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Climate warriors vindicated in court

By Vivien Langford - posted Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Since January, when protestors from Rising Tide, dubbed the Newcastle Seven, went on trial, many millions of tonnes of coal have been exported.

Is this the decade when we will stop that coal turning into CO2 emissions?

Many wise people are calling for direct action and last September the Newcastle Seven stopped coal loading for half a day at Port Waratah Coal Services(PWCS). Today they had a win in court.


In her verdict, magistrate Elaine Truscott showed how she had worried over the logistics of the port. She described the movements of ships; "The Mulberry Paris",the "AOM Sophie",:"Situ Maru" and the "Goodwill".Each was fed by many trains carrying 60,000 tonnes of coal. The onus of proof had been on PWCS to satisfy her with details of the loss for which they were claiming compensation. But the numbers just didn't add up.

She complained that with such large sums of money involved. She'd expected more from PWCS, "greater accuracy in explaining their loss". There was no evidence that ships had not been loaded because of the people locked on to the coal loader 30-60 metres above the ground for 7 hours.

The coal service had claimed a "loss of opportunity to load coal". The magistrate queried whether this was a real loss, seeing that they had made up that loss. There were many other interruptions besides protestors,in the 24 hour cycle such as maintenance, weather and other factors.

The defendants' legal team came from the Environmental Defenders Office in Sydney. They have had a significant win today. Mr K. Averre claimed that PWCS had abused the process by using their compensation claim as a deterrent and punishment for the intrepid protestors. He called Rising Tide "committed environment warriors" and said the Victims' Compensation Act was intended for actual victims wanting compensation for individual loss.

Magistrate Truscott didn't see this as abuse and said " corporate victims can be equal to individual victims"- and that they shouldn't be deprived of compensation because the community perceived this as a David and Goliath situation.

However, she agreed that the aim of the act was to compensate for real loss and shouldn't be used as a punitive deterrent. For her, the whole case had been "Overshadowed by the fact that PWCS doesn't want the money"


They had said they'd give it to charity.

She accepted the genuine concern of General manager Mr Graham Davidson. She understood that his desire to deter protestors was for their own safety and that of his workers. He had authorised a full page ad over two days in the Newcastle Herald outlining his safety concerns.

Meanwhile the half million dollar compensation claim aimed at changing behaviour was emotive or even cynical and she put the company on notice that they could not pursue victims' compensation as a deterrent.

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About the Author

Vivien Clerc Langford is a contributor to the BZE radio programme.

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All articles by Vivien Langford

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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