Staff ‘upset, intimidated’ by coal protesters – MP

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FLINDERS MP and Environment Minister Greg Hunt has condemned “aggressive behaviour” by protesters towards staff at his Hastings office.

Mr Hunt said the behaviour of two men during an anti-coal mine protest organised by GetUp on Wednesday was “utterly unacceptable”.

“A member of staff was deeply upset and intimidated by two of the protesters,” Mr Hunt said.

“This aggressive behaviour by two male protesters towards a female staff member is utterly unacceptable and should be condemned by GetUp.

“I certainly hope their behaviour is not representative of the organisation and did not represent the general behaviour of the delegation.”

A letter from “Simon Hawking, Somers” published in Saturday’s The Age said he had been one of two adults who carried a crate of coal into Mr Hunt’s office “as a symbolic manifestation of what the minister was consigning the nation to” [by permitting the Adani Mining coal mine in Queensland].

“We were equal parts astonished, amused and despairing to be asked indignantly, ‘So you’re going to pollute our office with coal?’”

Mr Hawking said the “one concession” was the welcoming, by Mr Hunt’s office staff, of children bearing gifts “in the form of animal-shaped balloons representing the Great Barrier Reef marine life”.

Mr Hunt said the Coalition government “inherited a reef from Labor that was on the watch list and on the way to being listed as in-danger”.

Government efforts since then to protect reef had led to it being removed from the “in-danger” listing by the World Heritage Committee.

“The committee praised Australia as a global leader in its management of the reef,” Mr Hunt said.

Protesters are fighting against the Indian-based Adani Mining’s plans for Carmichael open cut coal mine near Moranbah in central Queensland and the export of coal from the Abbot Point port, near the Great Barrier Reef.

The government’s approval for the mine was set aside by the Federal Court in August after being presented with evidence of a bungle within Mr Hunt’s department which meant there were no provisions to protect the endangered yakka skink and ornamental snake.

As a result, the government wants  to change the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act that grants a right of legal appeal to third parties.

However, the falling price of coal and an announcement by the Commonwealth bank of its withdrawal as Adani’s advisor may mean that the project’s “lifetime resource value of at least $300 billion” may stay in the ground.

Mr Hunt, although asked by The News, did not comment on the bank’s action or provide an estimate of the number of jobs likely to be created by the coalmine.

The organiser of the GetUp protest outside Mr Hunt’s office did not respond to a call from The News, which was also unable to contact Simon Hawking.

GetUp describes itself as one of Australia’s largest campaigning communities and claims to have more than 800,000 members.

“We’re an independent, grassroots, community advocacy organisation that seeks to build a more progressive Australia and hold politicians to account.”

First published in the Western Port News – 8 September 2015

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