Miners’ case against #leardblockade: Anyone like to respond?

Opinion: Time to get tough on extremists ignoring the law

22nd January 2014

Originally published in The Daily Telegraph.

By NSW Minerals Council CEO, Stephen Galilee

This Australia Day weekend, most of us will gather with friends and family to celebrate our nation. In stark contrast, a small group of extreme activists will be gathering in a state forest this weekend for training on how to flout the laws the rest of us are bound by, putting themselves and others at risk of injury or worse.

The call has gone out for artists, musicians, face-painters and hula-hoopers (yes seriously) and others to gather in the Leard State Forest for a weekend of activist training and then a day of action to stop the construction and operation of local mines nearby.

This is the latest in a campaign of civil disobedience being waged by a small group of the usual suspects against the legally approved activities of legitimate businesses trying to run their operations, create local jobs, and support the local economy. This time mining is the target, but agriculture and forestry have also suffered from this type of action, and other industries could be next.

The anti-mining campaigners claim to want to save the Leard State forest, which they want the wider community to believe is a ‘pristine wilderness’. This is the same patch of timber assessed in detail by the Federal and State Governments and under an Act of Parliament in 2005, zoned for forestry and mining – the lowest of all zonings.

Those organising the campaign are not concerned community locals, but professional activists who drift from protest to protest, breaking laws and actively putting themselves and others in harms way.

(Paragraph deleted for legal reasons.)

(Paragraph deleted for legal reasons.)

Benny Zable is the most renowned serial activist to have turned up in the Leard State Forest. Based in Nimbin in the 1970’s Benny has been flitting like a locust from protest to protest for decades. Zable has been arrested many times in his elaborate anti-capitalism costumes, on one occasion for crashing an Australia Day barbecue in 2010, because the participants were ‘cooking meat’.

These are repeat offenders who seem to delight in breaking the law to push their own agenda, regardless of whoever else is affected by their actions.

They have made it clear they do not consider themselves bound by the laws that apply to the rest of us – ‘We will not be moved on…’ Georgina Woods told the media from the protest site.

So far the campaign in the Leard State Forest has involved trespassing, roadblocks and individuals chaining themselves to structures and equipment.

The campaign organisers claim to be running a non-violent campaign. However such assurances don’t guarantee that no-one will get hurt or worse. Construction sites and mining operations involve heavy machinery and equipment. They are not places to experiment with face painting and interpretive dance as acts of protest, let alone chaining people to vehicles and machinery.

While these hard-core activists and extremists have been joined by a small number of local people, the reality is that most locals want them gone. John Shaw, President of the local business collective, recently commented that ‘…these protesters don’t represent us. It’s time to tell the protesters to go home to wherever they came from.’

Before someone gets seriously hurt at this circus, the NSW Government should get tough on those who seek to commit acts of economic sabotage that threaten jobs and put lives at risk.

A strong message needs to be sent through a package of measures to ensure the law of the land applies to everyone. Opting out of the law to protest is not an option, especially when it jeopardises the safety of not only the protestors, but the employees and emergency service personnel who have to deal with the situation.

Laws must be put in place that make those who choose to indulge in illegal activity legally responsible for the consequences of their actions, including any economic and physical harm caused.

Penalties should be increased to deter activists from putting at risk the personal safety of themselves and others, including the emergency service personnel who have to remove them. This should include heavy fines and gaol time.

Importantly, taxpayers should not be the ones footing the bill for the cost of activists legal representation through Legal Aid and other funding sources currently available. If you choose to break the law you pay for it yourself, don’t expect the rest of us to cover for you.

In a democratic society, everyone has a right to have their say and to protest when they feel strongly about something. However, it has to be done within the same rules that govern each and every citizen.

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  1. Steven Galilee is the CEO of the NSW Minerals Council. He’s NOT a journalist and stands to make money from destroying communities around the country.

  2. “…rest of us are bound by, putting themselves and others at risk of injury or worse.”

    If the mining people really cared about the welfare of people,they wouldn’t be mining.

  3. John Turner says

    There’s something uniquely admirable about seeing people standing up and taking action for a worthy and justifiable cause. Historically people have taken it upon themselves to act either individually or in groups to demand change for an issue which goes against general opinion.
    It’s not difficult to see why people are reacting to these mining ventures. Conscientiously derived action made in an attempt to save this old forest, with it’s unique flora and fauna, might for some be sufficient reason to act.
    Open cut mining creates jobs and money, that’s true, but they are big ugly holes, where lots of environmentally unfriendly activities occur. I know first hand what it’s like, living just a kilometre or so from the Morwell open cut brown coal mine in Gippsland, Victoria.
    Apart from around the clock noise, dust is always a problem. If you get prevailing winds that often blow from the same direction, then you don’t want to be down wind from the mine. Coal dust gets where ever it isn’t wanted. It isn’t just the inconvenience of all that extra dust that settles on the furniture, it’s also the quality of the air that you and others breathe. Yes expect a lower quality of life and shorter life expectancy. Coal dust is flammable and open cut mines require a lot of water to be sprayed over exposed coal beds. This is necessary as spontaneous combustion is ever likely, particularly in warm weather. So where will the water be derived? The nearby river is one option, or the local regional water source, another, if it differs. As mines get larger, more water, which is ever necessary, will be required. Coal mines often also need to have bore water pumps to remove sub surface water. this water can contain a variety of minerals, but may also be saline. Where do they dispose of this corrosive saline fluid? In the nearby river? Even with a level of treatment, do you know how safe it will be for continual dispersion in to the local environment. Will there be wet land areas to assist with natural filtration processes? Many questions need to be asked. Even the most thoroughly planned operations can come unstuck.
    We’ve all read about environmental catastrophes associated with mining activities, and they do happen. The Latrobe Valley Express has produced many printed articles on the significant incidents which have occurred, of particular note, multiple events which occurred in the Yallourn open cut mine, in recent years. Blamed on ” unusually high rainfall events”, massive flooding has resulted in the Morwell river now being diverted through large pipes, to carry it’s water to the Latrobe River. The best laid plans had failed, and it took Mother Nature to prove it, which she did.
    I know how life will change if these new mines go ahead, and someone some where will be making a lot of money from it. Australia currently doesn’t have an effective Mining Resources Rent Tax, or Sovereign Wealth Tax, as the clever countries like Norway do. At the end of the day it’s Dirty Unfriendly Environmentally Destructive Coal- Best left in the ground.

  4. Well, they would say that, wouldn’t they?

    I don’t see the point of republishing mining industry propaganda here, a link to it in an article would have been more than enough. We know the mining industry has more than enough to buy the best law money can buy, nothing new here, it’s been that way for at least the last century .. I hope SBS shows their excellent series on mining again, while they can.

    This blatant call for ‘their’ government to remove ‘impediments’ to such massive destruction for massive profit – like protesters, indigenous custodians, then pesky threatened species and ecosystems – is unremarkable, and the language of derision of anyone trying to protect anything fine and worthy beyond the raw greed they appeal to in their ‘taxpayer’ is just what the Murdoch press thrives on. Smarter American liberals are boycotting Fox News; we could learn a thing or two.

    Barry O’Farrell was quoted in the SMH the other day as saying “These are a two-off situation. Two mining leases, a legacy from a former government and their corrupt practices. Nothing that ICAC has unveiled since suggests that it’s a widespread practice.” Yeah, righto Baz, glad to see that age-old corruption is all over and done with now, no ‘special laws’ required.

    Totally in awe of the determination and bravery of all our brave guardians out there in the face of this insane machine,


  5. When the messenger is attacked we suspect the message can’t be.

    As for the rule of law. Well, some industries get special treatment from government; perhaps we could have a royal commission into how this occurs – the companies would naturally support the examination that the rule of law permits I’m sure.

    The companies claim to be running safe workplaces. But this doesn’t mean that people won’t be hurt – so shut them down.

    “the NSW Government should get tough on those who seek to commit acts of economic sabotage that threaten jobs and put lives at risk.” Why do I think this isn’t intended to include bankers offering dodgy loans that bankrupt economies, corporates paying tax in low tax countries overseas and such? Is the company opposing the ATO’s efforts to only get money from tax dodgers rather than putting them in gaol? We look forward to the media release about how laws should be applied equally to all thieves – that the wealthy should be put in gaol just as much as those who steal handbags.

    Tax payers should not be robbed by corporates sending money overseas into low tax jurisdictions.

    It seems that in the corporate view civil disobedience has no place. MLK day has just passed in the US.

  6. I really feel sorry for Stephen because attempting to ruin our future is his livelihood…tough gig, I’m gonna do my bit to make it as tough as possible.

  7. I wonder if Stephen Galilee sees the irony in his call for “a package of measures to ensure the law of the land applies to everyone” and “it has to be done within the same rules that govern each and every citizen.” So many who oppose the wanton destruction of our land and water would agree with him.
    The playing field is far from level – legislation and bureaucratic processes massively favour the resources sector and the current crop of conservative governments are dismantling hard-won environmental protections as fast as they can. Meaning the resources on which we depend – arable land, clean water, healthy functioning ecosystems – are being sacrificed as if there will be no tomorrow.
    Similarly, I have to agree with Stephen – “taxpayers should not be the ones footing the bill” – for the social and environmental impacts of mining. It’s bad enough that the lion’s share of the profits from of our resources are privatised and go offshore. When mining companies breach their conditions (ie the law) and expect us taxpayers to cover the bill, it’s beyond the pale.
    I guess he doesn’t ‘get’ irony …

  8. Kym Kilpatrick says

    I am not a professional activist but a middle aged professional who runs her own small but successful business. I do not “drift” from protest to protest but I have become incensed by the travesty of creating open-cut coal mines in such a unique and valuable eco-system.

    I traveled to the area myself to determine what all the fuss was about. I saw the forest, I saw the absolute devastation of the mine currently on the Leard State Forest boundary fence. I saw people protesting from different walks of life, not for any personal gain, they earn no income from their protesting, they act not from greed, but from a wider view of the need to care and protect our environment, both for us, and for future generations.

    Having researched it further, and noting the recent actions of Narrabri Council – I find it extremely hard to believe that there are not political under-currents to the decisions being made by our elected officials. I am also shocked and dismayed to learn that the bank that has handled my investment properties, home loan, share portfolio, and business for the last 25 years is providing the funding for Whitehaven and the Coal Port in the Great Barrier Reef. I have personally written to ANZ expressing my concerns but have yet to receive a reply. I am now canvassing switching to a bank with a real commitment to ethical development.

    I personally do not seek any publicity and have nothing to gain, except to try and prevent an enormous travesty and environmental crime. And I am committing both my time and own finances to attempt to stop the destruction. I give permission for this communication to be used in whatever way it may be useful, including media interviews.

    Dr. Kym Kilpatrick.

  9. Destroying forests, putting endangered species at risk and disregarding indigenous Heritage is not good core business and is hard to be called legitimate business. Some how i don’t think the women in The picture look like your hardcore serial activist That this CEO points the finger at. Mr Galilee point about one rule for all is a bit rich when you see the stats on approval vs objections, KING coal must be conquered and the government is not going to do it.

  10. Extreme activists? Oh and ignoring the climate science and putting our children and the lives of future generations at risk isn’t extreme? No it’s bloody insane! Immoral and unjust laws should never be obeyed.

    Your pathetic attempt to rally the Murdoch sheeple won’t do a thing to stem the rising tide of anger against the 1% of greedy bastards who don’t give a damn how much damage they do to the Earth or the people. The hula-hoopers are coming for you (yes seriously). Whitehaven Coal won’t see out the year nor should it. Workers who are exploited in a highly dangerous work environment are much better off working in the renewable energy sector.

    Legitimate business? Is the rich lining their pockets at the expense of their workers, the landholders, and the Earth legitimate?

    Legitimate by definition-
    1 conforming to the law or to rules.
    The laws are skewed to favor the 1%.

    2 able to be defended with logic or justification; valid.
    There’s certainly no logic or justification for coal mining with available renewable technologies.

    3 constituting or relating to serious drama.
    It’s definitely a serious drama.

    The greatest fear of the corporate government is solidarity between communities, workers, activists, and the media. This fear is now being realized and no amount of lies and propaganda can turn the tide, it just increases the anger against the hypocrisy of the 1%

    Activists don’t seek fame or fortune, they’re constantly persecuted and have their human rights violated by the Police. They only wish to protect communities and the environment and for that we owe them our gratitude. It’s those who rape the Earth who should face heavy fines and jail time not those who fight to protect it.

    Coal mining is an act of environmental terrorism and the filthy rich miners are the extremists. We the community will risk arrest and do whatever it takes to protect our children and our children’s children. You’re reign of terror is just about over, you and the idiots in government are just too arrogant and ignorant to realize it.

    You’re a vile man Mr Galilee and you’re going to find yourself on the wrong side of history. Your perfect world is one where all the good people are in jail just so a few rich bastards can build bunkers where their brats can shelter from a dying world.

  11. What Squig said ..

  12. The Mineral Council and mining industry in general just don’t get it – it’s not the ‘great unwashed’ who want to stop inappropriate mining and coal seam gas.

    It’s farmers, country residents, tourism operators, and wine makers who are against this relentless, unsustainable dash-for cash by a minority industry

    And people who want to eat clean food and drink clean water, and economists who recognise the unsustainable nature of digging it all up as quickly as possible for export, and journalists who realise that what they are doing is a giant con job

    It’s small business operators in country towns who see that for every mining job created in the bush, 1.7 sustainable agricultural jobs are lost – perhaps forever

    It’s the health professionals who are dealing with the collateral damage of living so close to gas wells

    It is normal people fed up with the corruption in politics

    It is scientists and professionals working in water systems, groundwater and geology who see the incredible risks are just not worth taking

    It is energy professionals who see that ‘gas as a transition’ is a con job to prop up an unsustainable industry instead of focusing their energies on appropriate climate-change friendly fossil-fuel-free energy alternatives

    It’s NOT the great unwashed who object to your insidious activities, you foolish, greedy miners!

    It is US … THE PEOPLE!

  13. NSW Mining Council mouthpiece @SjGalilee is RTing attacks on my integrity. Nothing’s changed since http://t.co/VEkWw4nIcV #leardblockade

  14. Miners’ case against #leardblockade: Anyone like to respond? – No Fibs http://t.co/DXDk8EZtDP via @NoFibs