Some home truths for activist groups

October 21st, 2014

Activists are being told some home truths this week, with mounting anger at the tactics used to disrupt approved projects and at the misinformation that is being spread in efforts to stymie the development of new projects.

Former Federal Minister Peter Reith, who chaired the Victorian Gas Market Taskforce leads the charge with a strident opinion piece in the Sydney Morning Herald, saying:

In Victoria, bans on exploration for gas have been used with no good reason, at the expense of the revitalisation of eastern Victoria. In NSW, the failure to confront the greenies is on track to cost jobs and economic dislocation, especially in manufacturing.”

In case anyone had doubts about his views, Reith goes on to say:

“The facts are that the greens are absurdly impractical and seem completely divorced from the reality of Australia’s situation.”

He’s not alone in his criticism of the activist movement.

Narrabri Chamber of Commerce President Russell Stewart writes in The Australian about the frustration of seeing capital city activists purporting to speak on behalf of his local community:

“As a member of the Narrabri community, I am frustrated to read Lyndon Schneider of the Wilderness Society purporting to be speaking on behalf of Narrabri when he is neither from Narrabri nor represents the overwhelming sentiment of the broader ­community.”

Mr Stewart goes into great detail on the potential benefits that coal seam gas development is expected to bring to the local region, and says:

The last thing our community needs now is the ill-informed opinion of an individual we haven’t even heard of before, and who doesn’t live in or contribute to this close bush community, spreading false information for his own benefits, whatever they may be.”

The piece ends with an invitation to The Wilderness Society’s National Director to visit Narrabri to “hear the local perspective before he purports to represent it.”

The Chamber of Commerce shouldn’t hold its breath waiting for a response.

Mr Stewart has highlighted the frustration that is growing worldwide when large, well-funded activist groups purporting to represent local communities ride into town (or print, or cyberspace) and cast judgement on the merits of a development project.

Earlier this year, the local Narrabri Courier reported comments from State Upper House MP Scot MacDonald:

“What worries me is the FIFO [fly in fly out] or DIDO [drive in drive out] activists driving a wedge in the community…

“It’s almost become a sport for these Greenies and activists, well that’s jolly good but it’s coming at the cost of community harmony.”

It’s a similar story in the booming shale regions of the United States, with criticism coming thick and fast about the activities of out of town activist groups.

Energy In Depth has stories here and here showing how vested interest groups are trying to influence debates on local issues.

The bottom line is that activist claims may actually end up hindering rather than helping their cause.

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