Industry faces $90M activist war chest

AUSTRALIA’S CSG and coal industries face nearly 600 increasingly well-funded activists who have a war chest of more than $90 million at their disposal to fight them, Queensland Resources Council CEO Michael Roche told the Australian Pipeline Industry Association in Brisbane on Thursday.
Industry faces $90M activist war chest Industry faces $90M activist war chest Industry faces $90M activist war chest Industry faces $90M activist war chest Industry faces $90M activist war chest

Queensland Resources Council CEO Michael Roche.

Anthony Barich

Lock the Gate’s grass roots campaign against the CSG industry brought the Rockefeller Family Fund, Greenpeace, the Environmental Defenders’ Office and Leftist think tank The Australia Institute together in the Blue Mountains to devise a “Stop the Australian Export Boom” strategy in 2011. The Rockefellers contributed $70,000 to the event.

Their strategy document was leaked to the Australian Financial Review in 2012 and it became crystal clear that coal was not the only target in their sights. It’s all about fossil fuels.

Since then, the activism landscape has changed with local benefactors joining with major overseas funders of the anti-fossil fuels movement.

There are now more than 580 environmental non-government organisations in Australia and most have tax deductible donation status, Roche said.

The top dozen activist groups – 11 of which have tax deductible status – have an estimated 476 staff, and their annual revenues total almost $90 million, which are being used to go up against fossil fuels.

Last weekend there was another global fossil fuel divestment day, and while the campaign urging institutions, especially universities, withdraw investments in fossil fuel projects was not winning over major financiers yet, Roche warned the key to success of environmental activism over the past 50 years has been “incremental gain”

“As we know in Queensland, the Great Barrier Reef is being used as a stalking horse,” Roche said.

“Activists are misrepresenting the threats to the reef from shipping and ports – ignoring in the main the scientifically documented pressures from crown of thorns starfish, poor water quality, bleaching and storms – which we can expect are doing more damage right now.”

And he warned that while most media and political attention has been directed towards the Abbot Point coal terminal, the LNG industry was “just as vulnerable” to the campaign, particularly via its operations at the Port of Gladstone.

As LNG exports grow, a duplicate channel into Gladstone must be dredged to accommodate the additional shipping needs.

“With the federal government moving to ban capital dredge disposal in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and the state government wanting that ban extended to the World Heritage Area that takes in the port itself, disposal options are becoming thinner by the day,” Roche said.

“The whole aim of this campaign and others is to pressure governments into making coal and gas exports from Queensland uneconomic. Remember, for the activists it’s all about incremental gain.”