2008 John Curtin Prize for Journalism acceptance speech

Thank you, Premier; thank you to the judges for this honour; and thank you to Paul Lennon and Gunns for a cast of characters so improbable and a story so outrageous that it would put a pulp novelist to shame.

Journalism matters; quality journalism matters. If you wish to see what a world without it looks like, if you want one image of barren waste for what happens when corporate lies become accepted as the truth - come to Tasmania and walk through a smoking clear-fell.

I want to thank Sally Warhaft at The Monthly for publishing this piece, and Morry Schwartz for backing me. I said to Morry that Gunns was highly litigious, and legal action a likelihood. "That would make my day," replied Morry, and he meant it. He fully legally indemnified me. You cannot be a city of literature without a culture of great publishers. How fortunate you are to count Morry Schwartz among your number.

Sadly, since this article was published, too little has changed. Your taxes are still being used to destroy native forest unique in the world, to prop up a failing company whose environmental record would shame a Third World country. The federal government still supports a dying pulp mill with pledges of $120 million of infrastructure support. We still have the grotesque situation of some of the Earth's most carbon-dense forests being clearfelled and then burnt in fires so extreme that for up to a month a year, Hobart is blanketed in smoke.

How can Australia have any credibility on the issue of climate change when this year the Asthma Foundation advised asthmatics to stay indoors while forests were napalmed? That our taxes are paying for the consequent carbon fallout that is not only warming the planet, but choking our own citizens, is a perversity that beggars belief.

In Tasmania today we have limited investigations underway which suggest to many the possibility of corrupted police, judiciary and polity. Incoming Premier David Bartlett has admitted he has inherited a mess and that trust in government needs to be restored. Tonight I call on Premier Bartlett to have a commission of inquiry - the island's equivalent of a royal commission - into the relationship between the Tasmanian forestry industry and the Tasmanian government over the past decade. Because nothing less will end this rape of Tasmania.

And I beg of Australians to help the majority of Tasmanians who want old-growth logging ended. Please, I ask you here tonight, please help us by pressuring the powerful in whatever way you can, to end this obscenity in Australia's Garden of Eden. We are better than this; we can, if we choose, end it. Thank you.

 

Richard Flanagan

Melbourne, 1 September 2008

 

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