Australian Greens Leader: 'Look at the damage to humanity being caused by people who bankroll coalmines'
Jonathon Moylan's ANZ Bank hoax letter over the Maule's Creek Project open cut coalmine continues to produce reverberations. Australian Greens Leader Christine Milne has now come out in his support arguing that we are in a climate emergency and we need to have a very serious 'Look at the damage to humanity being caused by people who bankroll coalmines'. Independent Economist Rod Campbell implies that the real hoax being perpetrated on small and institutional investors in Whitehaven coal is by Gillespie Economics and NSW Planning Department who massively overestimated the benefits and underestimated the social, environmental, health and climate costs of the project.
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Jonathon Moylan may become Australia's first high profile climate civil disobedience activist jailed as a result of an ASIC investigation. A somewhat similar case ocurred in the USA in 2011 when climate activist Tim DeChristopher was jailed for two years and fined $10,000 for climate civil disobedience for exposing the rorts in an auction of public lands for mineral exploration. Clive Hamilton on The Conversation website article - ANZ imposter takes up new climate tactic - also draws our attention to the parallels with the Tim DeChristopher case.
Here is how the ABC 7.30 Report covered the story on 9 Jan 2013 by reporter Connor Duffy (youtube):
"We are in the midst of a climate emergency and Jonathon Moylan is standing up for what he believes in and for making the point that if you continue to bankroll new coal mines and new coal exports then you are actually driving global warming with the catastrophic consequences for human kind".
"Look at the damage to humanity being caused by people who bankroll coalmines and those who are making money out of the misery of, not only of this generation, but future generations. That is the actual issue here. Who is actually losing as a result of the bankrolling of coalmining?" Senator Milne told ABC News.
"Well the Greens are saying we believe in backing up people who stand up for what they believe in. And what we believe in is a fair go for all Australians and future generations and for our fellow Species. That is why what is at risk here by the climate emergency we are now facing. People in rural and regional Australia get that more than most."
Mark Vaile, former National Party Deputy Prime Minister and now Chairman of Whitehaven Coal said in response:
"To have someone who has the respect of the electorate of Australia in high political office to go out and support fraudulent and arguably illegal activity like this beggars belief."
But then Mr Vaile is speaking as Chairman of the company with a large personal financial interest at risk.
Jonathan Moylan said to Conor Duffy ABC 7.30 report:
"Change doesn't happen without people taking risks. The consequences to me could be very serious but nowhere near as serious as the impact that this mine is going to have on our water and our farmlands."
"Our main concern is the impact that this mine would have on farmers, on the largest remaining forest in the Liverpool Plains and, you know, our health and our climate. All of these things are absolutely invaluable and can't have a dollar figure attached to them."
"I certainly don't, didn't intend any harm to shareholders in Whitehaven and, you know, for the record I do apologise. But I won't apologise for exposing ANZ's dirty investments in Whitehaven Coal."
The final approval for Whitehaven's Maule's Creek Open cut coal mine is dependant on a decision by Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke under the EPBC Act.
Real hoax on investors is by Gillespie Economics and NSW Planning Department
More interesting comment on this from Rod Campbell in an Op Ed in the Sydney Morning Herald today 10 January 2013. Campbell is an economist and director of Economists at Large.
It seems the real hoax on investors is by a overly rosy 2011 report by Gillespie Economics and the NSW Planning Department blithely accepting all the economic assessment by Gillespie Economics, The report used several means to overestimate the mines benefits and underestimate it's potential monetary and social costs.
Maybe those investors that got out early based upon the ANZ Hoax letter might actually be ahead of those who stayed or bought back in. I've excerpted the major part of this article, but do go read the original
Let me introduce the people of Maules Creek, NSW. It's a small village - population about 100 - near Narrabri, made up of farming families who have been in the area for generations. For years they worked hard to keep good relations with the coal mining companies in the area. But they felt betrayed by them when a 2000-page environmental impact statement was delivered just days before Christmas, with only weeks to respond.
One of the farmers, Phil Laird of the Maules Creek Community Council, approached us, a public interest economics group, Economists at Large, to review the economic appendix of the 2000 page assessment. He told me his wife works at the polling station on voting days. ''There are about 100 people here and 99 of us vote National. We think that one non-National is the school teacher,'' he half-joked.
They are not natural protesters and they feel let down by the Nationals. Nor are they natural allies with environmental protesters such as ''Jono'' Moylan. But they need him to help their cause.
While investors are upset about this week's hoax, the NSW Department of Planning and Infrastructure has been accepting economic fiction about the Maules Creek project for years.
The 2011 economic assessment is by coal industry favourites, Gillespie Economics. Economic assessment is supposed to establish whether the project is in the interests of the people of NSW and Gillespie Economics trumpeted a net benefit of $8.7 billion for the Maules Creek project. This was accepted by the planning department without scrutiny.
But our assessment of the review is scathing. Gillespie Economics has overlooked the foreign ownership of the project and presented profits to overseas interests as benefits to the NSW community. Other blunders include valuing the project at an exchange rate of $0.76 and using coal prices well above long-term averages.
Assessment of non-market values was equally ham-fisted. No consideration was made of the coal dust from mining on health, despite medical groups and NSW Health expressing concern. Greenhouse gas emissions warranted only a minor mention.
Impacts on the Leard State Forest, where Moylan is camping in protest against the mine, were not estimated. Locals are concerned that groundwater levels will fall by several metres, affecting farming and groundwater-dependent fauna. This impact was considered ''negligible'' in Gillespie Economics' assessment.
Bizarrely, the economic assessment included a $207 million estimate of ''social value of employment''. That estimate implies the public is willing to pay to secure jobs in this mine, over and above the wages of the workers. This is equivalent to paying Whitehaven a subsidy of $23,695 per employee per year.
While the NSW planning department seemed unconcerned by these criticisms, the Maules Creek Mine proponents commissioned the ANU's Jeff Bennett to conduct a review of Gillespie Economics' assessment. Professor Bennett agreed that the value to the NSW public was heavily overstated.
Planning departments around the country are under pressure to expedite approval of major mining projects. Reviewing project assessments is a demanding task, but in the race to cut red and green tape, one question must be answered - is the project in the public interest? Simply accepting proponents' commissioned assessment is clearly unacceptable.
Jittery private investors are ready to act on every piece of information available about the Maules Creek project and are angry when they've been mislead. But the NSW planning department seems unconcerned if the information it is given is fact or fiction. Economic assessment needs to play a greater role in planning decisions and be subject to the same scrutiny that emails purporting to be from ANZ are now sure to receive.
Rod Campbell is an economist and director of Economists at Large.
- ABC 7.30 Report, 9 January 2013 - Environmental activist draws anger, support and possible charges
- ABC News, 9 January 2013 - Greens back anti-coal activist after media hoax
- Sydney Morning Herald Op Ed by Rod Campbell, 10 January 2013 - Facts and fiction from the mining proponents
Takver is a citizen journalist from Melbourne Australia who has been writing on climate change, science and climate protests since 2004. This article was originally published at Australia Indymedia and also published on his blog.