will be an international citizen like never before. A veritable treasure trove of global possibilities now lie across the sea. Ironically, so shall his first major domestic challenge.

Barely had the Rudd victory been declared on Saturday than Greens Senator Bob Brown, surrounded by cheering supporters and green ‘no pulp mill’ triangles, declared the result a vote against the proposed Gunns pulp mill.

“From Bass to Bennelong to Bowman, this pulp mill has had an influence,” Senator Brown said. “And the pulp mill was the single most defining environmental issue which has made this huge swing against the government to the Greens.”

The eviction of the Coalition government was partially rejection of a government that approved the pulp mill. The difficulty is that a vote – primary or preferential – for Federal Labor was still a vote for a party that supported the pulp mill. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by typingisnotactivism

November 26, 2007 at 9:53 pm

Guest pulp media spray from Dr. Thomas Moore, Tasmanian oceanographer.

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Barns wrong on Whish-Wilson

In his October 15th column, Greg Barns, spouts about “well-informed
opinion”, “gross misinformation”, “political agendas”, and “self
interest” in the mill debate.

Mr. Barns’ fallacious spray targets Tamar Valley vigneron, UTAS
Economics and Finance lecturer, and Surfrider Foundation Australia
(SFA) – Northern Tasmania President, Peter Whish-Wilson.

For nearly two years Peter and his team of Surfriders have engaged
all parties, scrutinized the documentation, done research into
oceanography and economics, and participated in good faith with both
the (failed) state and (limited) federal assessment processes – all
in a volunteer capacity and at a high personal cost.

Thanks to Peter’s efforts SFA has facilitated overseas meetings for
Tasmanian Parliamentarians with Chilean wine industry representatives
who claim they HAVE experienced significant negative economic impacts
due to the proximity of pulp mills (check Hansard next time Greg) and
Peter HAS travelled overseas to visit pulp mill regions.

Peter does own a small Tamar Valley vineyard, which he works with his
own two hands to create gold-medal winning wine. Amongst all the
influential protagonists in this State-rending controversy – Gunns,
Gay, Lennon Labor, the State Libs, the CFMEU, Turnbull, Garrett,
Howard, Rudd, etc. – it is absurd to accuse Peter of being biased due
to “self interest”.

As a member of SFA I will continue to proudly stand shoulder to
shoulder with Peter in our efforts to inform the public of the
potential threat to our wild coastline and the dangerous game
currently being played with our marine environment by both state and
federal politicians – hiding behind their spin and finger pointing as
they plod along towards the electoral finish-line.

Just in case Mr. Barns decides to make further simpleminded
speculation about others let me state clearly for the record – I, and
millions of Australians across this nation, have a “self interest” in
our bays, beaches, and coastal waters that support a healthy marine
environment, sustainable industries, public amenity, and our health.

Dr. Thomas Moore
Oceanographer
Lauderdale, Tasmania

Written by typingisnotactivism

October 16, 2007 at 1:07 pm

Joint anti-pulp-mill campaign targetting ANZ bank to launch Wednesday

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MEDIA RELEASE

A co-ordinated national campaign takes aim at the ANZ bank.

WFCA (Women For Change Alliance) and TAP (Tasmanians Against the Pulpmill) will be launching their joint campaign targeting the ANZ as Gunns’ bankers and potential financiers of the proposed pulp mill, on Wednesday October 10.

Danielle Ecuyer, director of WFCA and resident of Bondi (Malcolm Turnbull’s electorate) is in Tasmania at the invitation of TAP to launch a joint “ANZ Sign the Letter” Campaign directed at ANZ’s Mike Smith.

“Huge numbers of signatures are pouring in”, said Danielle Ecuyer. “Banks like ANZ are at risk of severely damaging their reputation and losing market share, which takes years to establish”.

“I would warn any other bank that seeks to finance the mill that they too will be subjected to a similar campaign”, she said.

TAP spokesperson Bob McMahon said: “Once ANZ realizes what a risky and unsustainable business this pulp mill is they will decline to be involved in financing it. With that as a judgement why would any other bank touch the project?”

“As a community group TAP aims to put the risk back into risk capital.”

The campaign will be officially launched in City Park near the Albert Hall at 1.00pm tomorrow, Wednesday October 10th, 2007.

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October 9, 2007 at 11:53 pm

Tasmanian Gunns speak out in today’s Mercury

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In a very thoughtfully written article in today’s Hobart Mercury, Nick Clark describes an intriguing brief encounter. He met the Gunn family at the weekend’s pulp mill protest and captured some of their anger over what they believe John Gay – head of Gunns and managing director appointed by their father/ husband/ grandad – has done to their family’s name. It’s a worthwhile read, but the best bit is in the accompanying forum. The following online comment was submitted by Sarah Gunn – now I’m not certain if she’s actually a Gunn or somebody going with an online moniker… ‘she’ might even be a guy… but I love this short burst of writing and I’m assuming it’s from a real Gunn:

the naming rights to gunns ltd remained when the family sold its controlling share in the 1980s. the goodwill value of the name may allow the company to get away with more damage than they should. eg how gunns ltd got a woodchip licence in the first place, for which the federal court found minister for resources erred in law, 1994. some members of the public may have thought the company was still controlled by the family. thank you to the mercury for making the situation clear. i have sent submissions against this mill in the past. i am pround of my family heritage, and i use paper, so what! they are building a pulp mill with my name on it! but seriously, best practice is not wood sourced under RFAs, because of the high proportion that gets chipped. in eden nsw 87% of logs go to woodchips, tasmania it is more like 90%. in upper northeast nsw 18% to pulplogs, it should be no higher than this anywhere. value adding means logs go to timber not pulp.

– Sarah Gunn 08/10/2007

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October 8, 2007 at 5:19 pm