Tag: forest-wars

Email to Minister Greg Hunt MP 23/9/13 - I'm terrified of what you are doing.

I'm terrified of what you are doing.

Dear Minister Hunt,

I will admit to being absolutely terrified. The changes I have seen since your government took office has shocked me into some kind of stupor.

In correspondence prior to the election, you told me that I wouldn't always agree with your methods, but you asked me to trust you. You were right about one thing. I have not agreed with one single thing you have done since you came into office!

As for trust - I only confided to Neale Burgess yesterday that you were the ONLY member of the current government that I trusted. Due to our great working relationship, established over many years, I trusted you.

You hold the Howard/Ruddock years as a trophy case for your government, but I remember my horror well at the dehumanisation of refugees during this time. I don't think it's an example of good government policy - I think it's an example of government failure. Now, classifying the information about boat arrivals is a political master-stroke, I admit. But the ethical and moral implications of what your government has done are abhorrent. You will most likely succeed in removing boat arrivals from the public consciousness - but I tell you, there will be people like myself who will not stop trying to help refugees. I wrote to you about refugees during the election; I trusted you. I understand that you are bound by the Liberal Party, and your government's policy.

I trusted you because I believed in the great opportunity that I, as a constituent of yours, now had. I could write to you about environment and conservation issues, and feel that I was making a difference. There is no good to be gained by working in opposition to you, except perhaps the protection of my rights.

Your Liberal colleague, Neale Burgess MP, has spent long hours convincing me that it was not the Liberal Party standing in the way of reform on the conservation of our forests. This means the National Party have had to field tough questions about the management of our forests, and why it is costing the Victorian Taxpayer $1.50 per tonne to clear-fell Leadbeater's Possum habitat, making Leadbeater's Possum extinct. Recently, the State LNP Government announced expansion into western Victoria - they would begin to log Mt Cole, near Ararat. We spent millions of dollars working to remove logging from the state's western forests. This is a giant, backward step by the state government, who are desperate to promote the logging industry in Victoria. I maintain there is room here for a logging industry, and the mill at Maryvale, but we need to diversify onto the plantation timber, and help farmers and investors who are going to the wall as I write. The federal government's position supporting the plunder of our natural resources has been noted. You said before the election, you hoped the states would do the right thing:
"We will allow the current process between the states to be determined by the states.
My hope is that they will have some form of agreement and accommodation that will help the possum, it's a magnificent animal.
It's one of our iconic national species." - Greg Hunt MP, ABC AM, 20/8/13
Well, I'm writing to tell you they have not done the right thing. They have logged a critically sensitive ecosystem at Nolan's Gully, Toolangi, Victoria, Australia. I tried to alert you and asked for help to call a temporary halt to this logging, but you only responded that you couldn't squeeze in a visit to Nolan's Gully, nor could you meet with local elders, the Knitting Nannas of Toolangi. I understand you were very busy with the election. We don't think the timing of this logging was accidental - the public at large were distracted by the election, but we were still able to run a successful campaign. We didn't save the habitat, unfortunately. 5 more coupes are planned there. I showed a picture to Neale Burgess of a tree dropped at Toolangi that upset him greatly. It is my belief that Mr Burgess knows in his heart that what the government are doing is not only making Leadbeater's Possum extinct, it's costing the taxpayer money to do it. They need money, Mr Hunt, and they could save a lot by shutting down the logging of state forest and turning it over to private enterprise. They are locked in by ancient contracts. You could solve this - you could eliminate their 'sovereign risk' if you passed laws above their head - they could argue they had no control over Federal laws and could not be expected to foresee the near extinction of Leadbeater's Possum. Your leadership could save the forests, and the possum.

But my greatest concern, is that you are using a similar technique to dealing with boat arrivals to shut down public information about the damage the states are doing to our natural resources, by passing laws to prohibit people like me from engaging in peaceful protest, and also educating the consumer about the repercussions of the consumer choices they are making: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/companies-to-get-protection-from-activists-boycotts/story-fn59niix-1226724817535

People's rights are taken away in tiny, hard to detect ways, and never in large blocks. In such a way, you will make it illegal for me to engage in peaceful protest of the kind I have been engaged in, in the electorates of Flinders and Hastings. I have warned consumers about the damage Reflex paper is doing in our community, and how it impacts of the state forest. I have done this by leaving information for consumers wherever they find Reflex paper. The result is then captured, and posted to social media, where the protest lives on long after the actual signs have been removed. We have encouraged consumers to purchase post-consumer recycled printing paper. This is best for the environment.

I cannot believe you will persevere with these laws. You are not serving the environment with such laws - you are serving the interests of big-business and eco-vandals. Is the position of Environment Minister another name for the Abbott Government Minister for Destruction of the Environment? You are trying to remove World Heritage Listing from part of Tasmanian forests. You are blocking the planned introduction of marine parks in the Great Barrier reef, which is already under tremendous strain from climate-change and state government industrial developments. Your environment policy is making Leadbeater's Possum extinct.

It appears to me that your office is swamped. You simply can't set up the infrastructure you need to serve as Environment Minister fast enough. You haven't even acknowledged receipt of my last emails to you, so I assume your staff are overloaded, and you can't appoint more staff quick enough to deal with the workload - you have NEVER not replied to an email from me before. I understand why this is, but I will point out that while you are preoccupied with developing this massive infrastructure, the electorate of Flinders is not receiving your attention. You aren't even responding to traffic - not even to say to me that you have received the traffic, but that systems are overloaded and there will be a delay before a response is received.

How can I possibly trust a man who is removing my right to peacefully protest?

All the good work that Neale Burgess has done convincing me that it was not the Liberal Party standing in the way of reform is now down the gutter, washed away by your decisions since becoming Minister. I can easily see that you support the state-sanctioned plunder of our natural resources. I can easily see that it is the Liberal Party who are killing the environment - helped along by the State Nationals.

I humbly request that you take the time to communicate with me about your intentions. Hiding the extinction of Leadbeater's Possum is not going to work like hiding the refugees will.

Yours with great respect,

Brad Lemon
Former Lieutenant/Secretary Tyabb Fire Brigade 2000-2006

23rd September, 2013.

23/09/2013 6:11 PM

Many thanks Brad,

I am not aware of any emails that have not been responded to. Nothing has changed in that regard and I am determined to be as responsive as possible.

I will arrange a response about your concerns as soon as it is possible to do so.


Hon Greg Hunt MP

Federal Member for Flinders

Minister for Environment

24/9/13 3.45pm:

Hello Minister Hunt and Mr Burgess,

This post is still legal in Australia:

But if the Liberal Party get their way, and your proposed laws are passed, I won't be able to say this, most likely.

With great respect,

Brad Lemon
Former Lieutenant/Secretary Tyabb Fire Brigade 2000-2006


24/9/13 3.57pm:

Fire severity and landscape context effects on aboreal marsupials

There is a lot of debate in the community about Leadbeater's Possum at present. Many outlets are giving good coverage of the issue, being led by The Age.

This is the science, in a nutshell. The two greatest threats to Leadbeater's Possum are fire and logging. Climate change is causing massive fires.

The government's position, and the logging industry ignore the effects of fire. They have carried on, regardless of 45% of Leadbeater's Possum habitat being wiped out in the 2009 fires. There is one tiny, unburned and unlogged patch of forest remaining in Victoria. Industry have their sights firmly set on harvesting it. It contains the most dense population of Leadbeater's Possum still surviving.

"These recommendations are currently the opposite of
existing management practices"

Professor David Lindenmayer has personally asked me to publish this information for your perusal.

Please open the PDF file contained in this link to see the document. Thank you.

Brad Lemon
3rd September, 2013.

It appears you don't have a PDF plugin for this browser.No biggie... you can click here to download the PDF file.

Extinction Emergency RMIT Storey Hall

Extinction Emergency RMIT Storey Hall

     On the 29th of August 2013, Rose and I attended the Extinction Emergency presentation at RMITs Storey Hall in Melbourne. The hall was completely full. We were there to listen to Professor Tim Flannery, Dr Bob Brown (Bob Brown Foundation), and Professor David Lindenmayer speak about the plan for the Great Forest National Park, proposed for Victoria. The event was hosted by Adam Bandt (Greens).

     We met some very interesting people, including Sarah Rees, from My Environment, and the crew from Friends of Leadbeater's Possum. We had a delightful conversation with some of the Sea Shepherd crew (very interesting people!), who invited us to inspect the ships soon.

     The video quality is just barely acceptable - we'll be updating the video camera before the next event.

     The two professors gave us the facts.

     Bob Brown had some important messages. He asked us to stop the logging. He urged peaceful methods, but said we must stop the chainsaws. He suggested we group together with 5 or 6 people from our neighbourhoods to try to preserve Leadbeater's Possum from extinction. Sarah Rees urged us to stop the bulldozers.

Extinction Emergency RMIT Storey Hall 29/8/13 part 1

Extinction Emergency RMIT Storey Hall 29/8/13 part 2 (Questions, cont.)

Brad Lemon
30th August 2013.

Forest Wars

Forest Wars
Updated 25th October, 2013.

Leadbeater's Possum (Gymnobelideus leadbeateri) Image: The Age

This is part 2 of my blog documenting the battle to save Leadbeater's Possum, and our forests. For part 1, please see 'How the Victorian Government is making Leadbeater's Possum extinct'.

Leadbeater's Possum is named after this man, John Leadbeater:
Leadbeater began work at the Museum in 1858 and soon became famous as an expert taxidermist, working with mammals and birds.

Frederick McCoy, who was the Director of the National Museum at the time, was so impressed with the work of Leadbeater that he named two species of newly-discovered birds and a possum after him. (Museum of Victoria)

Restore Our Forests presentation at Healesville Memorial Hall (12/8/13) by ANU and Professor David Lindenmayer & Dr Chris Taylor - 3 part series can be found on this page.

"The highlands are the last main home for Leadbeater's, but also a primary logging area. Conservationists and scientists say logging has contributed to the possum's decline. The timber industry says fire is the predominant problem."

Goodbye Possums be blowed! We haven't given up yet.

Professor David Lindenmayer gave us until December 2013 to stop the logging. Yes, I'm sweating a bit.

To Neale Burgess MP:

Hi Neale, would you like to have coffee together? Is there a nice shop over the road from your office we could sit for 20 mins?

Much has happened, and I'm still looking for a solution.

Warm regards,

Brad Lemon.

Update 19th August 2013:

The above letter was received in today's mail, with a form letter from Minister Ryan Smith MP, Minister for Environment and Climate Change with I've published previously on the first page of this series. This is the second time he has sent me the form letter.

I responded:

Dear Neale,

     I am having a large amount of difficulty communicating with you. Your last correspondence to me was a form letter from Ryan Smith (which you've sent to me before) and a new cover letter. This is not acceptable.

     You are the government's representative in my electorate. While you claim we are not opposed on Leadbeater's Possum, I have strong evidence to the contrary. I'm going to make this evidence available to your constituents.

     While you've been stalling me off about the tough answers to the crisis facing Leadbeater's Possum, you have been working behind my back to sell off our National Parks (99 year leases) and open them up to commercial development. You are not working to save Leadbeater's Possum - the opposite - you are planning development and infrastructure in their habitat.

     When a government's values fall so far out of line with community expectations, they are replaced, from the ground up.

     I've had difficulty communicating with you. It is my belief that as a politician, communication is your stock in trade. I've sent many emails that have had no response. I can't engage you on social media because you don't exist there. I can't call you - I'm headed off by junior staff. In fact, my dealings with you are often handled by junior staff. Perhaps you don't think the issue of the destruction of Leadbeater's Possums by your government to feed Japanese interests at Australian Paper ranks very highly on the agenda in Hastings Electorate?

      Another politician who didn't do social media well is Greg Hunt MP. He came under heavy criticism from me, and others, as he used social media as a broadcast-only medium. The demands of his senior position meant that he had to conform to modern society and use social media as a communications tool, and this is a relief. He has been able to do much good work there in recent times. The entire Liberal party has been challenged by the unwanted demands of social media. Like the telephone, it interrupts their lives, and takes resources to man it. The messages received are often not good. The Liberal party has been accused of being left in last century, and you agree that in things like broadband, they are not doing enough. The Libs just don't do communication well. Well, they didn't - but they've been dragged, kicking and screaming, into the 21st Century to embrace social media. But the Victorian Government don't use social media well at all. They have no expertise or vision. And while I'm here, just to compare your service to Greg Hunt - I usually receive a reply from Greg's iPad to any email within an hour. You will agree, that is outstanding service from a very senior man. It humbles me. You can bet Greg is interested in Leadbeater's Possums. Greg has a very green heart.

     Politics these days moves in hourly blocks, as you'd know. Situations develop, and take enormous traction in this time. Social media has changed the landscape of politics. What happened this morning might be old news by 4pm. You have no way of gaining information about these shifts in public opinion. You don't have all the information at your fingertips. In fact, without social media, I estimate you're only getting half the information I expect a politician to absorb during his or her day.

     I was a strong supporter of the Liberal Party until they fell behind the times. They failed to embrace technology adequately, and this mistake is fatal for the entire party, from national to local level. People like me are jumping ship.

     I recognised that a situation existed in our community that was beyond the normal day-to-day governing of the State. It wasn't about teachers, or firefighters, or ambulance pay rates. It wasn't about the lack of money going into our hospitals, causing huge delays which I've seen with my own eyes. No, it wasn't about hospital ramping. It was about our forests. I recognised that the practice you are engaged in is unsustainable and destroying our children's asset. Further, I found out that our State Animal Emblem, Leadbeater's Possum was being made extinct by clear-felling in our state forests. Everyone that I have told about this situation has been horrified, except for Neale Burgess and Co, who not only justify it, they wish to expand it!

     You think it only takes 0.08% of the forest each year. You fail to recognise that there is just a tiny pocket left, of habitat untouched by fire - and you're logging it, wiping out the possum forever. I can't even convince my local politician that he's destroying the world. What hope have I got with changing the situation with government, if my local politician won't listen to me? I have requested you to enact a bill and you didn't even mention it in your reply!

     Can you see where this is going? You have declared your position, and you side with the government. This will be published today for all to see. You are not for Leadbeater's Possum. Neale Burgess is wiping it out! I am completely unsatisfied with your reaction to my serious concerns. I'm unsatisfied with the efforts of your junior staff, who can't even take a booking for a request to see you via email - it must be phone. Fair dinkum! I will not ever give up, until the possum is gone, but I'm documenting the struggle. If we don't stop the logging by December, they're gone. Period. Perhaps you are not the man who can save Leadbeater's Possum. In fact, I think you stand with logging. You have handled the situation poorly. While you agreed to do an interview (to deflect political pressure), in reality you have stalled it off and made yourself unavailable to even have coffee and discuss things. You know you have no ethical answers to my hard questions. I know it too.

     I'm making the posters that will be displayed in the electorate. The wording on the posters will depend on your very next communication with me. Make no mistake, Neale. I'm very serious, and Leadbeater's Possum is going to be the biggest issue in the electorate shortly. All arrows will point to your office - the buck stops with you. Actually, it stops with me, and that's why I'm fighting for the forests.

     I've been able to reach approximately 250,000 people in my campaign to date. I haven't done this alone - I have a lot of support. We are a credible threat to your government, and I will prove it this week. Mr Napthine and Mr Smith must understand that you are their representative in my electorate, and that you will take heat meant for them when they go silent.

     The Lemon family are opposed to any infrastructure development like hotels in our National Parks. We would consider tourism infrastructure like Zip-Lines, and other eco-tourism projects that enhance forests. We would like more forest walks and trails developed. But that is it for infrastructure. No 99 year leases at all! You can't sell off our National Parks. We are about to create a brand-new one to overcome the mismanagement of the Victorian Government. Your practices are unsustainable, as told to you by ANU and Professor Lindenmayer, and now the leaked report from the Arthur Rylah Institute - why did you try to cover it up??? All reports agree. You must stop the logging by December, 2013.

     Please respond to me and tell me how you support Leadbeater's Possum and the forests? Not Ryan Smith's form letter. Neale Burgess' opinion. If it is your government prescription, then please just say so. Get off the fence.

Yours sincerely,

Bradley Lemon.

Update 22nd August 2013:

To: Greg Hunt MP

Hi Greg, from media today:

"The Coalition will instate a Commissioner for Threatened Species should it form government, according to shadow environment minister Greg Hunt. The minister says that, while management plans for threatened species exist, they are not being enacted thoroughly enough."

"A$100 million a year could prevent further extinctions of just about all Australian species."

Greg, tax my beard to pay for it, and I will grow one for you.

Still want to know what powers your commissioner would have please? Concept is no good if they're just another advisor.

Brad Lemon

But then, I found this ABC report. Greg Hunt admits he wishes to maintain the status-quo in logging - and this is wiping out Leadbeater's Possum. Clear-felling must stop by December, according to the experts.

(This tweet has since been deleted.)

Received from Greg Hunt MP 1.43pm 22nd August 2013:


I respect your views but you have misinterpreted and misrepresented.

I have offered to work with the State on the possum strategy.

At this stage I am not aware of any action from the ALp after 5 years.

My own comment is that it would seem strange to walk away from the person who is most likely to bring real progress.

But I respect your views,


Sent from my iPad

What Greg Hunt MP actually said:

"We will allow the current process between the states to be determined by the states.
My hope is that they will have some form of agreement and accommodation that will help the possum, it's a magnificent animal.
It's one of our iconic national species." - Greg Hunt MP, ABC AM, 20/8/13

      That is the actual statement made by Greg Hunt on AM.

      Of key importance to me is the first line. I think there is a slip-up in his sentence - what agreement between states? I know of agreements between the states and Commonwealth, called Regional Forestry Agreements (RFAs). These RFAs are considered by conservationists to be a failure, since they failed to protect Leadbeater's Possum, or even identify the critical threat to its habitat after the 2009 fires. We seek to terminate RFA's and have the federal government take control of the forests again. The reason for this, is that federal government must manage the forests in accordance with international standards, whereas state governments have been able to evade best-practice while managing the forests.

"The government owned logging company, VicForests, is feeding Mountain Ash forest to Australian Paper (who are Japanese owned), who then make Reflex Paper."

     Greg Hunt said to me that the ALP have not acted in five years. But this is because the ALP do not have control over our forests. Greg Hunt is proposing the same action as ALP is currently doing - maintain the RFAs. The Liberal Party have control of our forests.

     Indeed we have been fighting the Liberal Party all along. The original contracts locking in the clear-felling of our native forests until 2030, was signed in 1996, by Jeff Kennett for a Liberal-National Government, which were returned to power that year. These contracts have been the stumbling-block for conservation of Leadbeater's Possum all along. They were signed before Climate Change was accepted, without consideration given to the devastating fires that are now destroying the forests every year. These forests are wet forests, not designed to withstand fires which weren't even envisioned in 1996. I chase these fires every year. The Liberal Partly locked in the clear-felling of the Victorian Forest. The government owned logging company, VicForests, is feeding Mountain Ash forest to Australian Paper (who are Japanese owned), who then make Reflex Paper. This is the chain that is killing Leadbeater's Possum that we will stop. I'm amazed and alarmed that Japan are not only killing our cetaceans, but our possums as well.

     In Victoria, the Liberal-National parties are in power. I felt it would be unusual for federal Liberal to go against the interests of state Liberal, and I proposed a test. A sheer stroke of luck saw a tweet produced by Greg Hunt about Leadbeater's Possum at a critical moment during negotiations with State Liberal member, Neale Burgess MP. I set about extracting information about Greg Hunt's position on clear-felling. My initial contact produced some great news - Greg Hunt was working on proposal to save Leadbeater's Possum, and had even spoken with Professor Lindenmayer. If Greg has spoken to the professor, then he is aware of this information - Australian National University's list of things that must be done in order to save Leadbeater's Possum:

     This is the science. The Arthur Rylah Institute (suppressed government study) has different details, but agree in parts that have been leaked. They say that the "Possum needs more room to survive."

     The test was to see if Greg Hunt would recognise that RFAs have failed, and demand control of the forests, against state Liberal policy, in order to satisfy conservation groups. Greg's strength is his standing on environment, but his weakness is his inability to do anything other than toe the party line.

     This is going to cause huge upset with industry. I think we need to move timber workers onto the plantation Blue-Gum that was grown for them. But this issue is so complex, that I must leave it to experts to resolve. We have to protect timber workers, even though I think their pay is blood money. That's my personal opinion, though. The problem for politicians, is that they must sit on the fence, wherever possible. To pledge to end clear-felling by 2013 is a sure way to take a hit in the polls as angry timber workers and their families and friends lash out. If a politician tries to maintain the logging industry, they come under fire from conservationists who use the science to discredit their arguments. There is a fine balance, but when politicians begin to take too much flak from the community about their unsustainable environmental practises, real change is achieved. To do this, a committed individual is required to push the issue in the electorate.

     I ran into a brick wall with Neale Burgess MP, who told me that we were not opposed on Leadbeater's Possum in an email. However, when pressed, he clammed up, and refused to do an interview he'd promised earlier. He and the Victorian Government have gone silent on logging and Leadbeater's Possum, a fact that has been noticed by mainstream media. They have manned the trenches. They won't act on the science. They won't change their position on the clear-felling.

     Now, it needs to be pointed out that history will only judge all these men (Kennett, Napthine, Smith, Burgess, Hunt - all Liberal), only if the fight is documented, and so I'm doing that. I'm creating the raw data that will be collated later, when I write a piece about this fight. The Liberal Party ironically taught me how to use mainstream media (and as a by-product, social media) well to achieve your goals provided you have the facts and evidence to back you up. You don't need a lot of people on board, you just need the right people. Everybody must play their role, and work towards the single common goal of ending clear-felling by December 2013, in accordance with the science. We don't have to do this alone - there are many people, even heavy hitters, willing to back us up. I have the luxury of personal contact with many mainstream journalists in both TV and press, because of my fire work in the summer.

     There are other things that can be done right now - the buffer zones. A 1km buffer zone between all known Leadbeater's Possums and any logging would solve a lot of problems. We must plan how to manage timber workers, and we must educate consumers to source post-consumer recycled paper. I have a lot of work to do in the electorate. The election will role on by, but the fight for Leadbeater's appears to be just heating up, after years of stagnation. It probably won't be an issue for the election, so I've backed off from Greg Hunt so he can concentrate on his major task.

     We've reached the point now, where we must wear out some shoe-rubber, and I have to get busy in the electorates of Hastings and Flinders.

"Without power and resources, the commissioner is window-dressing." - The Guardian

Timber workers:

      I have an understanding of the plight of timber workers. Struggling in an industry that barely pays its way. But logging truck drivers often own their rigs, or the bank does, and they are working to pay of the truck they're driving. If they run out of work, they go to the wall.

     They were led to believe there was always going to be work for them. Their industry was supposed to be sustainable. Everyone involved told them so, including the politicians, who backed them. They were able to sleep at night because they didn't know they were killing Leadbeater's Possum.

     Deep silence from the industry since the 2009 fires means they know there are problems. A little bit of noise around election time, but otherwise, still making noises like 'We are moving in a sustainable direction...'

     I assume VicForests own those huge machines that cut down the trees and debark them. But since there is little profit in the industry, I don't see how they could maintain a fleet of trucks themselves. So I'll bet there are lots of individuals with a stake in their truck that are about to go to the wall unless we find other work for them.

     I keep coming back to the Blue-Gum plantations that were grown for them. They are worth nothing now, because since they were planted, the forest was opened up to clear-felling. But if the clear-felling stops, which it must before December, then the Blue-Gum plantations will gain value overnight. There are problems with the Koalas in the Blue-Gum. We'll have to find answers to questions like where to put them.

     Those specifically employed to fell native forest will need to have exit packages in place, and opportunities to retrain to harvest the plantation timber. Not one truck owner or worker can go to the wall - we must find a strategy for all people. This will take time, and I propose the 1km buffer zones are a way to protect Leadbeater's Possum, while we redeploy our forest loggers.

Depressing reality.

Update 31st August, 2013:

Well, we've gotten to the bottom of the coalition's approach to the environment, and it's shocking. Bob Brown told us that Tony Abbott would try to remove the World Heritage listing on part of Tasmania's forests. I didn't believe him at the time - thought it was just political spin. But the next day, I went looking, and found this: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-08-16/greens-fear-logging-in-tasmanian-world-heritage/4892428

Tony Abbott definitely stands for logging. This means that Greg Hunt MP can say what he likes about the environment, but his boss is working against him. A classic example of this is Greg Hunt's Emissions Trading Scheme thesis - which was published before the coalition decided a different approach was required. Greg Hunt believes what he wrote (and so do I) - but he's hamstrung by the Liberal Party. The Liberal Party seem to have a hand in this nasty business at every turn. It is amazing that one of the main methods Greg Hunt proposes to store carbon is by planting trees. Mountain Ash is the most carbon dense forest in the world. I think it's a great idea. But as Greg wrote, an ETS is also essential.

We're stepping up the pressure on Neale Burgess. I don't think Greg Hunt can do anything. Neale must approve the proposed Great Forest National Park, so we'll need to talk to him about that. Then there is the promised recorded interview, and the invite to have an informal cup of coffee together. Neale has gone silent. We may need to take our protest to the streets.

Possum Patrol
An update from the Lemon family.

Hi everyone, it's been a very busy couple of months for Leadbeater's Possum activists, and we are no exception.

We attended the Restore Our Forests presentation at Healesville Hall on the 12th of August, 2013. You can find our video series of the event here. We heard Professor Lindenmayer give us the facts outlining his 30 years of research. It wasn't all bad news though. We learned that we have until December 2013 to stop the clear-felling, and that if we could institute a 1km buffer zone between logging and all known possums, we could buy some time. We heard about a terrific plan for a National Park to protect Leadbeater's Possum.

It was here that we were able to prove once and for all that our Mountain Ash forest was being clear-felled to make Reflex Paper. We saw the ANU slide showing the all the uses for all of the timber harvested. Reflex Paper makes up about 20%. Hardwood timber for building products is just 4%. 65% of every tree is wasted, either left in the ground or burned as the debris created when the trees are cut down.

We had good communication happening with Neale Burgess MP, who emailed me that we were not opposed on Leadbeater's Possums. This gave me hope that he would acknowledge the science, and work towards stopping the logging. However, as our campaign to save Leadbeater's from clear-felling heated up on Twitter, attracting mainstream media attention, the government manned the trenches. They went silent about the logging, after pointing out that a $1.86 million study was being conducted. For some reason, they don't trust the evidence from Australian National University. They say they're only logging 0.08% of the forest every year, and that it's insignificant. This is so far out of whack with reality that it's quite astonishing. The coupes that they are logging are in the most ecologically sensitive of what is left that is unburned. The government don't want to change anything - there are too many votes in logging. So that means we have to ruin Reflex, however, they are prepared to trade at a loss. We're not letting the government resistance go unnoticed, and indeed, ABC has remarked about their silence on the radio. We're compiling a list of the men who are resisting. They're all (coincidently?) Liberal Party members. Their pictures and notes about their resistance is being kept in a file for later use to document the history of the struggle to save Leadbeater's Possum. These men will be held accountable for their actions, going right back to Jeff Kennett. History will show that the Liberal Party will be absolutely disgraced by their own behaviour.

We attended the Extinction Emergency event at RMIT Storey Hall on 29th August. What an amazing talk this turned out to be. Prof. Tim Flannery, Prof. David Lindenmayer, and Dr Bob Brown all spoke, as did other people we admire, like Sarah Rees from My Environment. There were a lot of Greens politicians there - they proved that they really do care about Leadbeater's Possum, but it must also be remembered that they were speaking to a very 'green' crowd. We recorded this on our little video camera too, and you can find the page here. We were treated like royalty at this event. Bold as brass, I asked for a couple of the reserved seats up the front for Rose and myself so I could get a clear video shot. This meant we were sitting amongst the media, politicians and awesome activists like the crew from Sea Shepherd. It was inspiring to be among such great women and men. Rose had a school girl moment when she sat next to Bob Brown, and I had a schoolgirl-giggly moment when I met Professor Lindenmayer, whom I admire greatly. But we got down to business, and recorded the event for others to see. I'm very glad we did - I've heard there was some technical difficulties with the main feed. During the presentation, they officially unveiled the plans for the 'Great Forest National Park'.

Here's a pic of it from the Healesville talk:
Pic: Knitting Nannas of Toolangi

Bob Brown urged us all to find 5 or 6 like-minded people in our neighbourhoods to help preserve Leadbeater's Possum. We are already doing this - using http://tyabbcrest.org to promote the possum and interest the members in preserving Leadbeater's, and the forests. They are an ideal platform as CREST already deals with conservation related issues managing the Tyabb Cockatoos. The information was warmly received by CREST members. As we control the website and email list, we are able to continue to use CREST as a platform to spread information about Leadbeater's Possum. CREST members welcomed this information.

We decided there was merit in getting back to a good, old fashioned grass-roots campaign like an A4 paper campaign. By printing our message on Reflex paper, we were able to create a powerful presentation to help educate the public. The A4 sheets are printed in very small batches, so the text can be changed as the campaign shifts. At the moment, the text is drawing attention to government inaction. I anticipated a lot of resistance to these sheets of paper, as they trashed the Reflex brand, and put the blame squarely on Neale Burgess MP and Greg Hunt MP. But the public are receiving them better than we'd hoped. One shop owner said "Look, it's important, but I'm good mates with both Neale and Greg, so you can put it up until the election, but that's all." These A4 sheets have been laminated, which gives them bold impact. The version in my picture here is not laminated. Laminated versions are appearing everywhere. They are currently sitting on top of a stack of Reflex paper at Kmart, in Hastings. They are just loose. The public must pic it up to get to a ream of paper. If they read just the first three lines, I'm happy. The staff can/could throw them out at any time.

Rose was able to observe people interacting with our A4 Reflex sign at her work. She reported that at least one person did scan the QR code. Now, a person who can scan a QR code likely has internet purchasing power, and we're trying to convince them to buy a box of post-consumer recycled paper and have it delivered. The QR code links everyone to a page that lists the vendors for recycled paper, and their contact details. They're being put up at railway stations and bus stops, and other places where people are bored, and might be tempted to scan the code. We even asked for one to be put up at the doctor's clinic over the road from Neale's office! This campaign is very grass-roots. I learned how to do it in the 1970's, at school, when coincidently, we were fighting to stop logging. We didn't have the luxury of QR codes back then, or even laminated sheets. The laminating process makes the piece of paper look very 'special'. It is getting the reaction we'd hoped. Are you tempted to scan the code?

From here, we plan to turn the heat up on Neale Burgess MP. He promised us a recorded interview, but when I asked for a time and date, he said someone would get back to me. I'm still waiting to hear about that, and my invitation to have coffee with him at a cafe near his office. I'd like to discuss the situation informally, because I've found in the past Neale works better in an 'informal' capacity. He is more willing to share information. I have no personal grudge against Neale at all - in fact, I admire the man. He's done a good job. But he represents the government, and therefore VicForests. He is the man I have to deal with to interact with the government about Leadbeater's Possums, and he's gone silent. Now, there is an election next year, so I have plenty of time to seed the electorate with information. I like Neale, but I'll unseat him if I can, because of his complicity in killing Leadbeater's, causing it to nearly become extinct through poor management of our forests. State's are renowned for abusing natural resources. But they must be reigned in. It's time we had a real protest in Somerville - and our next phase will involve a physical protest outside his office with banners, bells, whistles and media. As we'd like a large crowd attend this, we will give plenty of warning before the event. Public transport is close by, but limited in service. Neale really should fix that. Such a protest is unheard of in this electorate. It will carry a lot of impact, and reach a lot of people.

Speaking of reaching people, we are now getting our message out to many people via Twitter. These people talk to others, so people outside of Twitter are also reached. Some of our tweets have been very popular, getting numerous retweets. We are being strongly supported by all Leadbeater's Possum activists! I calculated one very popular tweet reached around 250,000 people. These are significant numbers that any business would kill for. Our 'tweet-reach' is now enormous. We are being quoted by the big guys, and talked about in mainstream media - I saw one of my blog pages on a media outlet yesterday. Yes, we're getting that much traffic - off the wall. The campaign has been worked on for years and years. Sarah Rees talks about 15 years of activism. The people fighting for Leadbeater's Possum never gave up, and now they are reaping the rewards of years of work. The public are becoming aware, and the issue is now being debated on national television (Gruen Nation, ABC). We have built up enormous momentum, which we Lemons are simply tapping into and repeating. It's not what you know, it's who you know, and because of my fire work in summer, I'm followed by many, many journos. They are watching my traffic. We've managed to encourage some to action - Tom Arup, Environment Editor for the Age has come onboard. We'll overrun the government's position very soon - the street protest at Somerville will catch a lot of media (I'll use my contacts to get national TV coverage on multiple stations, with luck). I'm confident of dominating the print media. This is a tactic taught to me by the Liberal Party. Isn't the irony beautiful?

That's it for now. We're putting up our A4 sheets every time we go out. I thought people would remove them, but they seem to be doing pretty well. We'll keep at it, and I'm going to try to initiate contact with Neale Burgess MP again.

Yours in Possum friendship,
Brad Lemon
for the Lemon Family.
31st August, 2013.

Update 3rd September 2013:

I was contacted by email by Professor David Lindmayer - an honour. He enclosed a PDF, just released, called 'Fire severity and landscape context effects on aboreal marsupials'. He asked me to distribute this to key people, and I count you as key people. Please click on the link to open the PDF.

Email to Neale Burgess MP 3rd September 2013:

Dear Neale, I hope you're well!

     Things have become difficult for us as communication has broken down. I'd like to have a go at overcoming this and I'm reaching out to you.

     The fight to save Leadbeater's Possum has taken a dangerous turn for you. You've ignored the science, and persist with supporting the Liberal Party's complicity in clear-felling the forests. This was a terrible error, as history will show. You sided with the government, and reneged on your offer of a recorded interview, or a cup of coffee, or any contact at all.

     Considering your position, the decision to man the trenches with the government must have caused anguish. The suppressed Arthur Rylah Institute report was leaked, and the evidence was damning, but you already knew it would be - Australian National University and Professor David Lindenmayer told you what must be done to save Leadbeater's Possum years ago. The fact that you have elected to absorb the science, but reject it, was your undoing.

     The campaign to save Leadbeater's Possum has built up strong momentum. A very strong showing on Twitter has raised considerable mainstream media attention, which became very embarrassing for the government when ABC reported that they couldn't even get a statement from them. I believe by now, you are aware of the strength of the social media campaign, which is reaching significant numbers of people. Your name has been mentioned time and time again, and is now associated with Leadbeater's Possum.

     The appropriate way for me to address government about Leadbeater's Possums is to address you. You are my representative in Hastings electorate. The campaign cannot avoid involving you in the fight to save Leadbeater's Possum. There are only two ways the possum can be saved - either end the logging, or overthrow the government and install a government who will end the logging. This means that the campaign must undermine your position for the coming election, as your policy supports the logging, which is causing Leadbeater's Possum to become extinct. This is not acceptable, and the public will not tolerate negligent policy by a state government.

     Please find attached a paper called 'Fire severity and landscape context effects on aboreal marsupials.' This paper was sent to me personally by Professor David Lindenmayer, but he is not sole author. He asked me to distribute the science contained within to people that matter, and I believe you matter. Now, this data indicates that no Leadbeater's Possums can exist in burned forest - particularly the high-intensity burns that occurred on Ash Wednesday (1983) and Black Saturday (2009). They can't live in logged areas either - those are destroyed for a period of 150 years. There is a tiny fragment of unburned and unlogged forest remaining, and the logging industry have their sights on it. I can show you shocking recent pictures from places like Nolan's Gully in Toolangi. We can't sustain the logging. That's the science Neale - we can't sustain the logging. In fact, if we don't stop it by December 2013, Leadbeater's Possum begins an unstoppable extinction trajectory (Prof D. Lindemayer).

     Now, I'm a man of science. When I look at the problem of saving Leadbeater's Possum, the answers are very complex. But the science says that we cannot sustain ANY clear-felling in Leadbeater's Possum habitat - the habitat needs to grow and expand. We only have 1.3% of old-growth forest remaining in Victoria - you've taken it all. I've been to lectures that I haven't seen you attend. I can promise you that I know more about what is required to save Leadbeater's Possum than you can know, given your busy schedule. You have to trust me, and the experts, when we tell you that you must stop what you are doing immediately.

     The campaign in the electorate is running hot. Social media is playing a large role. People by the dozens are scanning the protest posters. They are becoming aware of what is killing Leadbeater's Possum. I'm sure by now you've seen a poster, but in case you haven't, we're arranging for one to be sent to your office.

     You once wrote to me that we were not opposed on Leadbeater's Possums.

     The current situation is not good for any of us. It can only result in more destruction. The campaign is gaining moment, and will soon overrun the government's position. Your fight now is to keep your seat when that happens. But it can be shut down very quickly, if the government would just listen to ideas. Please have a cup of coffee with me. We'll casually discuss the plans I have to save the logging industry from the destruction it is doomed to face if you don't act. We can save Victoria's logging industry, and help our struggling farmers, but it needs bold leadership from above. I need you to have vision, and be prepared to restructure the way we do things.

     I would now like to ask you to respond to a question, in writing, please. Do you support the proposed Great Forest National Park?

Thank you for your time. I really hope we can get together and talk about saving both Leadbeater's Possum and the logging workers. Inaction is dooming them both.

Brad Lemon

Email received from Neale Burgess MP 4th September 2013:

Hi Brad

I am forwarding this email to Diana so she can arrange a time for you and I to have coffee next week.

Diana, can you please contact Brad to arrange a coffee at a time that suits us both?

Best regards - Neale

Me: "Doesn't look like Neale's gonna support the Great Forest National Park, Rose."
Rose: "Never thought he would, he's a Liberal."

Update 25/10/13:

Letter gratefully received from Minister Greg Hunt:

The Minister reinforces that management of the forest is a state responsibility - achieved through the RFAs. It is my hope that the proposed Threatened Species Commissioner will identify the two major factors causing the extinction of Leadbeater's Possum as fire and habitat loss through logging. While the Threatened Species Commissioner has no powers to force the states to comply with best practice, or cease the clear-felling, the negative position by the federal government will help bring pressure on the states to save Leadbeater's Possum. I thank the Minister very much for communicating with me.

To be continued...

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