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To what extent are Tasmanians motivated to preserve the environment? The outcome of the state election could reveal their level of concern.
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To what extent are Tasmanians motivated to preserve the environment? The outcome of the state election could reveal their level of concern.


Tasmania advertises its natural splendor, luring mainlanders to “take a breath” by visiting the island. However, the atmosphere in the state’s hectic election race has been quite different. The concept of nature was largely absent in the initial month of campaigning before the voting day on March 23rd.

As of late last week, the current Liberal party had released over 220 statements to the press since the campaign began on Valentine’s Day. However, none of these statements addressed environmental policies. The Labor party, who is vying to regain power after a decade of being out of the political scene, had put out 130 press releases without any mention of the natural world.

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By chance or not, this occurred following the Tasmanian Greens’ decision to transport reporters to Melaleuca, located deep in the preserved area of south-west wilderness, to release several statements on Friday.

According to Kate Crowley, a part-time associate professor of politics at the University of Tasmania, the election campaign has failed to address environmental issues, despite the state’s reputation for being environmentally conscious. She believes this is not unexpected.

According to her, there has been a consistent decline in support from the main political parties for preserving significant natural spaces. This trend can be partially attributed to the influence of the Green party rather than genuine concern for the environment. Typically, the Labor and Liberal parties only address environmental issues if they are forced to.

As we approach election day within the next week, a key concern arises regarding the alignment with the majority of voters’ wishes. According to a survey conducted by uComms among 1,174 Tasmanians and sponsored by the progressive organization the Australia Institute, released in the previous week, it appears that most are against the Liberal party’s proposal to permit logging in 40,000 hectares of safeguarded woodlands.

The research also discovered a high level of backing (69%) for decreasing the amount of inshore salmon farming – a move that would contradict the stances of major political parties, both of which support the fish farming sector. However, the survey did not assess the impact of these concerns on voting decisions.

The state director of the Australia Institute, Eloise Carr, stated that the findings indicate a dissatisfaction with maintaining the current state of environmental and other issues. She also mentioned that the campaign’s lack of emphasis on nature disregards the fact that Tasmania is a popular place for visitors and residents due to its relatively well-preserved state on the planet.

Carr stated that voters are questioning the reason for the existence of this policy gap. He also noted that Tasmanians are concerned, evident in the numbers.

Exploring Nature with the Greens

On Friday, the Greens MP Vica Bayley led a group of journalists, tourism operators and Indigenous leaders that flew over the path of the South Coast track, a bushwalking trail through 85km of remote, scenic wilderness, to launch the party’s nature policy. The view below took in button grass plains, pristine beaches, steep peaks and country with documented Indigenous history.

Revised: The track is currently facing a heated debate over a plan to introduce six high-end huts for tourists, which, according to a study requested by the Wilderness Society, could greatly impact the area’s natural wilderness.

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The Greens object to the questionable process in which tourism companies have been asked to submit expressions of interest for developments in the world heritage site and national parks. This lack of transparency raises concerns about the potential outcomes.

Their policy also ensures efforts to establish a national park that is owned by Aboriginals and to extend the world heritage site, which was created in 1982 and encompasses approximately 20% of the state. However, certain regions that activists claim possess exceptional natural values are currently excluded from the designation.

Tabatha Badger, a Greens representative for Lyons, a constituency encompassing hinterlands and seaside settlements, expressed that the lesser party was advocating for the preservation of natural spaces whereas the Conservatives and Democrats were disregarding them. “What about the other political parties? We would certainly appreciate some logical environmental policies from them, but once again they are failing the people of Tasmania,” she stated.

Tabatha Badger and Tory Stewart

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The Greens were in their natural habitat when Labor put out its initial campaign statement about the environment. There was no press conference or public actions to support it. Labor criticized the Liberal party for neglecting environmental protection and not releasing a state of the environment report, which is mandated every five years during their ten years in office.

Labor’s policies include a promised $500,000 package to create new jobs managing national parks, a position similar to that also backed by the Greens. It said it would work to reduce the effect of feral fallow deer, provide increased funding for Landcare and release the state’s first state of the environment report since 2009.

The remaining environmental initiatives, such as prohibiting single-use plastics, implementing a container deposit program that has been in progress under the Liberal administration, and reaffirming previous climate goals, did not pertain to nature. The spokesperson for the party’s environmental efforts, Sarah Lovell, stated that Labor will prioritize efforts to safeguard our environment and parks, ensuring that future generations can experience the same Tasmania we cherish.

On Saturday, the Liberal party released a statement regarding parks and the environment. Premier Jeremy Rockliff emphasized the “world-class” quality of Tasmania’s parks and the natural environment, which he described as the “jewel” of the state. He also stated that over 50% of the state’s environment is permanently protected. However, the accuracy of this statistic is challenged by the Greens and environmental activists who argue that significant areas included in the count are still subject to development, logging, and mining.

If they win the election, the Liberals have pledged to allocate $15 million towards improving three parks to make them more welcoming for both visitors and locals. They also plan to dedicate $8 million over four years to a fund that aims to preserve endangered species. The minister of the environment, Roger Jaensch, stated that the Liberals have a strong determination to safeguard Tasmania’s untouched natural surroundings.

Environmental organizations in the state expressed their endorsement of the Greens’ stance and criticized the proposals put forth by the main political parties. This was mainly due to their backing of ongoing, and in the case of the Liberals, potentially increasing, native forestry practices. Jenny Weber, campaigns manager for the Bob Brown Foundation, referred to both the Liberals and Labor as “pro-logging and pro-toxic salmon” parties.

Thousands of individuals took part in a demonstration on Sunday, marching through the main area of Hobart to demand a halt to native forest logging. The Bob Brown Foundation, which had anticipated approximately 500 participants, estimated that the gathering outside of state parliament exceeded 3,000 people.

According to Alice Hardinge, a campaign manager for the Wilderness Society, it is becoming evident that certain politicians are willing to disregard those who value nature. However, the people of Tasmania have high expectations for the conservation of their beloved natural areas.

The issue at hand holds more value than mere political games.

Source: theguardian.com