Garden blooming wonderful

Glad to get home from Canberra to enjoy my garden. How much beauty is there in a garden.


Triabunna site could unleash Tasmania’s imagination

It is a ridiculous notion that tourism and woodchips can co-exist in Triabunna.

The whole focus Graeme Wood says he wants to bring to the old woodchip site is renewal. This used to be the old economy, the old destroy-the-environment type economy, now with renewal we are going to build on Tasmania’s strengths. You cannot do that by saying you’re going to leg-rope the site to the old economy. It is a completely failed vision. That is why we need to get behind Graeme Wood’s idea.

Spring Bay Mill

Spring Bay Mill

I think the Spring Bay Mill will be the most exciting thing that could happen to the East Coast. If the government was successful in trying to compulsorily aquire the site or set up next door, it would need to massively subsidise any new woodchip facility. It would be putting in an industry for products that nobody wants to by. How stupid would that be? And it will be a further drain on taxpayers’ dollars.

Why should the whole of Australia prop up an industry that the world does not support, and in an age of global warming and species extinction it is going to want even less. We had a report out last week that almost 50 percent of the world’s wildlife has disappeared in the past 40 years. That is a shocking statistic.

Tasmanian Devil, threatened by habitat loss from logging and mining.

Tasmanian Devil, threatened by habitat loss from logging and mining.

The pressure to end native forest logging is going to get greater, not less. It’s aking to building a cigarette factory and getting tobacco plantations up and running when the world is trying to stop smoking.

The problem is that the native forest industry is desperate to keep on woodchipping. The next major push is going to be for native forest furnaces and they will use the excuse of existing residues and want renewable energy certificates (REC’s) to burn native forests.

What they are doing is trying to get a lifeline to keep on logging native forests. Until such a time as they stop there is no conversation about how to remove existing  wood stockpiles because what they are trying to do is use existing stock piles as a mechanism to get the industry a long-term commitment to continue native forest logging. This is how the woodchip industry started. We had sawmilling and people said, well we just need to get rid of the residues, so they opened up the woodchip industry and before you knew it  what drove the industry was the woodchips.

The old way of woodchips at Triabunna.

The old way of woodchips at Triabunna.

The Spring Bay concept is based on Tasmania’s reputation for fine food, its reputation as a natural and beautiful, clean, inspiring place. The deep-water port could provide tremendous opportunities from visiting cruise ships and other vessels. The location of it will provide better access to the North East and Maria Island. And as an education/arts facility it spreads the notion of creativity that MONA and our other arts hubs have embraced. It has enormous potential to bring more jobs and a new focus to the North East, where they have already built a reputation on wines, walnuts, seafood, and other quality produce. It’s a tremendous opportunity to make it a real hub, to take tourists out of Hobart and focus on staying on the East coast for another couple of days. It also brings a new group of people to Tasmania who come for the culinary school and those kinds of experiences.

Part of the Spring Bay vision.

Part of the Triabunna Spring Bay vision for the future.

I am really captured by the notion of a centre in Tasmania for renewal. The whole point of the forest peace process was to save the forests, of course, but also to say we need to get away from the old industries which are failing and build new ones. To have a vision for Tasmania and renew Tasmania and this is really at the heart of what Greame Wood is trying to do.

I think it’s terrific, and it is what the Greens have been working towards for some time. It is actually a terrible thing to have the Liberal party here and in Canberra determined to say to people: forget all of that about the future, if you vote for us we’ll take you back to the old days of dig it up, cut it down, and ship it away. That is all you need, you do not need a good education, you do not need sophistication, you just rip things up. That is where the Liberals are coming from, and it is a recipe for economic stagnation. We still have poor retention rates to senior secondary school and university. The only way you are going to encourage people to stay in Tasmania is to get them thinking about the sort of careers that they can do.

If people are given the idea that the only option is to follow their parents onto the farm, down the mine or into old school forestry we are not going to get the refocusing needed for young people to see that the future is about innovation and imagination. Eric Abetz, Tony Abbott and Will Hodgman’s vision is about dig it up, cut it down and ship it away and therein lies the last century compared to this century.

Tarkine, Too Precious to Lose

The Tarkine is one of the great environmental and cultural jewels in Tasmania’s crown.

At Nelson Bay River falls, down stream of the minesite.

At Nelson Bay River falls, down stream of the minesite.

Growing up in the North West of Tasmania I have always been enamoured by the region, its wild forests and coastline, unique flora and flora, and the sense of well being and wonder I get every time I have the fortune to be in that part of the world. It is now starting to get the recognition it deserves as an extraordinary destination for nature-based tourism, and as the backdrop to the high quality food and beverages that North-West Tasmania excels at producing.

Old Myrtle in logging area MD032d

Old Myrtle in logging area MD032d

This sense of well being I get from being in the Tarkine is offset by the knowledge the Tarkine is facing increased logging following the passage of the Tasmanian Liberals new Forestry (Rebuilding the Forest Industry) Bill 2014. Approximately 14,000 ha of Tarkine forests and rainforests were left open to logging as part of the Tasmanian Forest Agreement (TFA), and with the passing of the new forest bill this amount will increase. Especially for ‘specialty timbers’ from rainforests.

Thankfully, a falling iron ore price is putting a halt to a couple of the nine proposed mining ventures in the area, including the Shree Minerals, Nelson Bay River mine. I flew over this magnificent area less than 12 months ago to see first-hand what is at stake in the Tarkine and managed to view the Shree site from above.

Nelson Bay River, Shree Mine Site

Shree Minerals, Nelson Bay River minesite.

Shree Minerals is now under investigation for breaching its federal environmental permit. This newly formed company has been allowed to go ahead with commencing operations while failing to address mine waste and rehabilitation plans. It’s believed the Tasmanian Government amended the permit to allow Shree, at the Nelson Bay River Mine, to produce 20 times more acid-producing waste rock than originally declared. The federal Environment Department was not notified or given a chance to model the impacts on threatened species in the area with this increase in acid-forming waste rock.

Australia is on the cusp of our third wave of animal extinctions: the first caused by European arrival, the second by introduced species and now the third by our refusal to address global warming or adequately fund habitat protection and research.

Mt Lindsay, Tarkine. photo. L.O'Brien

Mt Lindsay, Tarkine. photo. L.O’Brien

A Tarkine National Park representing the enormously diverse environmental and cultural values of the region would be a step towards protecting the future for the people and the environment of the renowned North West.


Toolangi, Greater Forest National Park and a little possum.

There is nothing so relaxing or awe inspiring than to visit the bush. Last weekend I went to the Toolangi forest in Victoria where the beautiful mountain ash forest is the last remaining habitat of the critically endangered leadbeater possum.

Standing with the many who are campaigning to protect Toolangi.

Standing with the many who are campaigning to protect Toolangi.

They live in the hollows of old trees which are disappearing as the loggers continue to destroy the area for pulp and paper. Honestly, you would think in an era of climate change that the carbon dense forest would be saved as a big contribution to climate action and preservation of plants and animals as well as co benefits of providing Melbourne with water and recreation.

One of the Healesville Sanctuary residents.

One of the Healesville Sanctuary resident leadbeater possums.

If you have never seen a leadbeater possum, let me tell you, they are are soooo cute. We need to make the area a National Park so that these wonderful animals, Victoria’s faunal emblem will be saved. It is incredible that after thinking they were extinct they were rediscovered in 1961 and now are being deliberately driven to extinction by state sponsored logging.

With Janet Rice at Healesville sanctuary.

With Janet Rice at Healesville sanctuary.

Knitting Nanna's of Toolangi

With the Knitting Nanna’s of Toolangi

Vic forests is losing money whilst wiping out possum habitat. I was incredibly lucky to enjoy a close encounter with a leadbeater at Healesville sanctuary after catching up with local campaigners and the Knitting Nannas. Isn’t it great that they are using their skills to draw attention to the web of llife and the future for their grandchildren? They remind me of the wonderful women knitting against coal seam gas. Women at work for nature are inspiring.

The Art of Dissent

I was really pleased to open the wonderful exhibition Giving voice: the art of dissent, curated by Dr Yvonne  Rees-Pagh at the Salamanca Arts Centre earlier this month. It is free! and open until September 14, so I urge you to get along if you can.

This exhibition couldn’t be more important or timely, showing the power of art to shine a light on aspects of our society we don’t always want to think about, and confronting us with issues of power, control and our own agency.

There are many extraordinary pieces of art from equally extraordinary artists in this exhibition.

Richard Bell’s works Kick Somebody Else and Scratch an Aussie, calling out racism in Australia, couldn’t be more timely as the Abbott Government outsources its Indigenous policy to mining billionaires like Twiggy Forest, who has demanded further institutionalisation of paternalism and control over Aboriginal Australians to tell them how to spend their own money and live on their own land.

James Barker’s two pieces on Gaza shine a light on the silence and complicity of our government, now on the United Nations Security Council, while UN shelters, schools and hospitals were bombed and thousands of innocent people in Gaza killed. 

Michael Reed’s work calls out the connection between multinational corporations and big business driving their agendas through government policy and against the common good.

Here in Australia where this year’s aid budget was not only cut back, our foreign aid budget, but has been rolled into the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and 25 percent of the remaining aid budget is now to be given to trade for aid. It is going to be given to multinational corporations to be able to hand out part of that aid money so they can say to communities if you give us the licence to access your resource, whether it’s minerals, whether it’s forests, we will give you money for a school or for a medical facility or for something else, but it is tied to trade. The work that Michael has over there: soaked bandages, blood- stained bandages, multinational business, and genocide, it is very powerful and it is an important statement to make.

Megan Keating’s work meditating on the ripping up of the Tasmanian Forest Agreement and associated destruction of forests producing pulp and smoke is timely while we have a state Liberal Government determined to not only open up all our forests for logging, but bringing in some of the most draconian and anti-democratic anti-protest laws in the country. Never has it been more important that we all take a stand in this state, and voice our dissent.

Pat Hoffie’s work highlights the role of spin doctors in the use of smoke and mirrors to distract us all from the real issues, the things that matter. It is the story of our shameful national policy on asylum seekers at one level, but it is also the story of the fog that the Australian community lives in and then is told what it means by the people who are spinning stories.

All these wonderful artists and their work say to us: this is the reality of life for people, this is our reality, and why voices of dissent are so necessary.

All point to the question: who has the power in our democracy? Peter Hay’s essay to accompany this exhibition picks up on this theme. Do we still live in a democracy? Who is actually calling the shots, where is the power embedded?

You get to the point as I have now come to believe, that we no longer do live in a democracy, but a plutocracy – a country governed by the wealthy for the wealthy.

So how do we come back from where we are?  What I am asking from all of you if you get a chance to see this exhibition, or read this post,  is to say: What am I going to do about it? How am I going to respond to the situation?  We’ve already done it once in Tasmania, when Tasmania thought we would never get beyond Gunns running the state, and yet we did. Tasmanians took the state back. I think we now have to take our nation back. That is why I would encourage you to think as Schumacher has said, and this inspires me as we face up to a lot of these challenges:

 We must do what we conceive to be the right thing and not bother our heads or burden our souls with whether or not we’ll  be successful. Because if we don’t do the right thing, we’ll be doing the wrong thing. We’ll be part of the disease, not part of the cure.

I congratulate all of the artists, Yvonne for curating this exhibition and Salamanca Arts Centre. Thank you for opening our eyes to the power of dissent and encouraging us to take it on.

The Ravenswood community garden

Launceston turned on a spectacular clear August winters day last week, perfect for visiting Peter in his garden where he is propagating seedlings for the Ravenswood community garden that he will also help manage. We talked through his plans for the community garden, and how it will help local people connect and work together and experience the joys of growing their own food.


Peter was a wealth of information so I took the opportunity to ask him why my carrots fail to grow straight and he gave me the tip of digging in fertiliser deeper to encourage better growth. That was on top of a conversation on how to encourage broccoli to grow quickly.

Peter mentioned he didn’t really have room for fruit trees but nevertheless I decided to send a couple out with my Senate colleague Peter Whish-Wilson who was mucking in to help construct a poly-tunnel at Peter’s house. He will use the tunnel to propagate seedlings to be planted out into the Ravenswood Community Garden when the raised garden beds are complete, and Spring is in full swing.


It is always inspiring to see a community coming together to create shared garden spaces that enable people to grow their own food, and watch the changing seasons that are so beautiful in Tasmania.


Summer Garden Sanctuary

I used to long for the Summer. Long warm days, lingering twilights,time to visit friends and family and hours companionably watering the garden, smelling the tomatoes and anticipating the ripening fruit on the trees. Not to mention driving through the countryside seeing the potatoes paddocks in flower next to onion crops and drying heads of poppies.


Now it is a different story. Extreme temperatures have changed all that. Now I think of summer with a sense of trepidation as we all brace ourselves for more fires and heat waves and associated trauma in the community.

But the garden remains a sanctuary.



Winter in the Garden

On cold but clear days, it is such a joy to take a cup of tea into the garden to wander, relax and take stock of what needs to be done. There is nothing quite like sitting in the garden under a tree and this weekend has been such an opportunity for me in spite of the pressures of election campaigning.

Sitting in the garden

Sitting in the garden

First the good news. My spinach and silverbeet are thriving and I never cease to be delighted when I pick some and put it straight into a steamer and onto the plate. My mint is sprouting again after I cut it back hard and the pineapple sage is providing a splash of colour.

Greens to eat

Greens to eat

Mint coming back

Mint coming back

Pineapple sage

Pineapple sage

I have put some manure and lucerne in my veggie boxes and left them until the spring. Plus I have manured and plaited the raspberry canes in readiness for lots of fruit next summer. I can’t believe I have managed to get so much done in spite of so little time.

Veggie box

Veggie box

Raspberry canes plaited

Raspberry canes plaited

But there is always more to be done.

My lemons and Tahitian lime need feeding with the yellowing leaves a complete give away. And I can’t believe it, since it is only June, but the nectarine tree looks like it might be in blossom soon which means I need to get cracking to stop curly leaf.

Lemons yellowing - time to feed

Lemons yellowing – time to feed

Tahitian Lime

Tahitian Lime

The seasons are certainly changing with very dry winters, to the point of having to water and fill up my Chascade! Now jonquils are in flower in June. Even the daphne looks like it might flower shortly. I can’t wait for the perfume in the house.

Jonquils in flower

Jonquils in flower

Daphne ready to bloom

Daphne ready to bloom

Even as winter sets in, there is much to be grateful for.

Late afternoon sun

Late afternoon sun

Plants defying marsupials

I have had such a battle this year with possums and pademelons in my garden in suburban Sandy Bay.

At one level I am happy that marsupials roam in the city, at another level I am as frustrated as the next vegetable grower that everything I have worked to grow is at the mercy of our furry friends. It has become a battle of the wits.


Having lost everything from tomatoes, chives, parsley to native violets to animals.


I have taken serious precautions, now bringing the fire screen into action to stop access.


As you can see, I am having success with silver beet and spinach now established.

Harvest enjoyed.

I am now enjoying passionfruit! After all my travails with the browsing  Nellie Kelly, I can report success. Chelates iron and a good talking to is the key. It is clear that passionfruit is hungry and feeding is essential to get a good crop.

autumn passionfruit harvest

But there is nothing more satisfying than spooning out freshly picked passionfruit over vanilla ice-cream to remind you that it is all worthwhile.