NATIONAL AFFAIRS: by Patrick J. ByrneNews Weekly
Radical green strategy to sabotage Australian coal-mines, railways and ports
, March 31, 2012
The radical environmentalist group Greenpeace has spearheaded a push to block the expansion of Australia’s coal export industry, with “generous support from the Rockefeller Family Fund”, a charitable foundation based in New York.
The organisers’ draft plan says that it aims to raise funds in the United States as well as Australia to bankroll the campaign. Another foreign group involved in the campaign is CoalSwarm.
After the draft plan was leaked to the media, a campaign spokesman said that, to date, the plan had failed to attract the necessary amount of base funding.
The project originated with an anti-coal-mining alliance, which held the first Australian National Coal Convergence conference in the Blue Mountains last October. Some of its participants are funded by the federal, state and local governments.
The campaign plans to build on the anti-coal-seam gas protests and to inflate concerns that mining will threaten the Great Barrier Reef.
But its overriding objective is to massively reduce the exports of coal to India and China, which import Australian coal to produce low-cost electricity needed to develop their emerging economies. Why? In order to cut carbon dioxide emissions!
The project aims to stall, then halt, mining infrastructure projects in order to “severely reduce the overall scale of the coal boom by some hundreds of millions of tonnes per annum”.
This attack on Australia’s mining industry comes at a time when our healthy economic growth has maintained its momentum during the global financial crisis, mainly because of this country's fast-growing minerals industries supplying the rapidly-growing economies of China and India.
Both nations need to lift hundreds of millions of people out of grinding poverty. Low-cost energy is essential to their economic development, just as, historically, Australia has depended on low-cost coal-powered electricity.
The mining boom, Australian jobs and the livelihood of millions of poor people in India and China are now going to be threatened by this radical environmentalist campaign against investment in Australian coal-mining, rail and port facilities.
If the campaign succeeds in its stated aim of slashing Australia’s coal exports, it will be interesting to see how much this will cut federal and state taxation revenues.
Furthermore, how many jobs will this campaign cost Australian families as the global economic slump continues without any clear solution?
Anti-coal funding strategy
The funding strategy for this campaign was outlined in the campaign’s draft strategy document, Stopping the Australian Coal Export Boom.
On the front page were listed the following names: John Hepburn from Greenpeace Australia Pacific, Bob Burton from CoalSwarm and Sam Hardy from the Graeme Wood Foundation. The document was based on “extensive research made possible by funding from the Rockefeller Family Fund”.
John Hepburn began his environmental career campaigning to stop sand-mining for rare earth minerals on Queensland’s North Stradbroke Island. He was then with the radical environmental group, Friends of the Earth. Now he is with Greenpeace.
According to Greenpeace’s annual report for the 2009/10 financial year, its annual expenditure is around $17.8 million.
Bob Burton is a contributing editor to CoalSwarm, a US-based, online information campaign directed against the coal industry and coal-fired power stations. It has a collection of over 4,000 articles about coal-mining, archived on SourceWatch, an open-source encyclopedia sponsored by the left-wing Center for Media and Democracy.
CoalSwarm is funded by a number of foundations, including the Rockefeller Family Fund, and is a project of the California-based Earth Island Institute, which was founded in 1982 by a prominent American environmentalist David Brower. Affiliation with the Earth Island Institute gives CoalSwarm US tax-deductible status for donations.
The Graeme Wood Foundation is funded by Queensland entrepreneur Graeme Wood AM, who founded the internet accommodation booking website, Wotif.com.
He is estimated to be worth $372 million and made the largest single private donation to any Australian political party — $1.6 million to the Greens for their television advertising campaign at the last federal election. The Greens vote increased more in those states where these advertisements were played in higher rotation.
Wood is described in the media as a philanthropist. He has given to many causes, including $15 million to establish the University of Queensland’s Global Change Institute (GCIQ), which covers issues such as population growth, climate change and technology.
After media controversy over the draft plan, Wood denied that he was either funding or supporting the campaign.
The draft anti-coal campaign strategy document argues that, unless the Australian coal industry is checked, parallel attempts to curtail coal exports from the United States will be undermined. Unless planned exports are slashed, India will construct a new generation of coal power stations with “devastating consequence for the global climate”.
In 2010, Australia exported 300 million tonnes — that is, 30 per cent of the total global trade — making it the world’s largest exporter. Coal exports are expected to triple over the next decade to around 800 million tonnes annually.
Coal from Queensland’s Galilee Basin, west of Townsville, alone would use up around 7 per cent of the total global allowable carbon budget out to 2050 — “creating a global climate tipping point”, the strategy document claims.
It calls for $3.7 million to be raised in Australia and the US in order to orchestrate a massive nation-wide campaign, using the resources of NGOs, community groups, individuals and contractors.
The first priority is to use legal action to slow down and block critical projects, including five new coal port expansions, two major railway lines and up to a dozen key mines. The legal action is designed to create a breathing space to expand the anti-coal-mining campaign.
The draft document declares: “Our strategy is to ‘disrupt and delay’ key projects and infrastructure while gradually eroding public and political support for the industry and continually building the power of the [anti-coal] movement to win more.”
The strategy has six elements:
1) Disrupt and delay infrastructure.
2) Constrain the space for mining.
3) Increase investor risk.
4) Increase the cost of coal-mining.
5) Destroy the image of coal as being the backbone of the economy, particularly by painting it as threatening global climate.
6) Build a movement to win larger victories over time.
In particular, the campaign aims to stop the dredging of Gladstone Harbour by claiming that this threatens the Great Barrier Reef. Stopping this development would have implications for other Queensland port expansions at Abbot Point, Dudgeon Point, Balaclava Island and Newcastle in NSW.
The campaign also plans to:
• Block the new railway line from the Galilee Basin, west of Townsville;
• Mobilise political activism to influence the outcome of the NSW government’s planning review of land use in the Hunter Valley in order to place curbs on the mining industry; and
• Build on the back of the widespread backlash in Queensland and NSW over coal-seam gas.
Two steering groups were being formed to “advise the program manager regarding allocation of funds and the overall implementation, management and evaluation of the program”.
The Program Reference Group includes Barry Traill (executive director, Pew Environment Group), Bob Burton (CoalSwarm), Carmel Flint (who has represented many environmental groups, see below), Mark Wakeham (campaign director, Environment Victoria), Samantha Hardy (Graeme Wood Foundation), Blair Palese (CEO of global-warming activist organisation, 350.org.au, formerly with Greenpeace and the Pew Environment Group).
The Strategy Advisory Group is yet to be finalised, but it is intended to include Drew Hutton (president, Lock the Gate), Tim Duddy (grazier and member of the Caroona Action Group), Naomi Hogan (Rising Tide), Mark Ogge (Beyond Zero Emissions), Dr Richard Denniss (director of the Australia Institute) and a Greenpeace representative.
Many in the reference and advisory groups are from those organisations involved in the development of the campaign, as noted below. Many of these organisations have tax-deductibility status, and many receive government funding.
The anti-coal-mining alliance launched this project at its first Australian National Coal Convergence conference, which was held in the Blue Mountains on October 11 last year. The alliance included the following groups:
Beyond Zero Emissions (BZE). One its key personnel, Mark Ogge, as mentioned previously, is on the anti-coal campaign’s Strategy Advisory Group. In 2008, BZE presented its “Transition to a Zero Carbon Future”, outlining its ambitious “coal switch” philosophy, under which the state of Victoria’s greenhouse gas emissions would be slashed by 50 per cent in three years.
GetUp!, the prominent left-wing online campaign website.
United Voice, a large services-based trade union affiliated to the ALP. One of its representatives to the anti-coal campaign is Holly Creenaune, an activist with Friends of the Earth (FOE), who co-authored an article promoting a “low-carbon future, focusing on green renewable energy sources and smarter energy use”, in FOE’s Chain Reaction magazine. A second United Voice representative to the campaign is Ellie Smith, who signed an advertisement on the Gold Coast Greens web page in January 2011 calling for volunteers for a “Nature refuge and mining conference organiser … to halt coal production expansion in Queensland”.
The Pew Environment Group, the conservation group associated with the US-based Pew Charitable Trusts, whose Barry Traill is on the anti-coal Program Reference Group.
Lock the Gate Alliance Inc., partly organised by Drew Hutton, a long-time activist, academic, campaigner and past political candidate for the Queensland Greens.
The Environmental Defender’s Office Queensland Inc., which is part of a nation-wide network of nine non-profit, non-government community legal centres working in the area of public interest planning and environment law. The centre, which is dedicated to fighting “climate change”, receives funding from “Commonwealth and State Community Legal Service Funding Programs and Queensland EPA project funding,” as well as from donations.
The Nature Conservation Council of NSW, founded in 1955, one of whose spokespersons, Armidale resident Carmel Flint, has also contributed to the anti-coal-mining campaign strategy. She appeared before a Senate inquiry into coal-seam gas in Narrabri, representing a diverse coalition of environmental groups including the Nature Conservation Council of NSW, the Wilderness Society and Friends of the Earth. The Nature Conservation Council of NSW is a non-profit, non-government organisation representing more than 100 community environment groups across NSW.
Capricornia Conservation Council, which receives funding from Fitzroy Basin Association, the Queensland Department of Environment and Resource Management, the Australian Department of Environment Water, Heritage and the Arts, and the Queensland Gambling Community Benefit Fund.
Environment Victoria, whose campaign director, Mark Wakeham, is on the anti-coal Program Reference Group. Aside from individual donors, its funders include the Brimbank City Council, City West Water, Victoria’s Department of Sustainability and Environment, Foster’s Community Grants, Ivor Ronald Evans Foundation (managed by Equity Trustees), Moonee Valley City Council, Sustainability Victoria, the ETA Basan Charitable Trust (managed by Trust Company Ltd), and the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation.
Mineral Policy Institute, an Australian think-tank aimed at holding companies accountable on environmental issues.
The Australia Institute, whose executive director Dr Richard Denniss is also on the anti-coal Program Advisory Group.
Climate Action Network Australia (CANA), which is an alliance of over 75 local, state, national and international environmental, development, research and advocacy groups from throughout Australia. CANA was formed in 1998 to be the Australian branch of the global Climate Action Network (CAN), with representative groups in over 70 countries.
CANA’s major international member organisations include Climate Action Network International, Greenpeace Australia Pacific, the Pew Charitable Trusts and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Australia.
Its major Australian members include the Australian Conservation Foundation, Climate and Health Alliance, National Toxics Network, the Climate Institute, the Wilderness Society, Women’s Environment Network Australia, 350.org Australia, Australian Youth Climate Coalition, GetUp! and Sustainable Population Australia.
Aside from numerous environment groups, various NGOs and religious organisations are also CANA members, including ActionAid, CARE Australia, Caritas Australia, Jubilee Australia, Oxfam Australia, Tear Australia, World Vision Australia, Australian Religious Response to Climate Change, Catholic Earthcare Australia, Edmund Rice Centre, Good Shepherd Australia New Zealand, Sisters of the Good Samaritan, the Uniting Church’s Justice and International Mission, and UnitingJustice Australia, an arm of the Uniting Church of Australia.
United Voice and the Mackay Conservation Group also contributed to the campaign strategy.
The green tax-deductibility industry
Many of the organisations listed above are eligible to receive tax-deductible donations under the Australian government’s Register of Environmental Organisations.
These include: Beyond Zero Emissions, the Environmental Defender’s Office Queensland Inc., Mackay Conservation Group, Nature Conservation Council of NSW, Capricornia Conservation Council, Environment Victoria, Mineral Policy Institute, and the Climate Action Network Australia (CANA). Many of their associated organisations also have tax-deductible privileges.
Australia now has 576 environmental groups listed as having tax-deductible status on the Register of Environmental Organisations.
Another 13 are listed in the Taxation Act 1997 as having tax-deductible status in the Income Tax Assessment Act 1997, including the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) Australia and the Australian Conservation Foundation.
It is high time for a review of the tax-deductible status of environmental groups that have gone beyond their original mission to protect the environment and have now embarked on the destruction of the jobs and prosperity of Australians and are threatening to jeopardise the urgent imperative to lift millions out of poverty in nations like India and China.
It is time that the federal Coalition set up a special taskforce to review the tax-deductible status of environmental groups operating in Australia.
Patrick J. Byrne is vice-president of the National Civic Council.
Read the latest on the anti-coal campaign (March 2017)
 PR Watch (Center for Media and Democracy, United States): Reporting on spin and disinformation since 1993.
 “Apology to Mr Graeme Wood AM”, Australian Financial Review, March 11-12, 2012, p.2: “On March 6 and 8 we published articles concerning a campaign by green groups to disrupt and delay new coalmines. Greame Wood has informed us, and The Australian Financial Review accepts, that neither he nor his Foundation has had any involvement in that campaign….”
 Hepburn, Burton and Hardy, op. cit., p.3.