Opinion: NSW the new front line of activist’s economic vandalism

April 14, 2014

Originally published in The Australian

NSW Minerals Council CEO, Stephen Galilee

NSW has become the new front line for professional activists bent on economic sabotage, including direct attacks on the jobs of thousands of people across the state.

The activists claim a moral ­licence they do not own and use any means necessary to push their anti-economic agenda under the guise of a pro-environment stance. Take the militant activists organising the protests against the construction of a fully approved mining project in the Leard State Forest — a tract of bushland legislated in 2007 as only suitable for logging and mining. Organisers of this campaign would have us believe they are merely a concerned group of ­locals, standing up for local interests. They are not. They aren’t members of the local CWA or business chamber. You won’t see them down at the RSL or watching their kids play soccer and netball on the weekend. You won’t see them at the school’s next weekend working bee.

These are full-time activists who move like locusts from protest to protest, stirring up as much trouble as possible. Their political objective is to block anything that resembles economic progress. Their protest is as much against authority and capitalism as it is against the mining, forestry, or gas projects they are trying to stop. Agriculture has also been targeted. What next?

They indulge in illegal activity that disregards the safety of workers on mine sites. They waste the time and resources of police and emergency services who are forced to respond to their illegal and dangerous acts. And they don’t really care about local people or local issues, except for how the locals can be divided and co-opted to achieve broader political objectives.

They claim alliance with farmers yet have no respect for any who disagree with them. Landholders who say yes to resources activity on their own land are targeted. One farmer on the NSW north coast had road spikes installed on his private access roads. He and his family, including his two young children, were blockaded in their own home, as well as being harassed by militant activists every time they drove in or out of their own property.

Many of the names are familiar. Jonathan Moylan, has been a member of Frontline Action on Coal and Rising Tide, two prominent anti-mining activist groups. Moylan is currently facing criminal charges in the Supreme Court for issuing a hoax press release claiming to come from the ANZ.

Georgina Woods is another professional activist who over the years has been a spokesman for various organisations including the Leard Forest Alliance, Rising Tide, Front Line Action on Coal, Climate Action Network Australia, and Lock the Gate. Carmel Flint is another well known serial anti-mining activist. Flint is involved in Lock the Gate, Armidale Action on Coal Seam Gas, the Northern Inland Council for the Environment, Friends of the Earth, The Sunrise Project, North East Forest Alliance and the Australian National Coal Convergence. Benny Zable is possibly Australia’s most renowned serial activist. Formerly Nimbin-based, Zable is prominent at most anti-everything rallies, bedecked in his anti-capitalism ‘‘greedozer’’ costume.

Governments cannot sit idly by and allow these reckless attacks on our economy to go unanswered. Illegal activity should not be tolerated. Yet it seems tougher laws apply to graffiti vandals than those vandalising jobs and the economy. Existing laws must be enforced, and magistrates need to do more than issue token fines and stern words. Where the laws are inadequate they should be strengthened. Other states are doing so, including in Victoria and Tasmania. NSW needs to get tough too. The safety of those who choose to trespass is currently the legal responsibility of site operators. This should be changed so activists indulging in illegal activity are responsible for their own actions.

Penalties should also be toughened to deter activists who deliberately risk the personal safety of themselves and others — heavy fines for those who break the law, and jail time for repeat offenders. Those deliberately wasting valuable police and emergency services resources should have to pay the associated costs. And there should be no taxpayer-funded assistance for the cost of legal representation. If you break the law, then you should pay for your own lawyer.

We live in a fair and democratic society. Everyone has a right to have their say, and to protest when they feel strongly about something. However, this must take place within the bounds of the laws that govern us all and not be at the expense of our economy, or the jobs and safety of others.

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