THE Australian Workers’ Union yesterday launched a national campaign aimed at putting some “balance into the national debate over the future of the Tarkine region”.

“The people pushing the case for National Heritage Listing of the Tarkine region have been very selective in their use of facts and information,” AWU national secretary Paul Howes said.

“This is not just an argument about pristine rainforest – it’s about a vast 450,000ha swathe of land across North-West Tasmania.”

The AWU believes moves to list the region on the National Heritage Register should not come at the expense of the region’s mining industry.

“Mining is a crucial part of the economy of North-West Tasmania – a region that already has an unemployment rate of 8.4%, well above the national rate of 5.2%.

“Destroying the mining industry will lead to further economic and social disadvantage in North-West Tasmania.”

Tasmanian Premier Lara Giddings told an AWU rally yesterday the State Government opposed a blanket National Heritage listing of the Tarkine.

“There absolutely no reason why mining cannot co-exist with other activities and values of the Tarkine as it has done for generations,” she said.

The Cradle Coast Authority, representing the nine North- West Tasmanian councils, said yesterday it too did not support “blanket policies”.

Greens member for Braddon Paul O’Halloran said Mr Howes was promoting the same type of disastrous “crash through” approach to mining development in the Tarkine as was attempted with the Tamar Valley pulp mill.

“He wants to repeat the mistakes of the pulp mill, which was a project that never had a social licence and was forced on the Tasmanian people without any consideration of its long- term economic downside.

“It’s also misleading of Mr Howes to suggest that the Greens want to put a stop to current mining in the Tarkine, which does employ a considerable number of people and delivers money into the local economy.

“The long-term future of the Tarkine will be about far more than just resource extraction, which is why the Greens want to make sure that we do not destroy the values that make it special and unique.”

Meanwhile, Australian Greens leader Christine Milne raised the spectre of Tarkine protests rivalling the Franklin River campaign, labelling Premier Lara Giddings as the new Robin Gray – the Liberal premier who attempted to flood the Franklin for a hydroelectricity scheme in the early 1980s.

“Mining the Tarkine is to Lara Giddings what damming the Franklin was to Robin Gray,” Senator Milne said.

Paul Howes would like mining allowed in the Tarkine.

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