Tempting as it is to gloss a Testimonial, fabricating an endorsement is suicidal.

Professor Ted Lefroy

Director of the Centre of Environment, UTAS

NOTE Professor Lefroy has been a friend of the author for years, and his employer on two occasions. I once worked from an office in the Centre of Environment.

Not be confused with the much older, larger and controversial School of Geography and Environment (1972), the Centre of Environment (2005–18) was an outlier. Its director’s background was in agriculture, his formative career spent striding the far western wheat fields on the fringe of Western Australia’s arid heart. His interests are universal, but his expertise is landscape-wide environmental impacts: which is to say that on cable cars Lefroy has no expertise and little interest. His only published work on the topic is a personal interview conducted by a UTAS Communications and Media student Remo Hertzog published online around May 2018. I came across the site and corresponded with Ted about quoting a certain part of it. At first he demurred, pointing out that he only did the interview because he knew how difficult it was for students to get interviewees. But I persuaded him. His condition was that I included both parts of his view. I agreed. Lefroy in full.

In its now infamous Full Details brochure the MWCC also quotes Lefroy in bold on page one, but only the environmental benefit half of what he’d said in his interview. The critical half was not quoted.

The carbon footprint of the entire MWCC proposal is complex, Lefroy’s contribution was simple. Making a comparison between a small fleet of private, petrol-driven cars ascending the mountain against an electric aerial tram, Lefroy noted that the energy/carbon footprint of the cars—even per person—would be a lot higher than the aerial tramway. The greater issue is if Lefroy’s statement proves the MWCC’s conclusion that only a cable car “would achieve a true sustainable future for the mountain”?

No, Lefroy does not mean that at all.

The Tasmanian author James Boyce read the footprint quote in the Full Details booklet with a sharp eye. What struck him was the fact that the quote was unattributed. He made a quick call and discovered that the Centre of Environment didn’t exist. An unattributed quote from a non-existent Centre? Super-suss. He tweeted MWCC, challenging them.

MWCC shot back the name of the Director: Professor Ted Lefroy. He’d given the quote in April when the Centre certainly existed, so what’s your problem? they rashly tweeted. Then deleted the tweet. Simon Angillery sent Boyce a link to the cliffhanger website interview. One read and Boyce had a devastating rejoinder. He quoted Lefroy in full, highlighting what Lefroy saw as the fatal flaw in the scheme: its lack of social licence due to its defective social engagement, particularly with Tasmania’s aboriginal community. This social irresponsibility rendered the proposal unworkable. Boyce ended his tweet: “And this is your endorsement”? {if Twitter allowed italics].

It might also be observed that Professor Lefroy’s academic expertise does not lie in studying social licence or community engagement either, but I digress.

Lefroy heard of all this within hours and quickly spoke to the MWCC. He can be very persuasive. The MWCC agreed to have an apology printed in The Mercury. The Public Notices section is hardly prominent, but it is very official. Boyce photographed the Notice and tweeted it. The Mercury boosted the story a thousand-fold with its page 3 article on October 27th: FOOTPRINT LINE OVERSTEPS. The ABC covered the Lefroy apology in detail.

Professor Lefroy’s arrow hit another target. It struck down the MWCC’s second pillar: social responsibility, fatally undermining the case for a cable car.


Will Hodgeman

Premier of Tasmania