The truth about Jonathan Moylan

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'Big Coal: Australia's Dirtiest Habit' by Guy Pearse et al.For all those who would be critical of protesters like Jonathan Moylan, let's zoom out to the big picture. 'Jono', as he is called by his friends, was given a suspended sentence last Friday 25 July. The previous day, Professor Sinclair Davidson took him and other environmentalists to task in The Conversation with 'Environmentalists have a right to protest — but not at all costs'. Davidson also had a go at the campaign to divest from fossil fuels.

In January last year Moylan circulated a media release purportedly from the ANZ bank that announced ANZ's withdrawal of a $1.26 billion loan facility to Whitehaven Coal for its Maules Creek coal project. While this was an act of fraud on Moylan's part, he was not unduly penalised because the judge understood that the hoax press release was not about personal gain, but a desire to protect the planet from Whitehaven's new mine.

When it comes to deception, let's compare the beam in the eye of the fossil fuel lobby with the splinter in Moylan's. Even apart from the findings of the Independent Commission Against Corruption, it is well-known that companies regularly agree to environmental protection conditions to win licensing approvals, then fail to fulfil their commitments.

It appears that Whitehaven Coal provided inaccurate information to the NSW State Government regarding the like-for-like forest offsets that were necessary for the project to be approved. Independent ecologists have found that 'the majority of the offsets are not, in fact, box-gum woodland at all ... even the areas that are box-gum woodland are so degraded as to be very unlikely to ever reach a high quality status again.' Yet forest clearing continues and no penalty is imposed.

Likewise, even though the company committed to respecting the cultural rights of the Gomeroi traditional custodians of the area, to date, seven of their 11 sacred sites have been bulldozed. To add insult to injury, the Gomeroi are locked out of the forest even for funeral ceremonies.

Back to fossil fuel companies more generally and there are modus operandi which are quite legal but nonetheless ethically highly questionable. These have been detailed by former political insider, Guy Pearse, and his colleagues in their 2013 book Big Coal: Australia's Dirtiest Habit. For decades, the fossil fuel industry has quietly poured vast sums into supposedly 'independent' climate denial think tanks such as the Institute of Public Affairs in Australia, the Global Warming Policy Foundation (UK) and the Heartland Institute (USA).

Large numbers of influential political lobbyists here and overseas are employed to ensure legislation is passed which limits support for renewables and maximises profits for fossil fuel companies. Attempts at regulation are met with public campaigns against either the regulation or the politicians pushing for it. We saw this with the unheralded campaign against the mining tax at the last election. When Davidson is critical of environmentalists for 'failing to convince voters', this is what we are up against.

In Australia, the public has been led to believe the mining sector creates jobs. The truth is, oil, gas and coal combined employ less than 1 per cent of the workforce. There would be many more jobs in tourism, renewable energy, energy efficiency, public transport and manufacturing if mining wasn't so politically privileged.

Regarding divestment campaigning, if anything, we need to protect those means by which ordinary people can organise to resist the distorting influence of the fossil fuel industry on our economies and political systems.

Let's now re-examine the actions of environmentalists. I speak as an insider, but happily not a stereotypical one. I am a grandmother of six, a practising Catholic and for some years was our local Catholic youth group mum. I was drawn to actions at the Leard Forest because other ways of protecting the future for my grandchildren were proving fruitless.

Any perception that environmentalists are 'coercive', feel they have 'an unlimited license to protest' or, worse, are 'violent', as alleged by the CEO of the NSW Minerals Council, are simply false. These claims do not mesh with my direct experience of the protestors at the Leard Forest or of environmentalists generally.

Having stayed with the protesters and seen them in action, I have been impressed with their disciplined dedication to an ethic of peaceful non-violence. They are locking onto equipment, blockading or perching high in tress, but the risk is only to themselves, not to others. It is not 'violence' to take these kinds of actions even if they frustrate the mine workers and annoy the police.

All plans for action are measured against principles of respect for all persons, including the police and workers. Any new people to the camp are drilled that vandalising property is unacceptable. Sexist or racist jokes are not tolerated. Drugs and drunkenness are out. Everyone must help with the work in the camp or on the farm.

If citizens of democracies are no longer allowed to organise either civil disobedience or divestment campaigns, as suggested by Davidson, God help us. The ballot box on its own does not create a robust democracy, and it certainly hasn't proven able to rein in the power of the fossil fuel lobby. How much weaker would our democracies be without a range of means by which to champion the common good?


Thea OrmerodThea Ormerod is President of Australian Religious Response to Climate Change.

Topic tags: Thea Ormerod, Whitehaven, coal

 

 

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Well said Thea! It's great to read some well reasoned truths as opposed to lies, half truths and propaganda.....if only there was more of it, particularly in the mainstream media!
Ken Brown | 29 July 2014


But they must be dangerous. That's why protest is about to be criminalised in Tasmania - to protect the.... Forest and mining industries, so weak and powerless.
Deb foskey | 30 July 2014


Thanks Thea for this timely piece! It's worth noting that Professor Davidson is a senior fellow of the IPA, whose major funders over many years have included fossil fuel companies and big tobacco. His piece in The Conversation is also in breach of their guidelines since he is writing outside his area of recognised expertise.
Name | 30 July 2014


Thank you, Thea, and keep up your good work.
Barbara Harland | 30 July 2014


Thea, thanks for presenting this environmentalist perspective. We have responsibility to protect the environments on which we depend for what we need to live. Maybe it helps being a grandparent or elder citizen to appreciate the choice we need to make between living a one dimensional life of seeking profit and advantage, and living in a generative way that protects life not only for one's own lifetime, but the life of future generations. Thanks, too to Jonathan Moylan who is one of many who have made this choice early in life.
Alex Nelson | 30 July 2014


I agree protest like hell about Abbott and the "COAL"...ition.,and the Climate Change deniers..But it just may be sinful to cost them millions....just maybe?.
John Costigan | 30 July 2014


The direct employment numbers are irrelevant with the vast majority of work mechanised (to stay competitive) and contracted. In 2013, 860 Australian Mining Equipment, Technology and Services (METS) companies were surveyed by Austmine. They employed 386,000 Australians and generated $90 billion in revenue. Some 84% of the companies surveyed are Australian owned and they exported goods and services worth $27 billion that year. Clearly, the oil, gas and coal industries extend well beyond 'less than one percent' of the Australian workforce. In Queensland in 2012-13, the gas industry spent $11.8 billion and the coal industry $24.6 billion on wages, goods and services and local communities. I am still to see a plan that helps a state like Queensland - where 20% of jobs are tied to minerals and energy exports - transition seamlessly to a Utopian existence.
Gary Doggett | 30 July 2014


Thank you Thea for a first hand account. Two of the young men involved in the protests are members of my church,and I also admire their non-violent but persistent approach.
Susan Emeleus | 30 July 2014


Gary Doggett, on those figures, the METS companies still only employ 3.5 per cent of the workforce. Renewables and energy efficiency have much greater potential for employment creation than does coal mining. For example, in Victoria renewables employ three times as many workers in Victoria as does coal mining. Also, if it is "Utopian" to want to see a world which is not too degraded from the world we inherited, when we are capable of making this possible, then call my hopes "Utopian".
Thea Ormerod | 30 July 2014


Thea, you know I am on your environmental side. I have spent decades teaching youth about these issues and involved in ACF on ground with so many similar supporters. So I wonder who you are referring to when you say you are not typical? I also have to in conscience question the wisdom ofcivil disobedience in general and in the light of our current political regime. It begs the question of course. But Jonathon's actions have only served to polarise not galvanise the general community. Call me old fashioned but working within albeit aggressively and not without the law will in the end reap the longer returns, I believe. Solidarity for fhe Cause if not for the Means.
Jennifer Herrick | 30 July 2014


Thank you, Thea, for this great article. It's good that someone of your caliber unveils some of the deception and corruption that has allowed Whitehaven Coal to get its approval. As the laws have been set up in NSW, there is no other avenue to protest but civil disobedience. Although Jonathan's action had unexpected and unintended repercussions, it has galvanised hundreds of people to go up to the Leard State Forest and stand up for the farmers, the forest, the Gomeroi people, the many endangered species and the beauty of this part of our country. As his mother, I am extremely proud of Jonathan. It is a blessing that the judge had the wisdom to see and understand what Jonathan's motivations were. Thanks again, Thea. x
Marion Gevers | 31 July 2014


People protest for various reasons unfortunately self interest seems to be their main reason. I don't agree with most of Thea's article and I certainly do not support the actions of Jonathon Moylan.
Brian Goodall | 31 July 2014


Brian, You have made a very good point about environmentalists being motivated by self interest. They care about their future, their kids' future, their gandchildren's future. They never care about the banks, or the billionaires who are trying to make an extra few bob cutting down trees and digging up the country.
Simon Crase | 31 July 2014


Bravo! Civil disobedience has a long and successful history of providing justice to the poor, disenfranchised and the otherwise powerless, when our governments and their wealthy overlords refuse to consider basic human rights. Unlike Martin Luther King and Ghandi who believed in non-violent protest, the anti-human rights lobbyists use police, army and mercenaries to enforce their short -sighted pursuit of self-interest and greater wealth. A healthy environment,a respect for sacred sites, education and many more employment opportunities in Australia must be championed. Our moral obligations and future depend on it.
Annabel | 31 July 2014


"coal combined employ less than 1 per cent of the workforce" To pay for coal, customers need dollars which they acquire by exporting to Aust most of our needs and wants, CAUSING unemployment. .Proceeds go to very few pockets. . English (US) · Privacy · Terms · Cookies · Advertising · More Facebook © 2014 News Feed We Stand With Jonathan Moylan 15 hrs · . This is really quite a remarkable article from Paddy Manning at Crikey. Unfortunately behind a paywall but someone kindly shared the text with us: *** A Pyrrhic victory for miners as Moylan gets suspended sentence Non-violent protest against coal is not going away, and the miners cannot win, no matter how much money they spend pushing doubt and reaction or how many newspapers are on their side. In fact, every victory they notch up -- defeating the mining and carbon taxes, securing vast new coal mine approvals -- only ups the ante and ensures a stronger retaliation down the track. What else do they imagine? People will give up? Let our safe climate, on which all life depends, get wrecked, just so we can put off a switch to renewables a while longer? Save a few pennies sticking to a dirty old form of electricity generation while shelling out billions on climate damage? People won't give up. The stakes are too high, and they're rising, and if the coal industry can't see Jonathan Moylan's hoax for what it is -- a sign of things to come -- that is their problem entirely. Market integrity is fundamental, no question. Jonathan Moylan was guilty of market manipulation at the beginning of last year when, while sitting in a protest camp in the Leard State Forest -- which will be largely destroyed by the Maules Creek mine -- Moylan sent out a fake ANZ press release from his laptop, in which the bank purportedly withdrew a $1.2 billion loan to Whitehaven Coal. The release was picked up by media and caused Whitehaven shares to plummet. For 20 minutes or so Moylan wiped a few hundred million dollars off the market capitalisation of Whitehaven Coal, but after a trading halt and clarification the stock rebounded, and the maximum possible losses suffered that day were under half a million dollars. As it turned out, anyone who got out at the intra-day low of $3.21 -- off 8% -- avoided a subsequent halving of Whitehaven's share price. Moylan deserved the sentence he got -- a suspended sentence, with a two-year good behaviour bond and a $1000 surety. Do the crime, do the time: former Greens leader Bob Brown was jailed and, as he pointed out in this passionate piece, so have the leaders of many civil disobedience movements in history. As judge Lord Leonard Hoffmann ruled in a UK case when sentencing anti-Iraq war protesters: "They vouch the sincerity of their beliefs by accepting the penalties imposed by the law." Judge David Davies didn't comment in the Moylan case, but for mine the financial consequences of Moylan's hoax were trivial compared with Richard Macphillamy's "rumourtrage" against Macquarie Bank -- surreptitiously spreading false rumours of a run on the bank's cash management trust after the failure of Lehman Brothers -- which helped send Macquarie shares as low as $15 and could have sunk the bank given the panic in the market at the height of the GFC. Macphillamy was given an 18-month ban after the Australian Securities and Investments Commission decided Macphillamy's actions were "rash, ill-judged and wholly inappropriate". Moylan faced a maximum of 10 years' jail because sentences were toughened up in 2010 in the wake of ASIC's Project Mint investigations into rumourtrage. The chorus from the big end of town to throw the book at Moylanwas out of whack with our corporate regulator's slack record of enforcement on white-collar crime generally -- contrast for example the maximum sentence available against Moylan with the ASIC's failure to appeal a light $50,000 sentence for insider trader former Gunns chairman John Gay as my colleague Bernard Keane pointed out. Davies accepted Moylan was genuinely contrite and that his hoax had more impact than he intended, particularly on Whitehaven shareholders; Moylan was mainly targeting ANZ for financing the project. Most importantly, perhaps, the judge said Moylan's action was not motivated by a desire for personal gain -- unlike other examples of white-collar crime, the provisions in the act were designed to prevent. The Moylan camp believe ASIC wanted to go as hard as possible, but the Director of Public Prosecutions recognised this was a different type of offence -- both from the kind of white-collar offences the act sought to prevent, and from anything Moylan had done before. So, ultimately, did Davies. To the credit of all sides, the Leard camp has stayed non-violent and, despite dozens of arrests since, it will stay non-violent. Outside the NSW Supreme Court on Friday was a crowd of young people cheering for Moylan. The "Stand with Jono" Twitter handle has 811 followers. My bet is plenty of them are inspired by what Moylan did and they would be prepared to do exactly the same thing. Moylan himself predicted more protest in the Newcastle Herald on Saturday. The coal industry likes to pretend it is beset by powerful NGOs and rich foundations, and the Abbott government is right now setting about silencing them. A furore broke out a few years back when a draft strategy to frustrate new coal projects somehow leaked to The Australian Financial Review. That strategy did not contemplate market manipulation, and no established green group could last a second if it was caught spreading false information. Lying as a means to an end would be a very short-term strategy indeed. Moylan's prank involved lying, and any journalist listening to the verbatim transcripts available to the court and read out in Davies' judgment would have blanched … how easy would it have been to be fooled while under the pump. But the coal industry spreads mountains of misinformation every day. Put aside funding for climate sceptics and industry stooges in politics. Or astro-turfing campaigns like ?#?australiansforcoal?, replete with "suggested tweets", which backfired within minutes. Or Peabody's laughable campaign pretending that "advanced" coal using clean technology "available now" (but, strangely, not yet installed anywhere) is the solution to energy poverty in the developing world -- as though Peabody cares for the poor. The biggest lie (it's not market manipulation, but it does artificially prop up share prices, so what is it?) is that life as we know it will continue if we burn all the fossil fuel reserves held by our big mining companies. It can't. Last year the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change backed work by Carbon Tracker that showed three-quarters of those reserves cannot be burned if we want a better-than-even chance of limiting warming to two degrees. This carbon bubble is going to burst -- perhaps it has started already -- and the market write-downs must follow. There are particular implications for Australia. Carbon Tracker estimated our coal reserves are "already more than double their market share of the precautionary global carbon budget for coal" -- that is, we're counting on burning twice as much coal as we should. The coal industry knows how powerful the divestment campaign is and supporters like Sinclair Davidson, of RMIT and the Institute of Public Affairs, say environment groups mounting the argument should be prosecuted for secondary boycott provisions and/or exactly the same law that Moylan himself broke. For an attack on freedom of speech, it is pretty hard to beat. And if the law is unjust, they will be lining up to break it. Moylan’s prank worked, and to paraphrase Bill Kelty, the battle over Maules Creek is merely a prelude: the federal and state governments' determined push to develop the vast, uneconomic thermal coal resources of the Galilee Basin -- kicked along today by Environment Minister Greg Hunt’s breathtaking approval of Adani’s Carmichael coal mine, which could become Australia’s biggest -- will be the “full symphony”. *** If you'd like to thank Paddy Manning for some consistent and accurate journalism about this issue (he was one of the first to debunk the much bandied about $300 million figure), with a perspective on climate based in reality, his twitter handle is: @gpaddymanning ?#?standwithjono? A Pyrrhic victory for miners as Moylan gets suspended sentence – Jonathan Moylan deserved the sentence he got -- do the crime, do the time. But... crikey.com.au . LikeLike · · Share. Top Comments 89 people like this... 25 shares. Vanechop Henriette Create Ad Sponsored. 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Unfortunately behind a paywall but someone kindly shared the text with us: *** A Pyrrhic victory for miners as Moylan gets suspended sentence Non-violent protest against coal is not going away, and the miners cannot win, no matter how much money they spend pushing doubt and reaction or how many newspapers are on their side. In fact, every victory they notch up -- defeating the mining and carbon taxes, securing vast new coal mine approvals -- only ups the ante and ensures a stronger retaliation down the track. What else do they imagine? People will give up? Let our safe climate, on which all life depends, get wrecked, just so we can put off a switch to renewables a while longer? Save a few pennies sticking to a dirty old form of electricity generation while shelling out billions on climate damage? People won't give up. The stakes are too high, and they're rising, and if the coal industry can't see Jonathan Moylan's hoax for what it is -- a sign of things to come -- that is their problem entirely. Market integrity is fundamental, no question. Jonathan Moylan was guilty of market manipulation at the beginning of last year when, while sitting in a protest camp in the Leard State Forest -- which will be largely destroyed by the Maules Creek mine -- Moylan sent out a fake ANZ press release from his laptop, in which the bank purportedly withdrew a $1.2 billion loan to Whitehaven Coal. The release was picked up by media and caused Whitehaven shares to plummet. For 20 minutes or so Moylan wiped a few hundred million dollars off the market capitalisation of Whitehaven Coal, but after a trading halt and clarification the stock rebounded, and the maximum possible losses suffered that day were under half a million dollars. As it turned out, anyone who got out at the intra-day low of $3.21 -- off 8% -- avoided a subsequent halving of Whitehaven's share price. Moylan deserved the sentence he got -- a suspended sentence, with a two-year good behaviour bond and a $1000 surety. Do the crime, do the time: former Greens leader Bob Brown was jailed and, as he pointed out in this passionate piece, so have the leaders of many civil disobedience movements in history. As judge Lord Leonard Hoffmann ruled in a UK case when sentencing anti-Iraq war protesters: "They vouch the sincerity of their beliefs by accepting the penalties imposed by the law." Judge David Davies didn't comment in the Moylan case, but for mine the financial consequences of Moylan's hoax were trivial compared with Richard Macphillamy's "rumourtrage" against Macquarie Bank -- surreptitiously spreading false rumours of a run on the bank's cash management trust after the failure of Lehman Brothers -- which helped send Macquarie shares as low as $15 and could have sunk the bank given the panic in the market at the height of the GFC. Macphillamy was given an 18-month ban after the Australian Securities and Investments Commission decided Macphillamy's actions were "rash, ill-judged and wholly inappropriate". Moylan faced a maximum of 10 years' jail because sentences were toughened up in 2010 in the wake of ASIC's Project Mint investigations into rumourtrage. The chorus from the big end of town to throw the book at Moylanwas out of whack with our corporate regulator's slack record of enforcement on white-collar crime generally -- contrast for example the maximum sentence available against Moylan with the ASIC's failure to appeal a light $50,000 sentence for insider trader former Gunns chairman John Gay as my colleague Bernard Keane pointed out. Davies accepted Moylan was genuinely contrite and that his hoax had more impact than he intended, particularly on Whitehaven shareholders; Moylan was mainly targeting ANZ for financing the project. Most importantly, perhaps, the judge said Moylan's action was not motivated by a desire for personal gain -- unlike other examples of white-collar crime, the provisions in the act were designed to prevent. The Moylan camp believe ASIC wanted to go as hard as possible, but the Director of Public Prosecutions recognised this was a different type of offence -- both from the kind of white-collar offences the act sought to prevent, and from anything Moylan had done before. So, ultimately, did Davies. To the credit of all sides, the Leard camp has stayed non-violent and, despite dozens of arrests since, it will stay non-violent. Outside the NSW Supreme Court on Friday was a crowd of young people cheering for Moylan. The "Stand with Jono" Twitter handle has 811 followers. My bet is plenty of them are inspired by what Moylan did and they would be prepared to do exactly the same thing. Moylan himself predicted more protest in the Newcastle Herald on Saturday. The coal industry likes to pretend it is beset by powerful NGOs and rich foundations, and the Abbott government is right now setting about silencing them. A furore broke out a few years back when a draft strategy to frustrate new coal projects somehow leaked to The Australian Financial Review. That strategy did not contemplate market manipulation, and no established green group could last a second if it was caught spreading false information. Lying as a means to an end would be a very short-term strategy indeed. Moylan's prank involved lying, and any journalist listening to the verbatim transcripts available to the court and read out in Davies' judgment would have blanched … how easy would it have been to be fooled while under the pump. But the coal industry spreads mountains of misinformation every day. Put aside funding for climate sceptics and industry stooges in politics. Or astro-turfing campaigns like ?#?australiansforcoal?, replete with "suggested tweets", which backfired within minutes. Or Peabody's laughable campaign pretending that "advanced" coal using clean technology "available now" (but, strangely, not yet installed anywhere) is the solution to energy poverty in the developing world -- as though Peabody cares for the poor. The biggest lie (it's not market manipulation, but it does artificially prop up share prices, so what is it?) is that life as we know it will continue if we burn all the fossil fuel reserves held by our big mining companies. It can't. Last year the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change backed work by Carbon Tracker that showed three-quarters of those reserves cannot be burned if we want a better-than-even chance of limiting warming to two degrees. This carbon bubble is going to burst -- perhaps it has started already -- and the market write-downs must follow. There are particular implications for Australia. Carbon Tracker estimated our coal reserves are "already more than double their market share of the precautionary global carbon budget for coal" -- that is, we're counting on burning twice as much coal as we should. The coal industry knows how powerful the divestment campaign is and supporters like Sinclair Davidson, of RMIT and the Institute of Public Affairs, say environment groups mounting the argument should be prosecuted for secondary boycott provisions and/or exactly the same law that Moylan himself broke. For an attack on freedom of speech, it is pretty hard to beat. And if the law is unjust, they will be lining up to break it. Moylan’s prank worked, and to paraphrase Bill Kelty, the battle over Maules Creek is merely a prelude: the federal and state governments' determined push to develop the vast, uneconomic thermal coal resources of the Galilee Basin -- kicked along today by Environment Minister Greg Hunt’s breathtaking approval of Adani’s Carmichael coal mine, which could become Australia’s biggest -- will be the “full symphony”. *** If you'd like to thank Paddy Manning for some consistent and accurate journalism about this issue (he was one of the first to debunk the much bandied about $300 million figure), with a perspective on climate based in reality, his twitter handle is: @gpaddymanning ?#?standwithjono? A Pyrrhic victory for miners as Moylan gets suspended sentence – Jonathan Moylan deserved the sentence he got -- do the crime, do the time. But... crikey.com.au . LikeLike · · Share. Top Comments 89 people like this... 25 shares. Vanechop Henriette Write a comment...
Henriette | 31 July 2014


Thank you Thea, so well expressed and another precious brush stroke in revealing the truth about the perverse and secret truths of Australia's fossil fuel industry. So grateful to all at Maules Creek, Thank you, Jenny
Jenny Curtis | 31 July 2014


Brian said: "People protest for various reasons unfortunately self interest seems to be their main reason" I've met hundreds of people involved in protests and I'm yet to meet one whose primary reason was self-interest. Protest can sometimes be quite costly. The vast majority of people do it for the sake of others, of justice and of seeking a better world.
Byron Smith | 31 July 2014


It is hard to see renewable energy ever taking over as people turn into NIMBYs when wind farm locations get mentioned, let alone a solar array big enough to power more than a small town. And perhaps if the forests hadn't been cleared by farmers, there would be more to offset the mines.
Heather | 01 August 2014


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