Defending the Styx Valley Giants
In 2002, in a late night sitting of the Federal Senate, the Liberal and Labor Parties combined to pass the Regional Forests Agreement Bill. The Bill handed Commonwealth control over forest logging back to the States. At the time the two major parties also voted down an amendment by the Greens that would have provided for compulsory compensation for forestry and mining workers affected by any loss of access to state forests. The legislation was always going to be a boon for big business and a disaster for workers and the environment. Fast forward to the Styx Valley, Tasmania. On July 13, more than 2000 people braved the cold and the rain to protest against the planned logging of the giant trees in the old growth Styx Valley of the Giants, which contains Australia's tallest tree, the 96-metre Mount Tree. It and similar sized trees are threatened by logging, burning and poisoning with the chemical 1080. According to the state's timber agency, Forestry Tasmania, around 1770 hectares of Tasmania's old growth forests were logged in 2001-2002. More than half of Styx Valley has been logged. A Regional Forest Agreement allows for logging in most of the area. Protestors noted that the loggers put away their chainsaws for the day of the action, "because they know that Tasmanians hate what they are doing". A tent village was established in the Styx Valley in the lead-up to the protest, which was organised by the Wilderness Society. Within walking distance was the Mount Tree giant, "the world's tallest Christmas Tree", with a star at the top lit up each night by solar panel technology. Down the road from that is the famous Chapel Tree, a giant more than 80 metres high which can accommodate 30 people inside its trunk. Without the Wilderness Society campaign, both these and many other trees in the Valley would now be woodchips in Japan. Of course, the loggers haven't gone away and given up, the Forest Industries Association of Tasmania saying that there is $724 million worth of timber crying out to be logged. Greens Tasmanian Senator Bob Brown said that awareness is growing that Tasmania's old growth forests and their wildlife are being destroyed at the greatest rate in their history under the Federal Government's policies. Referring to the landmark campaign against the damming of Tasmania's Franklin River, in which he played a leading role, Senator Brown said, "Most of all this campaign needs to go, as the Franklin did, to the hearts of 20 million Australians." Writer Richard Flanagan stressed that "this isn't a Tasmanian problem. It's a national tragedy. We are here today to say it's not over and it's not going to be over until the last chainsaw has ceased to be heard in the old growth forests of Tasmania."