REGIONAL VICTORIA: by Peter KellyNews Weekly
Radical activists' campaign of sabotage
, May 7, 2005
Radical environmental activists have recruited youngsters to vandalise properties, destroy bridges and endanger people's lives in regional Victoria, writes Peter Kelly.Recently, I was invited by a friend to spend a few days with him in beautiful East Gippsland in eastern Victoria. Our destination was to be the "bush", about 60km north of the timber town of Orbost, still home to many timber workers.
I had last visited the region during the last Federal Election campaign, when I stood as an Independent candidate for the seat of Gippsland. On that occasion, I had been fortunate to visit and meet with many hard-working people in the saw-mills around Nowa Nowa, Cann River and Orbost.
Unfortunately, there is also a very ugly side to East Gippsland. North of Orbost, I encountered the "goonies" - radical environmental activists who are more red than green. They appear to be funded by so-called conservation groups (and, one suspects, also by government grants and other public funding).
I have seen for myself the results of the calculated vandalism and sabotage committed by organised squads of these activists.
They target businesses connected with the timber industry and regularly trespass on their work premises and sabotage equipment. I have photographs of where, east of the small community of Cabbage Tree, they have used chain-saws to cut in half old timber bridges over Freddy's Creek and the Goolongook River.
This last type of vandalism has had dire consequences for fire-control in the region. Shortly after my visit, lightning strikes ignited some six fires in forests in East Gippsland. But, thanks to the green-inspired vandalism, many of the approaching roads have had to be closed to fire-fighting vehicles, seriously impeding the already difficult work of our emergency services. (And the wrecked bridges, in due course, will have to be rebuilt at considerable public expense).
Further east and across the New South Wales border, I ran into a group of these radical green activists - whom I recognised from an encounter earlier in the week at Goongerah. Here they had set up a major road blockade for nearly a day.
The activists had erected the blockade on a bend in the road under cover of darkness. It did not occur to them that this could endanger people's lives. They did not even bother to set up any signs or lights to warn oncoming motorists of the dangerous road obstruction ahead.Tree-top terrorists
Finally, I saw with my own eyes where "tree-top terrorists" had strung expensive wire cabling high up in trees, presumably with the deliberate intention of endangering timber-fellers' lives.
This campaign of sabotage that I observed was chiefly the work of a few irresponsible individuals around the Goongerah area; but they appeared to be aided and abetted by an organised "rent-a-crowd". (Many of the participants' vehicles were from outside the area or bearing interstate registration numbers).
What is astonishing is that the Victorian Government is so timid about combating this sort of eco-terrorism.
The Victorian police are in an admittedly difficult situation. They can only realistically go as far as their political masters in Spring Street, Melbourne, will let them.
The police Rescue Squad, based in Melbourne, suffers inordinate delays because of the rigmarole of having constantly to subject any proposed police operations to "risk-assessment".
In the meantime, environmental vandals and other miscreants, if they are caught at all, are for the most part released shortly afterwards.
Police are no longer empowered to enforce the law as assertively as they used to.
A few years before she was appointed Victorian Police Commissioner, Christine Nixon told a conference on criminology: "Policing is about keeping the peace." She declared that police should be "anti-authoritarian" and "value-driven rather than rule-driven". (First Australasian Women Police Conference
, Australian Institute of Criminology, Sydney, July 29, 1996).
It is questionable, though, whether this sort of approach - well-intentioned though it may be - is sufficient to quell lawless behaviour.
Radical environmental activism that employs life-threatening sabotage as part of its strategy deserves to be confronted as a matter of priority.
I have learned that radical political groups have developed ways of successfully enticing youngsters into their ranks with music and entertainment. Then they brain-wash them; train them in radical political activism; and dispatch them to organise demonstrations, blockades and sabotage.
All too many youngsters, unfortunately, get sucked in, thinking the whole thing is a bit of a lark.
But the activity in which they subsequently get involved is nothing less than a form of guerrilla warfare. It would be ideal if, somehow, one could film the culprits committing these criminal acts, then have them arrested.
Ultimate responsibility, however, lies with Victorian Premier Steve Bracks, the Police Minister Tim Holding, the rest of our politicians and Police Commissioner Nixon to enforce Victorian laws consistently and to ensure that the safety of people in East Gippsland is no less a priority than the safety of the people of Melbourne.