dammit denman..

  1. 4,788 Posts.
    ,,this bloke actually works and lives in the country, what cheek!!

    Ken Hall: Latham betrays workers

    October 08, 2004

    TOMORROW, on election day, this lifelong Labor man will do something I didn't do in 2001: I will vote Liberal so that John Howard will remain prime minister.

    I have come to believe that Howard is the best leader to represent the timber workers of Tasmania. And that's a pretty big mouthful coming from a lifelong Labor supporter who first voted for Arthur Calwell in 1966 and has voted for every Labor leader in every election since then. My political history to the contrary, this was the easiest decision I've ever made in deciding who to support. And my own party leader made it easier. Here's why.

    My wife Karen and I operate a small timber-harvesting contracting business in the northeastern Tasmanian timber town of Scottsdale. Initially, when Mark Latham became Labor leader, I was impressed -- particularly with his "ladder of opportunity", a ladder my family was climbing. And indeed, earlier this year, he confirmed the ALP's commitment to the Regional Forest Agreement.

    On Monday, however, Latham kicked the ladder out from under my family. On the eve of a federal election, and in a last-minute deal to clinch Green preferences, Latham abandoned Labor policy. He has sought to reserve 250,000ha of highly productive old growth and regrowth forest on public land and up to 150,000ha on private property. And he wants to hold yet another inquiry into our forests -- even to stop clear-felling in plantations.

    Until now, I was proud that Paul Keating's Labor government started the RFA process in early 1996 to finally resolve the management of our forest and provide security for thousands and thousands of families throughout Tasmania. Our family has built its future on that policy; it was our ladder of opportunity.

    Now, for my family's future, I can't just sit still and accept what Latham has done. He -- and he alone -- has put me into a position that I never thought I'd have to think about. I have no option but to go against my long-held Labor values and vote Liberal. After all, you can't run a small family business or employ people on Latham's forest policy. It's a confidence-destroying policy. So much for the ladder of opportunity.

    Of course, I've never had much time for Howard. I always thought he was only interested in the needs of big business in the mainland cities. This time, however, he has taken into account the importance of maintaining a future for small-town families such as mine.

    On Wednesday, I went to a protest in Launceston to hear Howard's pitch to timber workers. I expected to hear the worst. But I quickly learned that he is the right man in the right place at the right time. It was a great relief to hear him say that he will maintain the RFA. This means having the continued confidence to go on building our family business for the long term.

    Latham's idea about another silly inquiry, however, would return our state to uncertainty. To me, Howard's ladder now looks a much more attractive prospect to climb. After all, he, unlike the Labor leader, has kept his word on the agreement.

    Why on earth can't my old party see that the Australian Greens will never be satisfied until its latest policy closes down our forest industry? Latham is aiding and abetting this policy. Yet for what gain?

    One thing is sure: Latham's deal with the Greens means that I and many old mates who also work in the timber industry will be voting Liberal so that Howard will remain prime minister. It's the only way my family will be able to protect our way of life.

    Ken Hall is a long-time timber worker who lives in the federal seat of Bass.

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