You are on page 1of 6

Presentation by George Harris Wapping Telegraph branch

My name is George Harris. I have been a party member for 20 years, and a Labor voter for almost
42 years. I turned 18 in 1972, but I couldn’t vote in the Whitlam victory election of that year,
because at that time 18 year-old’s didn’t have the vote. Voting age was 21.. Whitlam changed that in
1973, and my first vote was in a winning election for Labor in May 1974. If I had been forced to wait
until 21 my first vote would have been in 1975, a losing election for Labor.
I am a self-employed woodworker. I design and make furniture and various products using
Tasmania’s unique Special Timbers. I have been doing this for 35 years, and I love it.
I spent my first seven years on my parents’ fruit farm at Sandfly, we grew apples, black currants,
red currants, and raspberries among others. My father was a strong supporter of Bob Menzies and
the Liberals, I think mainly because the waterside workers always used to strike when farmers
were trying to export fruit. I have since come to realize that as unionists you don’t wink in the dark,
do you? You take action that seizes the moment. I can just remember my father driving off in the
new Holden station wagon to go and vote in the federal election of 1961. I thought he said he was
going out in a boat, and I didn’t think that was a very good idea. My father died suddenly in 1962,
and my mum had to sell the farm, and we moved to Lindisfarne. In 1986 I bought back a small piece
of the old farm when it came on the market. In 1992 the Cascade Brewery advertised a large shed
for sale for demolition and removal. I bought it, and moved it to Sandfly, and set it up as my
workshop, which I continue to operate. I converted all my family members to voting Labor.
I am also an advocate for the timber industry in general, and Special Timbers in particular. I call it
arts-based industry, but I have to say, we are a threatened species.
I have been contributing to the work of Labor’s Resources Policy Committee.
I am going to post a document with links that I hope you will be able to open and read. It will
provide information that I hope you will find useful.
Timber in a carbon-conscious future:
Trees store carbon. Lots of it. They suck carbon di-oxide out of the atmosphere, and store it in their
cellular structure. Trees are part of the living carbon cycle, and this distinguishes their stored
carbon from that in fossil fuels.
What happens when a tree dies? Eventually it falls over, lies on the forest floor, and rots away,
giving back its stored carbon to the soil and the atmosphere. That’s OK, but there is something more
useful that could happen.
Timber is a very useful material to humans. We have been around it for millennia, and it
compliments our physiology in ways many don’t realize. Right now, in our carbon-conscious world,
timber is offering us a solution to a serious problem, if we do two things: 1.) Take the stored carbon
that a tree represents, remove it from the forest, and convert it into a durable and treasured object
with a long life-span, and it becomes a carbon bank, or carbon store, and 2.) Simultaneously replace
the removed tree with a new seedling, seed, or planted tree, so that the site can have a new living
organism playing its role in the active carbon cycle. Over time the carbon store grows, and the
repeating process of growing and harvesting trees continues, and can continue indefinitely.

If the harvest cycle is correct, and mimics nature for the most part, the locality where the tree
grows will show all the bio-diversity you could want, for both flora and fauna, as well as for other
human recreational pursuits, such as bushwalking, mountain-biking, and whatever, as well as other
commercial pursuits, such as honey production and tourism ventures. I favour longer rotations for
Eucalypts, such as 80 years, or much longer for Special Timbers, (200 years or greater), in a
patchwork of smaller coupes that may overlap in a fashion in which many areas are infrequently
harvested, if at all. Meanwhile, we still have reserves, of various categories, most of which preclude
any harvesting. There needs to be a balance. You cannot have all reserves and no timber production
zones, just as you should not have all production zones and no reserves. More on this later.
We have a forest management system that is internationally recognised as one of the best on this
planet, despite what the detractors might say. Check out the Forest Practices Code online, and see
what a Timber Harvesting Plan looks like, including reserved areas within each coupe, (ie in
addition to all the formal reserves), the stream-side reserves, and the local application of the EPBC
Act, which again despite what some might say, goes even further than the Commonwealth requires.
So, timber is a RENEWABLE resource. It is low in embedded energy involved in its production.
Some materials are carbon-positive, that is, their use results in an increase in atmospheric carbon
pollution. Some are carbon-neutral, or even carbon negative. The more towards neutral or negative
a material is, the better. (I may have this backwards, and I suspect the Americans measure it
differently, and their values are the opposite of this)
Some materials have an embedded energy component far greater than that of timber. This can be
compounded by centralization, such as with steel mills. There are few left in Australia, and a
transport component is added, where as timber production is a widespread and decentralized
activity. Steel mills use both steaming coal and coking coal. Steaming coal for the electricity
generation embedded in it, and coking coal used in the blast furnaces in the smelting process.
Cement is intensely energy consumptive, and coal is often used directly in its production as well.
Reinforcing steel is a major component in concrete, compounding its carbon consequence.
Timber has a far better carbon consequence than steel, concrete, aluminium or plastics and other
products derived from the petro-chemical industries.
The biggest new thing in timber construction is CLT, or Cross-Laminated Timber. It was invented in
Europe about 15 years ago, and is taking the world by storm. It is causing a re-write in building
codes all around the world, including in Australia, for commercial, industrial, residential and public
buildings. A 10-storey apartment building with retail space at ground level was recently completed
in Melbourne, in CLT. This features in the links I am providing, including a time-lapse of its
Timber buildings have advantages in thermal performance, acoustic properties, and cost-in-use.
They are also quicker, cheaper, and more quiet to construct. Researchers are finding timber
buildings give people a greater sense of well-being than those dominated by concrete, steel, and
glass. People stay longer in timber buildings, and feel happier. This is keenly noted by retail
property developers, but also noticed by developers of offices, schools and public buildings. Steel
was big news in construction in the 19th century, concrete in the 20th, and timber is a game-changer
in the 21st. We need to make sure we don’t miss out, not only for the economic opportunities, but
for the important business of carbon accounting.

So much for the primary use of timber, but it also produces residues. These come from both
harvesting and processing. I’ll explain. Not every standing tree is a saw log. Some would send a saw
mill broke if you expected them to try and saw them. So what do you do? Eucalypt logs are graded
into premium (sliced) veneer logs, (Category 1), premium saw logs, (Cat. 2), down through
standard, and utility grades, rotary peel logs, (used to be pulp/chip logs), and into the lower grade
pulp/chip logs. Special Timbers logs graded separately. There is a limit to the amount of residue
that can lie on the ground after harvesting, as even regeneration burning will not remove it all, and
the objective above all is to regenerate good, healthy forest. Eucalypts do not do well under shade,
and you generally can not or should not leave trees standing in Eucalypt forest harvesting and
regeneration. The CBS or Clear-fell Burn & Sow system was developed by studying Eucalypt forest
ecology, and there is a strong and peer-review affirmed scientific basis for it. If you want to see an
example of good regeneration of single-age forest, go and look at the Tall Trees Reserve. It had its
genesis in a natural fire event, and it is that we seek to emulate, although with a much shorter
rotation time.
Residues also come from processing, such as in a saw mill. Typically you get a recovery rate in sawn
timber of up to 35%. You cannot include heartwood or sapwood, and due to its drying
characteristics, you can only quarter-saw it. You cannot back-saw Eucalypts. You then get 10% saw
dust, and the balance of 55% is residues that really should be chipped and sold as such. Chips are
used to make paper, which is really useful stuff. It can also be used to produce ethanol, which would
be a better alternative than petroleum products for transport. Such residue, or biomass, is a source
of THERMAL ENERGY. Think of this as more than just electricity, but gee, some alternative source
of that would be good around here at the moment! Thermal energy can also mean heat. That is
necessary in many industries, including timber drying kilns, and food processing. Also useful for
domestic and commercial heating in reticulation systems in some circumstances. Could heat
commercial swimming pools, nursing homes, schools, etc. They do it in Europe and Scandinavia!
Last year I moved a comprehensive motion on the timber industry, picking up many of these points,
especially overall support for all sectors of the industry, including best use of residues, but also for
a “Wood First” policy in considering the use of timber in all public buildings, and the changes to
legislation and the Building Code that this would require. In many ways this is already happening,
but we should give it further encouragement, not only for the jobs it represents, but for the carbon
issue as mentioned.
There’s a few other issues.
Plantations. Plantations are a good idea, and we should have more of them. They can be
Hardwood, (Eucalypt), or Softwood, (Radiata Pine), an introduced species. However , there are
some problems. They have high up-front establishment costs, and investors have been scared away
by the MIS (Managed Investment Schemes) debacle. That was not the industry’s fault. It lost control
of the initiative, and the bean-counters and carpet-baggers moved in, and stuffed it up. Plantations
cannot be established by law and by certification requirements by harvesting and conversion of
existing native forest, especially where viable forest eco-systems currently exist. They should be
regenerated as native forest if harvested. Plantations can be replanted if an existing plantation is
harvested, but it must be due, and viable. Conversion of existing or redundant agricultural land to
plantation can occur, but the economics must be right. I prefer regenerated native forest. It looks
better, has bio-diversity, including under-storey, and harbours native fauna. Plantations are monoculture, often suffer from intensity of competition between stems, and are often prone to insect
attack. Plantations are always under pressure from compounding interest to be harvested sooner

rather than later. From the user’s point of view, the quality is often poor. Still, there is plenty of
room in the market place for utility grade timber. CLT for example.
If you think the Greens like plantations, you would be wrong. They hate them just as much. They
appear to be offering an alternative, but that is just used to encourage an exit from native forest
harvesting, which is a stupid idea.
On the subject of the Greens, I hate them with a passion. I hate their dishonesty and their
deceitfulness, especially as displayed during the TFA process, but all during the last three decades. I
hate the way they have sabotaged the industry, and aided and encouraged others to do so, and the
impact they have had.
Beyond that, I believe they are the greatest threat to the future of the Labor party, and to Labor
governments. I encourage disassociation and differentiation from the Greens. I know many people
for whom the Labor brand has been tarnished by association with the Greens, and who will not
support Labor because of a perception Labor will be influenced by the Greens again in a future
government, no matter what some policy document might say. I believe there needs to be some
strong, undeniable public commitments made, and I personally am looking for that to secure my
support. I am very happy with the way policy has been re-written from a clean slate within
Tasmania, but I am very worried about numerous federal members interstate, especially those
playing to inner urban audiences in mainland capital cities. I believe it is not a usual state for
Labor to have only one member in seats like Braddon and Franklin, but work has to be done to fix
I remain disappointed at how Labor policy was turned on its head at both federal and state levels
between 2010 and 2014, but recognise it was because of both governments slipping into minority
status and depending on the Greens, combined with them simultaneously holding the balance of
power in the senate. The 2013 TWWHA extension was an abuse of established process and
protocol, and I believe was even contrary to the UN Convention on World Heritage. It certainly was
not on the Indicative List, nor was it consulted with those affected, and as such was a denial of
Natural Justice. It also offended against the provisions of the RFA, a 20-year agreement that expires
in 2017. It had a major detrimental impact on the Special Timbers sector, and seriously damages its
future prospects.
I refer to the TFA and the extension to the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area as The
Great Forest Swindle of 2013. Some of the details of what happened are yet to fully come out. Some
of the people involved from among the academics and the ENGO side should never had anything to
do with it. If you ever want to be truly shocked, have a look at what the Wilderness Society and ET
offered up as ‘Contingency Coupes’ for Special Timbers when asked. They had nothing in them!
Rocky outcrops, button grass plains, even mine tailings dams, and some areas that had recently
been harvested, some as recently as 2010, and regenerated with Eucalypts! If there ever were
Special Timbers on them, there might never be again, or at least not for hundreds of years.
The business model for some environment groups relies on establishing and maintaining an
endless state of conflict. It is necessary to maintain the flow of donations on which they use to
provide activists in undemocratic organisations to hold onto their generous incomes while
attacking the jobs of decent hard-working people. As a result it distresses me to see some workers
as no longer regarding Labor as representing their interests, as perceived from a closeness to the
Greens and their supporters.

One thing that always infuriates me about the Greens is that they are always talking down the
timber industry. Lately they have been criticising Forestry Tasmania relentlessly, and while FT is in
an awful position, (thanks in no small part to the ENGO’s deceit in the TFA process), they are trying
to say the whole industry is like that. It is not. They are trying to use it as an argument for shutting
down FT. What alternative regulatory system would they advocate, or are they trying to say shut
down the whole industry? Well, yes they are! Meanwhile, the figures say something different:
Timber industry contribution to the Tasmanian economy:

That’s right up there with lies like: “It’s worth more standing.” The above data suggests that the
employment of 1840 employees creates wages of $68,029 per employee pa compared to the
Tourism industry that employs 14,866 employees at $35,526 per employee.
Under the current arrangements we have an opportunity to write a new Special Timbers
Management Plan, and in it representatives are seeking to negotiate the best arrangements we can
with what we have left. Two major incursions (2005 and 2013) reduced our Special Timbers Zone
by 75% from what the RFA provided, both driven hard by the Greens, and inadequately defended
by Labor. Arising from the TFA, in the current FT harvesting plans, we have a projected annual
harvest for the current year that is a reduction in volume of 93% from what the TFA promised.
Much of that was caused by roads and couped areas being locked up in new reserves, and little
money available to access new areas.
Every woodworker I know loves our wild places, me included. Every woodworker I know wants to
see our forests managed carefully and properly, and for there to be a proper balance and harmony
between conservation and resource use. If every time the ENGO’s came around, and we had to
compromise, and give them something into lock-ups, we would soon have nothing. My colleagues
and I have a management style in mind. We call it “Tread widely, tread lightly.” It doesn’t mean
don’t tread there at all. And of course it doesn’t have the core area of the TWWHA in its sights.
Still, more generally in the timber industry in Tasmania, there are some exciting opportunities.
Courses available through UTas, in both Launceston and Hobart are cutting edge stuff, including
partnerships with the private sector. See links.
Tasmania is still a great place to be an artist and a designer, especially with the resources and
opportunities now available, and of course with our unique Special Timbers, which have been
around for millennia, and which can be, with good management, continue to be available in limited
quantities for many generations into the long distant future.
Did you know that some of the best furniture and product designers in Tasmania are women?

I have barely scratched the surface here. I would like to continue a dialogue, and encourage people
to look at the additional information and the links I will provide. Here is a start:
and here are links to some of my own work:
and some Facebook pages:
and some friends: in downtown