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Tuesday, 30 October 2012
Page: 8507


Senator WHISH-WILSON (Tasmania) (21:02): Mr Deputy President, I seek leave to speak for 20 minutes.

Leave granted.

Senator WHISH-WILSON: I rise tonight to speak about a gentleman called Scott Jordan, from the north-west of Tasmania. It is said that all individuals are unique, but Scott is one unique Tasmanian. He is a dedicated community leader, a tribal elder to troubled youth in the north-west of Tasmania and a role model for his community, and Scott is now going to play an important role in the future of north-west Tassie, which I will get to in just a minute. Scott was born in Burnie and brought up in a small mining town on the west coast of Tassie called Zeehan. Zeehan was mined from the early 1800s and still is the home to a number of active mines. Scott's dad worked on the Zeehan tin mine when he was growing up in Renison and Scott left school early to work in mining exploration himself.

I recently spent time with Scott travelling around the north-west and I remember Scott talking about the rough and tumble of playing Aussie Rules on Australia's only gravel football fields; camping in and exploring the rainforests of north-west Tassie; and fishing with his mates in the rivers and rough surf beaches of Tassie's west coast. In every way, Scott was a typical kid of north-west Tassie. After working in mining exploration and doing geophysical work, Scott embarked on a long career: 15 years working as a key youth and community development worker in the north-west of Tassie. Over the years, Scott has established and helped run a number of welfare homes and youth centres and raised millions of dollars to aid youth welfare and community development.

One such organisation was called Youth Insearch, which functions to aid kids suffering the trauma of family breakdown, alcohol abuse, family violence and sexual assault. Another organisation was called the Young Aussie Enterprise program, which was established to find new ways and platforms to gain work for youth, once again across north-west Tassie. One initiative was the Young Aussie Car Wash, which created jobs for 48 kids on the north-west coast. Washing cars does not sound like much, but to troubled youth, many who have been in and out of detention centres, it represented purpose, responsibility and a sense of identity, which a lot of these kids lacked. There were a number of other successful initiatives that Scott and his team ran in the Young Aussie Enterprise program.

Scott also ran for a number of years what was called a challenging behaviours unit, which functioned as a pre-and post-rehabilitation centre, or what was often called a place of last resort for youth in crisis in the north-west of Tassie. Many of these youths were either on their way to the Ashley Youth Detention Centre further down the Tasmanian coast or had just been released. It was Scott's role to spend time with these troubled youths and act as a mentor. Scott has also worked extensively with youth through the education system in Tassie, organising four youth camps per year in the north-west, incorporating many of the activities Scott himself grew up with and enjoyed on the west coast of Tassie.

Seventeen years ago, Scott and his wife moved into a small house in a poor housing development suburb on the outskirts of Burnie, where he was just beginning to work with local youth. Scott's plan was to live there for six months and save a deposit to put down on a house in Burnie. Seventeen years later, he is still there—now, of course, with kids. Last Saturday night, Scott tells me, his team organised a Halloween party community event for local kids, which they do six times a year. By Scott's direct involvement not just in these events but in local schools and in youth community centres, Scott is proud of his achievement and that his ongoing involvement in youth work has led to the local crime rate in his suburb dropping from 36 reported youth criminal offences per year 10 years ago to just four this year. Scott has worked tirelessly and selflessly as a community leader, role model and tribal elder for Tasmanian youth in crisis. This role is important and not many of us could do it.

But what is more important and perhaps surprising to many is that Scott Jordan is the lead campaigner for the Tarkine National Coalition, a coalition of community groups and NGOs in Tasmania opposed to new mining development in the proposed Tarkine World Heritage area. Looking at Scott physically and thinking about his background, he is a big chap like myself with a goatee, has not got much hair, quite an intimidating presence—very much a typical boy from the north-west of Tassie where I must say some of my relatives also live.

You would not call him a typical greenie or even pick him for a conservationist. You also would not pick him as someone who spent years trying to promote jobs and direction for youth in Tasmania. But looks are superficial. His evolution from organic youth community worker to environmental campaigner, and I will get on the record ex-Greens candidate, is just as striking. Scott tells me his conversion came when he first met his first greenie, former MHA Di Hollister, in 2004 when he was working in his youth organisation Youth Insearch. Di often came down and volunteered time to work with Scott and his youth. She struck Scott as a quiet, thinking and humble individual, a character of integrity who in Scott's own words 'didn't big-note herself'. That was good enough for a boy from the rough and tumble of west coast Tassie. Scott now recalls how he felt about greenies from his youth and recalls riding his BMX down to the caravan park in Zeehan during the Franklin Gordon campaign looking for tents, because he knew only greenies stayed in tents; everyone else was in caravans. He and his mates would sneak up at night-time and let down the posts and wires on the greenies. What led Scott to become a conservationist was deep in his heart. Spending time with Di and working with her, he began to stop and look and reassess what he valued most about living on the west coast of Tassie, what he remembered from his childhood and what he openly admits both himself and many fellow north-west coasters take for granted.

Scott's campaign to get the Tarkine National and World Heritage listing, which is now before Minister Tony Burke, has in many ways reflected his past life and path as a youth worker. It has been a tireless resolve to educate and make the values of this north-west wilderness area reach his local community and by default the rest of Tasmania and Australia. But in typical fashion it has also involved many positive projects and work and participation from local youth groups. Scott has helped initiate, fundraise and develop two key Tarkine tourist attractions: the construction of the Philosopher's Falls and Mt Donaldson walks and the Tarkine self-drive tours. These are all designed to help educate about the unique nature of this special ecosystem that is so special to Scott and his fellow campaigners.

In 2004 Scott conducted his own poll of the sense of local identity of the Tarkine Wilderness area in this community. Sampling random locals on the streets of Burnie, Scott produced a map and asked people to locate where they thought the Tarkine was. He was quite surprised that only four out of the 26 people he asked located where the Tarkine was. In fact, many did not have any idea where it was. As it later turned out, because he got their contact details, those four people had already worked in environmental projects or enlisted to work on projects in the Tarkine area. This obviously alarmed Scott and let him know he had a lot of work to do. Jump to 2010 and a poll conducted by EMC in the electorate of Braddon found that 72 per cent of those polled supported a national park in the Tarkine. This is clearly a big achievement in six years of promoting the Tarkine Wilderness area.

Scott has now worked for the last three years to see National and World Heritage listing for 447,000 hectares of the Tarkine or the proposed National Heritage and World Heritage listing for the Tarkine. This has involved working with mining companies and building relationships. Although it has undergone changes over the years, the proposed National Heritage listing has excluded existing mining areas on the west coast. The plan was always to excise any area that was not defensible in terms of its World Heritage values. Clearly existing mining areas, including old mining areas, would not cut the mustard in terms of what would be defined as a World Heritage area. Scott's view and the view of the Tarkine National Coalition, which includes NGOs such as the Wilderness Society and GetUp!, has always been that a negotiated settlement on the World Heritage area would lead to the best outcome for a Tarkine heritage listing.

Sadly, all the hard work Scott has done working with stakeholders over the years has come to nothing. After the emergency listing lapsed and Minister Burke and Labor felt they needed potentially up to another year to process a World Heritage listing—take their time getting it right, as Senator Conroy recently stated in answer to one of my questions—we have seen a number of applications for new developments in the Tarkine area. Before I get onto those I would like to reiterate that no existing mines would be impacted.

Recently—in fact, only last week—Scott Jordan and I travelled to Sydney and met with the AWU and Paul Howes. The key point of the meeting from our perspective was for the union officials, particularly those from Tassie, to meet a boy also from the West Coast and with a mining background, who wanted to conserve the special values of the Tarkine and to stand up for its environmental values. Another key reason was that we could talk to them about their concerns about existing mines being shut down by a proposed heritage-listing application. Scott assured Paul Howes and other AWU participants that under no circumstances would World Heritage application or national heritage listing impact on existing mines.

We were told at that meeting that a tailing stand that would be required for the Rosebery mine in three to four years' time would be in the proposed World Heritage or national heritage listing area and therefore it put the entire operation and thousands of jobs in jeopardy. In good faith following that meeting, Scott Jordan got the information together, including from the authorities in Tasmania, and spoke to the mines department. He sent that information through to the AWU at Rosebery. And he got in contact with Mr Howes at the AWU to make sure to reassure them, as a sign of good faith, that their existing mines would not be impacted.

I want to get it on record tonight that it is very important that the line being run by the AWU, that potential heritage listing of this area will impact on existing mines, we believe to be totally false. We have certainly sent that information, and will continue to highlight and to eliminate any fears and concerns that they may have in this respect.

With new mines in the potential area for heritage listing: in that meeting we also discussed the Venture Minerals proposal, which is the major proposal on the table. It was Mr Howes's view that that area for the new proposed mine only encompassed 0.8 per cent of the Tarkine area. We have since received information, including from Venture Minerals, who I met today and asked these questions directly, that the area they have for exploration lease is 400 square kilometres. So far they have achieved 37 kilometres of strike; that is 37 kilometres of prospective tin for mining. On a rough calculation, that is around 8.8 per cent of the Tarkine—and that is just one mining company. There are potentially 10 licence applications in front of us for the Tarkine and there are 58 exploration licences across the entire area.

So in terms of 0.8 per cent being mined or being at risk of mining, we also believe that that figure is totally false and baseless. Of course, we have significant concerns that this World Heritage listing is looked at quickly—and we would expect that it has already been recognised that the Tarkine has strong World Heritage values; that is already on record. In fact, Mr Howes himself does not dispute that; in his own media releases he has quoted that many parts of the Tarkine deserve to be protected. So, we look forward to continuing the campaign to put more pressure on Mr Burke to give World Heritage or national heritage listing to this very special area.

I would also like to get something else on record before I finish on the unique individual who I started on, Scott Jordan, and that is the line that is being pushed, once again by Paul Howes at the AWU, that somehow Christine Milne and I have a different opinion on the Tarkine. Christine has always supported the community groups in their endeavours to get national heritage listing for this area. It has been made very clear to the media—and I will get it on record again tonight—that it was the community groups, particularly Scott Jordan and other members of the TNC, who wanted to meet with key stakeholders such as the AWU so that they could talk through any differences they had and see if there was common ground—and I would like to thank Paul Howes and the AWU for meeting with us. But I think it is very important to highlight again that they felt as a community group that a negotiated settlement was the best outcome for this area.

Christine Milne, of course, supported this. It has been said that she has called for a blockade-style campaign as big as the Franklin campaign. This also is totally false. It was, in fact, Scott Jordan who called for a blockade of the size of the Franklin if Venture Minerals were to proceed with their project. I did make Mr Howes aware of this in our meeting, that Christine had denied that and that there was no evidence at all of her making that comment. Yet even in the press again today we see Paul Howes running the line that Christine has called for a blockade the size of the Franklin. If we are going to get an outcome on this very sensitive area of jobs versus the environment it is important that we stick with the facts, that we focus on building trust and focus on honesty in this debate. In terms of honesty, I asked Scott Jordan exactly what it was that his key philosophy is on protecting the Tarkine. I asked him tonight, before I gave this speech, and he said to me, 'It is simple: the first thing in getting the community on side is talking, not telling—that is important'. People do not want to be told, they want to talk. They want to have a discussion, they want to listen and they want you to be fair and reasonable.

The next point he said was, 'I also let this place tell its own story'. Anyone who visits the Tarkine will realise that it is a place of very special values. It is one of the last temperate rainforest areas left in the world, and it is certainly one of the largest in the Southern Hemisphere. It is also home to the highly-endangered Tasmanian devil. I would like to say tonight, 'Come and visit the Tarkine soon; it is way too precious to lose'.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: I ask leave of the Senate that all senators who speak from now on speak to a maximum of 20 minutes. There being no objection, that be so ordered.