Cropwatch Newsletter 4 - Red Alert Issue
§8. Update: Freedom of Speech in Australia & ‘The Gunns 20’.
Cropwatch has always been puzzled why (with a small handful of exceptions) Australian officials in governmental organisations, universities, research and trade associations etc. are seemingly not brave enough to openly express their opinions to us. Have we totally come away with the wrong impression, or can this situation of cowed complicity be explained by a culture of submission to powerful business interests? On first appearances the latter might seem a very sweeping assumption to make, but maybe there’s more than a grain of truth in it, since lawsuits which threaten rights to participate in public debate, known as SLAPPS – Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation – are reportedly alive & well in Australia’ – according to a list of examples compiled by Sourcewatch at http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=SLAPP's_in_Australia
In a situation recalling the MacLibal trial, Gunns, the powerful Tasmanian ancient-forest clear-fellers, timber loggers, cleared forest floor napalm-ers, growers of monocultured Eucalyptus plantations & hardwoodchip exporters, served court orders on 20 environmental campaigners (including the Wilderness Society & the Huon Valley Environment Centre) alleging conspiracy to interfere with trade & business, & defamation (Topham 2006). Topham further reports that 140 Australian lawyers signed an open letter asking the government “to protect the community’s right & ability to participate in public debate & political activity without fear of litigation”. As previously reported by Cropwatch, concern at the threats to freedom of speech in Australia can also be seen via a letter to the Guardian from 40 British lawyers led by Keir Starmer QC and Richard Hermer of Doughty Street Chambers, protesting at the action by Gunns against the environmentalists, can be seen at http://www.doughtystreet.co.uk/news/news_detail.cfm?iNewsID=159.
A detailed resume of Gunns operations in Australia and its role in logging native forests and manufacturing hardwood chips is comprehensively set out at http://www.wilderness.org.au/campaigns/corporate/gunns/whatisgunn/ A picture of a majestic Eucalytus regnans tree of enormous size of the type felled by Tasmanian loggers is shown in the ‘Trees in Peril’ section of Pakenham’s impressive book (Pakenham undated) spared by loggers which originally graced Victoria & Tasmania. The Tasmanian Times website also has a relevant page at http://tasmaniantimes.com/index.php/weblog/comments/kilpatrick/ featuring Google Earth & NASA World Wind views of the woodchip mills in question, with a mail from a commentator suggesting that the Tasmanian state be renamed Gunns Ltd (!).
Previously you may recall on 20th July 2005, Judge Bongiorno of Victoria's Supreme Court had described Gunns claims (financially amounting to $6.36 million) against the environmentalists as "incomprehensible", "embarrassing" and "unintelligible" (Guardian 2005). At the time, Gunns was given 4 weeks to resubmit its claim in an acceptable form.
Guardian Issue 1237 20th July 2005: see http://www.cpa.org.au/garchve05/1237gunns.html
Mac P. (2005) “Gunning for Super Profits” Guardian 2nd May 2005 see http://www.cpa.org.au/garchve05/1213gunns.html
Pakenam T. (undated) Remarkable Trees of the World. Weidenfield
Topham G. (2006) “Rumble in the Jungle” Guardian Wed June 28th 2006 p9.
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