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The truth about Jonathan Moylan

  • 30 July 2014

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