Thursday 16 September 2010

Wilderness Society imploding and not before time

There's nothing more satisfying when I hear the internal bitch-fighting going on in the propaganda beast that is the Wilderness Society.

A long and bitter dispute has came to a head this week when the executive director resigned.

Director Alec Marr has resigned to circumnavigate the new committee who had plans to sack him, after 25 years service. Marr will now most probably sue the Wilderness Society.

A statement of the Society yesterday, tried to calm the public perception of the powerful Labor lobby group that receives substantial funding and millions in donations from the public.

"After more than a decade, during which time the organisation has experienced significant growth and success," the statement read. "The Committee of Management wishes to acknowledge the determination and commitment of Alec Marr to the protection of wilderness and nature in Australia and around the world for more than two decades."
"Alec Marr helped to build the Wilderness Society into a successful organisation with a reputation for being politically non-partisan and uncompromising. He was centrally involved in successfully defending the organisation against a $3.5 million lawsuit launched by woodchipping giant Gunns Ltd in 2004 at the height of the campaign to protect Tasmania’s ancient forests. The controversial lawsuit ran for five years before Gunns Ltd eventually dropped the case."
Marr says he's getting out of the organisation for many reasons.

"The reason I've decided to put in my notice of resignation is I can't any longer stand by and watch this new management committee undo years of work by many good people," he said.

He accused the new management committee of "cronyism and the new committee is threatening the Society's tax deductible status." "The committee is fuelling internal conflict and is persecuting staff who support me," Marr says.

When I travelled to Bamaga recently and interviewed Northern Peninsula Area Mayor Joseph Elu, who slammed Labor's lack of engagement with local Cape communities, I saw first-hand how the Wilderness Society doesn't get it on the Wild Rivers debate.

Many of the Cape communities withdrew support from Labor at the Federal election, a reflection of Entsch's outspokenness, who very critical of the Wilderness Society's "propaganda" in the campaign.

"They think that some Mickey Mouse organisation called the Wilderness Society can prepare some glitzy type of lies in the form of a video, and suggest that the people of Cape York are destroying the rivers and have no idea what they're doing," Warren Entsch said. "It's all about fund-raising for this mob in Sydney. It's got nothing to do with conservation in Cape York."

"[Labour] have told them they can't do a darn thing other than stand there bare-bummed on a lily-pad with a spear, on one leg, and be photo fodder for tourists. They have greater aspirations than that," Entsch said.

"The don't take into consideration that there's been people living in Cape York for over 40,000 years. Wild Rivers [plan] has had a major impact of our indigenous community in Cape York.," Entsch said. "Other issues are the closure of [fishing] the Coral Sea; we've got high unemployment, and the appalling waste of money."

Wild Rivers commentator Bryan Law called the Wilderness Society the Terra Nullius Wilderness geStapo.

It seemed he was probably correct.


kate said...

How can the "new committee is threatening the Society's tax deductible status"????

MaryO said...

Hey MM,
As a result of your trip, have you got anything more substantive to offer about what the Cape York locals directly had to say about Wild Rivers? And their reasons for whatever position they hold.

That is, other than the position of Mayor Joseph Elu. Because like some of the other CB commenters to his interview, I also thought the Mayor had somewhat misunderstood the actual effect of the Wild Rivers Act.

Syd Walker said...

Michael, do you get paid for writing mining industry / Liberal Party PR like this?

The folk over at The Australian do get paid, quite well. I hope you're not being ripped off.

The title of this article is hyperbole mixed with blatant bias.

TWS is not 'imploding'; it's emerging from a period of internal conflict, in which the central issue was the rather abrasive and domineering personality of Alec Marr. IMHO he gave good service but should have moved on years ago.

Name me a 25+ year old lobby group that hasn't, from time to time, gone through periods of internal conflict. I think the 'implosion' is largely in the imagination of detractors such as yourself.

You call The Wilderness Society a "propaganda beast". It's a novel term for a lobby group. What would you call the Institute for Public Affairs?

When you do call TWS a lobby group, you describe it as a "powerful Labor lobby group". I wonder if you have evidence for that? TWS, like other environment groups, tends to be most supportive of The Greens (in a previous era, the Democrats also).

The Liberal/Nationals approach strikes me as rather schizophrenic. On the one hand, they often complain they don't get electoral support from the conservation movement. On the other hand, all too many of their leaders vilify, misrepresent and attack conservationists with debased arguments.

It's ironic I'm writing this. I've had my own run-ins with TWS staffers at various times in the past. But these bigoted attacks demand a response.

When you wander in no-longer-logged Wet Tropics World Heritage rainforests, spare a thought for the hundreds of thousands of unpaid activists who made it happen. TWS was one of the key co-ordinating groups in that campaign; it was vigorously opposed by the Coalition

Was that a mistake? Fancy trying to reverse that, Warren Entsch?

The Coalition was not always the knee-jerk enemy of the conservation movement. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park was declared by the Fraser Government in the 1970s; it also banned whaling in Australian waters. When are we going to get back to a competition between the two major parties for environmental sanity - instead of a race to the bottom?

There are obviously problems in Cape York that need new arrangements, better consultation and more appropriate support, but misleading rhetoric and systematic distortion of the facts won't achieve anything positive.

Leuco Gaster said...

Mike, I suspect that many ordinary members of the Wilderness Society would object to your description of it as "the powerful Labor lobby group."

Already a member of Labor, I recently joined TWS with the idea that I might be able to join a discussion amongst members on Cape York policy issues, as I found TWS policies on Cape York simplistic and counterproductive, although I share their conservation objectives broadly.

I found a rather opaque organization that is very difficult to engage with, at least if you have something to say (keeping "Think globally, act locally" in mind).

There was no readily apparent local forum for members, but they were very good at fund-raising promotions and delivering wisdom from on high.

If my assessment is correct, Alec Marr would have to bear some responsibility for this.

Maybe the revolt that was then brewing was due to these sorts of concerns by other ordinary members, but I don't know, as the new leadership has not yet launched any sort of consultation with members to resolve this issue.

I'm a patient person and maybe they just need a bit more time, but if TWS doesn't engage its membership and develop bottom-up policy development processes, it will continue to decline.

:Kevin-John: Morgan. said...

Hey there Syd, I would like to challenge you on your last question.
"When are we going to get back to a competition between the two major parties for environmental sanity?"
Give me a break!
We've already had 200 years of environmental INsanity in this country, with neither side of Parliament agreeing, and nothing being achieved, and all because of the outdated, idiotic, two-party electoral system. (ever read any Hansard?)
How many environmental nightmares are we to put up with before we have NO environment left?
Our political system here is merely a joke in passing to many overseas visitors, I know, I meet hundreds of them every year.
How do you propose to get any sanity out of a government with a two-sided outlook, when most of us have already worked out the fact that there is THREE sides to EVERY story?
There is no "Competition" in a three-sided proposal, there's only eventual Teamwork and Togetherness followed by Triumph.
Competition is for Sport and/or Commerce.

Syd Walker said...

I don't disgaree there are more than two sides to a story Kevin. But why only three?

Anyhow, I've have had enough of the duopoly of mainstream political parties. That's why I support the Greens and quality independents.

AVON REP said...

TWS member at the senate inquiry that was on wild rivers .
Should by a can of deodarant or roll in some road kill it would have made him smell better.

sydist said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Sydist said...

Syd you loopy the greens are an arm of labor. Proven beyond doubt even at the very recent election.
And name just one quality independent as you call them .
Just send me some of that shit you are growing up there.

Syd Walker said...

"name just one quality independent as you call them"

Here's two for starters: John Hatton and Ted Mack

As for "the greens are an arm of labor", believe what you like, troll.

Julia Gillard isn't so silly as to make that mistake. Even the idiotic Stephen Conroy seems to grasp the difference.

Leuco Gaster said...

I have to agree with Syd's first comment - if it hadn't been for the courage and persistence of the early conservation movement, which included political conservatives and anarchist hippies and every kind in between, we wouldn't have our World Heritage rainforests today - they would have been woodchipped.

It is only a cynical ploy by the Coalition, to constantly portray the Greens and TWS as cat's paws for Labor - they are both robustly independent organizations.

I'm looking forward to participating in the resurgence of The Wilderness Society under fresh leadership.

Wisms said...

That would be like saying the Nationals are an arm of the loopy Liberal party as is the Murdoch media empire that tried to influence the outcome of the federal election with its right wing bias?
Surely Katter would be a level headed intelligent balanced independent that would fit your 'quality independent' requirements.

Man,I'd like some of the pills you must have to live in your fantasyland.

The love that does not speak its name said...

I think there is a bit of man love going on between MM and BL. Know what I mean.......

Alison said...

So true tltdnsins

I rather think that MM is the bitch and BL the dominatrix in their rather cute little relationship.

kate said...

And where does Margaret Pestorious fit into this intriguing scenario?

:Kevin-John: Morgan. said...

Syd, there is ALWAYS 3 sides to every story, just as there are 3 sides to a coin.
Every argument has 3 sides.
Your opinion, the other opinion, or your group's opinion and the opposing group's opinion, then comes that horrible third option, which is never an opinion and is known as the Truth or the Fact.
Facts can only be backed up by the witnessing of Forensic Evidence, something which is sadly lacking in blogs everywhere, including the CairnsBlog.
I once witnessed a two-up game where a man placed a bet that one or both coins would land on edge.
Seventeen throws later, one coin landed on its edge, and he cleaned up. I do believe it is now not a legal call. Funny about that!
It was also a common and very popular experiment in the 50's by maths and science teachers, to settle school fights and arguments, try it.