Originally published in The Advocate on June 23, 2021

The more a company invests in safely handling waste the more jobs it will create, the less damage it will do to the natural environment and the less harm it will do to the tourism, agriculture and fisheries industries that are built on the image and the reality of Tasmania’s clean environment.

Dr Richard Denniss is chief economist at the Australia Institute

While it is true that foreign owned companies have contributed much to Tasmania (‘Foreign ownership benefits all Tasmanians’, Ray Mostogl, Adv., June 15), it’s also true that local Tasmanians should have the final say on how much destruction they are willing to tolerate in exchange for those benefits.

Just as it’s hard to agree on the ‘right amount’ of noise pollution to allow from a factory or the ‘right amount’ of water pollution to allow from a salmon farm, it is hard for an entire community to agree on the right amount of damage to cause to our beautiful forests in order to mine some more zinc or copper.

But what should be easy is to agree that if minimising environmental damage leads to more construction jobs here in Tasmania then it’s a good thing.

As Mr Mostogl himself says, the more money that his company spends here in Tasmania, the more benefits there are for Tasmanians. Surely Tasmanians can agree that having more jobs and and a cleaner environment is better than having less jobs and a dirtier environment?

I can see why the foreign owners of a company would prefer to spend less money protecting someone else’s natural environment so that they can take more money out of Tasmania in the form of dividends for their shareholders. But I can’t see why any Tasmanian would be persuaded by such a logic.

Australians are often being asked to choose between more jobs and a cleaner environment by foreign owned companies that don’t really want to deliver either. The reality is if communities stick together they can get a much better deal than if they allow themselves to be divided and conquered.

Any company, be it foreign or Australian owned, that wants to be a good neighbour should happily opt for a non-contentious waste dump over one which is drawing dozens of citizens out to protest in winter because it involves demolishing their rainforest.

Common sense tells us that sometimes it’s worth spending a bit more money on a taller fence just to keep the neighbours happy, and economics tells us it will create more jobs as well.

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