We Won!

Coal Giants’ Compo Claim Fails on Technicality

Magistrate Elaine Truscott has today dismissed a $525,000 victims compensation claim brought against 7 climate change protesters on behalf of Port Waratah Coal Services in Newcastle Local court.

We are relieved that the claim was rejected but have our concerns that the Magistrate’s decision was based on insufficient evidence, rather than rejecting it as an abuse of NSW Victims Compensation laws. We are now calling on the NSW Government to amend the Victims Compensation Act to prevent peaceful protesters from being targeted again.

We are very happy that the court has ruled in our favour, and dismissed this exorbitant compensation claim. We are very grateful to our amazing legal team including solicitor B.J Kim from the Environmental Defenders Office and our Barrister Ken Averre from Forbes Chambers.

However, we are very concerned with the grounds by which the decision was made. Essentially, PWCS lost their claim because they were unable to provide sufficient evidence of the exact amount of profit they forewent due to our protest.

Magistrate Truscott made it very clear that, had PWCS prosecuted their case more effectively, the compensation payout would have been awarded. We find this very disturbing.

Large corporations should not be allowed to pursue peaceful protesters using Victims’ Compensation laws. These laws were designed with the intention of compensating victims of violent crime. That some of the world’s biggest mining corporations attempted to use the Victims’ Compensation Act against us was a gross abuse of this legislation. It was corporate bullying.

Newcastle coal exports are directly contributing to climate change, and are Australia’s biggest and fastest growing contribution to the problem. To maintain a safe climate we must begin a just transition away from the environmentally destructive coal industry. This must start with a ban on any new coal infrastructure or coal expansions.

If PWCS truly placed the safety of people ahead of their own profits, they would be planning to phase out coal exports, not double them. Climate change is killing at least 300,000 people per year, according to Oxfam.

We have made it very clear that we will not be silenced by corporate bullies and we will not let the issue of climate change be ignored. While the government and coal industry continue approving coal expansions they will be met with protests from the community.

Visit the Rising Tide Website to see details of our 6th annual Newcastle Harbour Blockade on March 13

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Court defers judgement – to March 3rd

Newcastle Local Court has today deferred judgement on the $525 000 victims’ compensation claim against the Rising Tide 7 brought by Port Waratah Coal Services, after two full days of hearings. The judgement will be delivered on March 3.

The case is an important test case for civil liberties and the right to protest in NSW.

The PWCS’ claim is an example of corporate bullying in the face of rising concern about coal and climate change.

The Defendants and Legal Team

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Court Hearing Day 2- Feb 3

The second day of of the legal challenge between the Rising Tide 7 and PWCS continues with the claim of $525,000 in ‘victims compensation’ still standing.

The Hearing will commence at 10:30 in court room 6 at Newcastle Local Court.

Rising Tide Spokeswomen Carly Phillips will be available for comment during court reccess 11-11:30, lunch 1-2pm, or after court at 4pm.

“Newcastle coal exports are directly contributing to climate change, and are in fact Australia’s biggest contribution to the problem.”

“To maintain a safe climate we must begin a just tranistion away from the environmentally destructive coal industry. This must start with a ban on any new coal infrastructive or coal expansions.”

“With increased natural disasters in line with scientific predictions for runaway climate change, the time to act is now. We cannot stand by and witness corporate gambling with the safety of the climate.”

“This compensation claim is a cheap and nasty way for PWCS to attempt to stifle dissent for coal exports and coal expansion.”

“If PWCS truly placed the safety of people ahead of their own profits, then they would be planning to phase out coal exports, not double them. Climate change is killing at least 300,000 per year, according to Global Humanitarian Forum in Geneva.”

“It would be reckless and greedy for PWCS to ignore the safety of the climate. PWCS’s spin should not take attention away from the real issue.” Said Miss Phillips

“It is either in the local court or the land and environment court. We will not stand by and let corporate greed rule over commonsense. ”

Call Carly Phillips: on 0422 258 069 for further comment.

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Court Hearing Day 1- Jan 31

Monday, January 31, 2011

After a full day in court the Rising Tide 7 defendants were convicted of ‘remaining on enclosed lands’ and fined $300 plus $79 in court costs.

The PWCS prosecution and the Rising Tide 7 Defendants put their evidence and legal submissions forward to Magistrate Truscott.

The ‘victims compensation’ claim for $525,000 still stands. The case continues with another full day of hearings on Thursday the 3rd of February in Newcastle Local Court.

Rising Tide Spokeswomen Carly Phillips is adament that the case will be fought until the end.

“We will not be silenced by this corporate bullying.”

“The hour is upon us to phase out the outdated and environmentally destructive coal industry. Plans to double this industry are driven by greed, while companies like PWCS ignore the saftey of the climate.”

“If the government continues to approve expansions in the coal industry they will be met with protests from the community.” said Miss Phillips.

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Press Conference – Clive Hamilton and David Shoebridge to support Rising Tide 7

Rising Tide Newcastle
Tuesday, 25th January 2011
MEDIA ALERT

Newcastle City Hall Friday, January 28, 10am
Clive Hamilton, the founding director of the Australia Institute, will join Rising Tide and Greens MP David Shoebridge in a panel of speakers in Newcastle this Friday to support the seven climate activists being pursued for $525 000 in ‘victims’ compensation’ by Port Waratah Coal Services (PWCS).

PWCS, a joint venture of multinational mining giants Xstrata and Rio Tinto, is pursuing the seven activists for $525,000 in “victim’s compensation” as a result of a peaceful protest, which stopped coal loading in the Port of Newcastle for several hours on September 26 last year.

Rising Tide spokesperson Carly Phillips, a school teacher and defendant in the case, said that the claim’s misuse of the victim’s compensation act was startling.

“The laws being used in this case were designed with the intention of compensating victims of violent crime. That some of the world’s biggest corporations are using the Victims’ Compensation Act to stifle legitimate and peaceful dissent is a gross abuse of this legislation and nothing more than corporate bullying,” Ms Phillips said.

“The mining industry is playing the bully in the schoolyard to counter growing opposition to Australia’s addiction to coal, which is widely recognised as Australia’s number one cause of global warming.”

“Unlike Australia’s governments, we will not cave in to the coal industry while the hour is upon us to phase out fossil fuels and rapidly transition to renewable energy.”

“We will not be silenced by corporate bullies and we will not let this issue be ignored. While the government and coal industry continue approving coal expansions they will be met with protests from the community,” Ms. Phillips said.

The Rising Tide seven will appear at Newcastle Local Court in two full-day hearings on Monday January 31 and Thursday February 3.

The press conference will be held at Newcastle City Hall, (on King St, opposite Civic Park) in the Newcastle Room  at 10am on Friday January 28.
RSVP to by January 27 to risingtide@risingtide.org.au
For further information or comment contact Carly Phillips (0422 258 069) or visit
https://risingtide7.wordpress.com/ for defendant profiles, support statements and further information.

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Gunns 13 supports Rising Tide 7

A couple of states away, thirteen brave climate activists are fighting a massive corporate claim themselves, this time from Tasmania’s biggest company, Gunns Ltd. They’ve written us a letter of support:

The members of the Gunns 13 wish to express our strongest support and solidarity with the Rising Tide 7. It is unconscionable for some of our country’s most profitable and powerful corporations to misuse Victim’s of Crime compensation to pursue activists. The real victims are not these corporations but the millions of disadvantaged people across the globe who face despair and dislocation because of the impacts of climate change.

In taking the brave step of highlighting Australia’s complicity in the heating of our planet, through massive exports of coal, the Rising Tide 7 are performing a vital service to communities around the globe. They should be applauded for this action rather than threatened with fines and bankruptcy.

In December 2008 13 Tasmanian forest activists conducted a peaceful action at Gunns’ Triabunna Woodchip Mill, on the island’s East Coast. The action generated media and debate about the climate change impact of logging native forests, the threats arising from a proposed pulp mill in the Tamar Valley and the loss of natural habitat for iconic endangered species. The thirteen activists were exercising their right as citizens to protest against the degradation of native forests, clean air and healthy waterways; natural assets shared by all Tasmanians. In the following months, activists who had attended the protest were served writs by lawyers acting for Gunns Ltd. The writs claimed damages for lost business and exemplary damages for trespass. Activists faced the prospect of lengthy court proceedings, hefty legal bills and possible bankruptcy.

In late 2010, Gunns Limited announced that it planned to make a strategic move away from the logging of native forests, to pursue Forest Stewardship Council certification and to close several of its native forest woodchip facilities. The news coincided with the signing of a statement of principles by major logging industry and environmental groups. The principles chart a path towards protection of all native forests and a sustainable plantation based future for the forestry industry.

The Gunns 13 hope that this new acceptance of change will open up possibilities for the resolution of social conflict over forest management.

We believe that activists and communities around Australia will be incensed and inspired by the attack on free speech and public participation that this case represents.

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Rising Tide 7 | Stop Misuse of Victim’s Compensation

Climate change is the most urgent threat to our planet’s capacity to support life on earth and coal is the biggest contributor to climate change.

On September 26, 2010, Rising Tide Newcastle staged a complete shut down of the world’s biggest coal port in Newcastle, New South Wales. Five climbers hung off the loading arm cables on all three coal terminals and four people attached themselves to the loader arm. At the same time, thirty-five people occupied coal piles at the new third loader on Kooragang Island. Our message was clear – climate change is a global emergency and we must stop the rapid expansion of the coal industry and make way for a just transition to renewable and sustainable energy.

The Stern report’s estimate of the cost of burning coal puts the global savings from the prevention of coal loading on that day at $36.4 million dollars. This does not include the ecological debt that Port Waratah Coal Services and other polluting corporations owe to the Global South, who are already feeling the impacts of climate change today.

Thirty-five people were released without charge and nine were charged with entering and remaining on inclosed lands.

As a result of the action, the remaining seven defendants are being pursued for $525,000 in “victim’s compensation” for the profits that mining giants Rio Tinto and Xstrata missed out on that day. These laws, designed to compensate victims of violent crime without having to go through civil litigation, is now being used by some of the world’s biggest corporations to stifle dissent. It is a new twist on SLAPP suits – Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation like the Gunns 20 case and the ongoing Triabunna 13 case in Tasmania.

Oxfam estimates that 300,000 people are already dying each year from the impacts of climate change, and that this will only get worse if we continue to delay action. This year we have seen floods in Pakistan, fires in Siberia, droughts in Africa and coastal surges in the Torres Strait. In our own valley, mosquito populations are rising, increasing the risk of deadly diseases such as malaria, and communities all up and down the Hunter Valley are feeling the health impacts of coal mines chewing up agricultural, horse-breeding and vinicultural land to make way for open pits. Even low-level sea-level rise would put parts of Newcastle underwater.

Non-violent direct action is an important and increasingly important tool for those of us who want to leave our children and grandchildren a world that is fit to live in. Rather than pursuing peaceful protestors for courageously standing up for what is right, the mining companies should be phasing out coal mining in favour of renewable energy and compensating the rest of the world for the damage that they have caused without challenge for decades.

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