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Garrett must release critical CSIRO pulp mill report: stop protecting Gunns

Australian Greens Senator Christine Milne today called on Environment Minister Peter Garrett to release a CSIRO report relating to Gunns' intention to dump 64,000 tonnes of effluent into Bass Strait per day and the probabilities of it exceeding the allowable effluent concentration.

Senator Milne's FOI request to release this CSIRO report was rejected on the basis that it may impact on Gunns' commercial interest, after first being blocked on the basis of exorbitant costs and bureaucratic processes.

Senator Milne said, "Gunns' financial difficulties and failure to raise the funding for the mill is no reason for the Commonwealth to try to protect it by refusing to release critical information which is in the public interest.

"Since when has the Commonwealth Environment Minister seen himself as the protector of the interests of big business at the expense of the environment and the public interest?

"How outrageous is it for Minister Garrett's Department to refuse to release a report because ‘it could mislead the public and create uncertainty, pressure and complexity for Gunns in its dealing with stakeholders, including the general public?'

Senator Milne said, "With Gunns stock in freefall, and rife speculation in the investment community as to the content of scientific studies, this is not the time for the Government to prioritise Gunns' commercial interest over the public interest.

"What about the public interest in how much pollution the Pulp Mill will pump out, Peter?

"What about the commercial interests of all the businesses in the Tamar Valley whose clean, green and clever brand will be ruined by a dirty, stinking pulp mill?

"The letter rejecting my FOI request (attached) informed me that third parties, including Gunns, had been consulted as to whether or not to release this document. The fact is Doctor Michael Herzfeld is a coastal environmental modeller with the Marine and Atmospheric Research Section of CSIRO and is a member of the Gunns pulp mill Independent Expert Group. He wrote the report to provide independent scientific and technical input and advice on materials submitted by Gunns.

"The Report does not belong to Gunns and as a professional scientist Dr Herzfeld will have made clear the assumptions on which he has based his report. For the Commonwealth to invent excuses, such as ‘this report is preliminary rather than final' and that it ‘was not commissioned' and ‘has not been peer reviewed' is an insult to the public intelligence.

"As the financial markets are clearly now assessing whether this pulp mill will ever be built, the health or otherwise of Gunns' balance sheets, and not to mention whether it will ever get environmental approval, it is incumbent on the Minister to provide all the information he has to all the players so that every financial analyst is fully informed."

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