Abbott recently tried to get more than 70,000 hectares of World Heritage listed Tasmanian forest delisted. No-one had ever tried to delist something before. But he’s a conservationist… 😉
Anyway, today the World Heritage Committee rejected Abbott’s proposal, so the forest will remain safe. This is great news for Australia and the world, and an excellent (if commonsense) decision by the Committee.
But it’s not really the decision I want to talk about today. It’s the people’s part in that decision. In particular, through our support of GetUp’s massive – and ultimately successful – campaign. Soon after hearing about the decision, I received an email from GetUp summarising their campaign. They did a fantastic job. And by extension, that means WE did a fantastic job. This campaign did more than just make a difference; it proved signing online petitions and lobbying decision-makers can make a difference. It proved the people can make a difference!
Anyway, I wanted to share the email, but I couldn’t find an online version. So I’m re-producing here so everyone can see how important and effective we, the people, are. Here ’tis…
This morning the World Heritage Committee emphatically rejected Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s submission to have Tasmania’s ancient forests stripped of their protection status and opened to logging!
It took the 21 delegate World Heritage Committee less than 7 minutes to unanimously reject the Abbott Government proposal, stating that:
The justification presented to the reduction are, to say the least, feeble. Accepting this delisting today would be setting an unacceptable precedent…we cannot also disregard the positions voiced in this issue by the Australian Senate, by nature conservation associations and I would dare say, most of all, by Indigenous communities.”
The conservative attack on our forests was underhanded and deceitful. Although Abbott’s submission to the World Heritage Committee was contradicted by the Department of Environment, other right-wing forces tried every decietful trick in the book. A fake environment group misleadingly called Australian Environment Foundation which was founded by the Institute for Public Affairs even entered the international negotiations with the intention of confusing the Committee and pretending to represent the environment movement.
But luckily, the story didn’t end there.
Our movement stood up and fought hard to defend the forests – and a genuine, massive, heartfelt public response is something the conservatives just can’t fake, which is why GetUp members continue to make a difference. Here’s a flashback of the successful campaign and what you did to make today’s historic announcement happen
Alongside some of the world’s leading environment groups, we put our names to an epic 368,869 person petition to protect Tasmania’s forests – making it crystal clear that despite Abbott’s best efforts, the World is looking out for Tassie’s forests Late last week, our friends at the Australian Conservation Foundation took your voices straight to the hands of the World Heritage Committee, delivering the joint petition to them on the doorsteps of the conference centre in Doha.
Then in March we saw the future of the forests go before our Senate, in the form of an official Inquiry. GetUp members knew exactly what to do — together we flooded the submission process with over 8,800 passionate, factual messages of support for the forests. It was clear that our voices had been heard when the Senate came out strongly against Abbott’s forest attack – demanding that the World Heritage area remain intact.
With the Abbott Government ignoring the people, the Senate, Indigenous groups, forest experts and even the logging industry, it was clear that this campaign needed to go international. Our voices needed to carry around the world directly to the delegates of the World Heritage Committee, in particular to the Chair, Her Excellency Mrs Sheika Al Mayassa Bint Harnad Al-Thani. Abbott may have made one official submission, but our movement countered his reckless move by writing 8,607 letters to the Chair herself.
To cut-through the lies of the fake, IPA-founded environment group, GetUp members chipped into our largest international ad buy ever, ending the confusion by covering Doha with 60 stunning billboards of Tasmania’s forests. We heard over and over from guests and delegations that they were seeing our ads everywhere; outside the conference centre, at the airport and even in front of the official accommodation. Every morning as the delegates of the World Heritage Committee left their hotel to resume negotiations their hearts and minds were filled with images of Tasmania’s forests and our message – these forests are outstanding, and the people of Australia want them to remain protected.
And at the very last minute, GetUp member donations made it possible to support the Environment Tasmania led delegation of World Heritage experts to go to Doha to be a voice for us, and the forests, at the official conference.
This was an incredible campaign, one that illustrated the strength of our movement when we come together and fight to protect the issues we care about.
But none of this would’ve been possible without the relentless work of the Wilderness Society, Environment Tasmania, Australian Conservation Foundation, Indigenous groups and environment groups from across Tasmania and the hundreds of thousands of Australians who stood up for the forests.
Paul, Michael and the GetUp team
P.S. Prime Minister Tony Abbott says he is “disappointed with the decision” and that he “will be carefully looking at the decision and deciding what’s best now”.1 Our movement has successfully defended this attack on our environment, but it won’t be the last. Can you help defend our precious wilderness areas from future attacks from the Abbott government and right-wing groups like the IPA by becoming a GetUp Core Member? www.getup.org.au/ForestDefenders
 UNESCO rejects feeble Abbott Government bid to wind back protection of Tasmanian forests, Sydney Morning Herald 24 June 2014