20 March 2024

Polling finds forests, salmon farming and integrity in politics to be key Tasmanian election issues

| Andrew McLaughlin
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Macquarie Harbour

Salmon farm pens from one of 11 leases located on Macquarie Harbour. Similar leases are planned for Storm Bay and Maria Island on the state’s east coast. Photo: Tassell.

Polling by the Australia Institute in the lead-up to this Saturday’s state election has found that a majority of Tasmanian voters want action on native forest logging, salmon farming, and integrity in politics.

The state is going to the polls early after Premier Jeremy Rockliff called a snap election after he lost a majority when two Liberal MPs quit the party and refused to support him on supply and votes.

MPs John Tucker and Lara Alexander were elected as Liberal MPs in the last election but quit the party last May and elected to sit on the Crossbench over concerns about the controversial $715 million AFL stadium proposal at Hobart’s Macquarie Point.

In its polling, the Australia Institute found that more than 75 per cent of Tasmanians supported a new anti-corruption commission, 69 per cent of Tasmanians supported reducing inshore commercial salmon fishing sites, and 57 per cent were opposed to the Liberal Party’s plans to open 40,000 hectares of native forest to logging.

Director of the Australia Institute Tasmania Eloise Carr said the major party was ignoring voters’ environmental concerns this election, and that its polling clearly showed Tasmanians would not be satisfied with political jockeying and a continuation of the status quo.

“Eight in 10 Tasmanians support a new, fit-for-purpose anti-corruption commission,” she said.

“Tasmanians are witnessing blatant pork barrelling by the government, even after the Integrity Commission found grants at previous elections did not meet the principles of accountability, openness, fairness or value for money.

“Polls have found around seven in 10 Tasmanians want salmon farming out of inshore waters, and nearly two in three do not want to see native forests logged,” she added.

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Four Tasmanian MPs have so far signed a pledge to end native forest logging in Tasmania, with independent candidates Craig Garland and Lara Alexander joining previous signatories Kristie Johnston and Sue Hickey in signing The Forest Pledge.

The Australia Institute says less than one per cent of Tasmania’s jobs are in the forestry industry, and that most of those jobs don’t depend on logging native forests.

Lara Alexander said politicians everywhere needed to think very carefully when developing future policies because they had a responsibility to balance nature, jobs, and people.

“Unless we do this well, we risk harming our communities and our environment, leaving a poor legacy for our future generations.”

Craig Garland added, “I support ending the industrial scale carnage, being native forest logging, that has gone on for decades in Tasmania.

The Liberal Party says it is sticking to its forestry plan, and that the 40,000 hectares of what it calls the Future Potential Production Forest “wood bank” would provide an additional 158,000 cubic metres of sawlog to Tasmanian industry, an annual increase of up to 10 per cent.

The Labor Party says it will “act to provide security for the thousands of forest industry employees by ensuring open, transparent and secure access to resource by Tasmanian businesses with investments in Tasmania”. It says it will “review the available resources – both native forest and plantation – in an open and transparent process with independent oversight”, but has stopped short of any firm commitments.

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The salmon industry has also been controversial, with existing salmon fisheries in Macquarie Harbour being blamed for a high level of nutrients in the waterway further putting endangered species at risk, and plans to expand the industry to Storm Bay and other protected harbour sites.

The Tasmanian Liberals say they are “the strongest supporter of our world-class salmon industry” and that they recognise the significant economic contribution aquaculture makes to Tasmania’s economy.

They say they “unequivocally back salmon farming at Macquarie Harbour” and will work with the industry to grow, and do not believe there is a case for Federal Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek to review the industry.

The Labor Party is also backing the salmon industry, saying “a Tasmanian Labor government will continue [to] work with the state’s salmon industry to give it the certainty it has been calling for to ensure the future of this great industry and all the jobs it creates”.

If re-elected, Premier Rockliff has also undertaken to introduce legislation requiring MPs who quit their party during their term to forfeit their seat.

“At the last two elections, Tasmanians have voted for a majority Liberal Government, but this has been stolen away by individual MPs resigning from their parties and continuing to sit in the parliament as independents,” the Premier said.

“They have benefited from significant party campaign resources in order to be elected. Yet, once in parliament, they ignore these facts, turn their backs on their party and its volunteers, and cause chaos.”

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