Let’s indulge in a thought experiment.

Suppose you or I decided, for whatever reason, that we didn’t like a local business. So, we start standing out front, shouting to passers-by that the owner is a bastard and not to shop there. Perhaps we try and stop drivers from dropping off new stock. We might even chain the doors shut, pour glue in the locks, or handcuff ourselves to the counter.

What do you imagine would happen? The cops would be called. We’d be sent off with a flea in our ear. If we kept it up, a judge would probably decide that we’re an unhinged nuisance and fine or jail us.

Yet climate protesters apparently consider themselves above such consequences.

Eric Serge Herbert was sentenced to 12 months’ imprisonment with a non-parole period of six months, for his part in obstructing the Hunter’s coal chain.

According to evidence presented to the court, Herbert is from Queensland and a well-known protester who has been charged and convicted of similar offences in multiple states.

The group behind two weeks of protests that disrupted the rail network, Blockade Australia, condemned the sentence and described it as repression.

Another lobby group known as the Solidarity and Resistance Collective labelled it as “unjust”.

Yet, even the climate-pandering Labor party supports the sentence.

Federal Shadow Minister Assisting for Climate Change, and Shortland MP, Pat Conroy said […] such protests interrupt and prevent a legal activity, which delivers millions of dollars of wages to families in his community.

MSN

In a related case, other environmental protesters are similarly dismayed to find some of their own tactics being turned against them.

VicForests is a Victorian government agency tasked with supplying timber from state forests to sawmills and pulp mills around the state. It’s run as a for-profit company, owned by the government.

However, the ABC can reveal VicForests hired a private investigator to conduct surveillance on conservationists and, more recently, conducted what some have called “digital surveillance” on people the agency argues are trying to “discredit” it.

That’s certainly pretty creepy. But the person in question, Sarah Rees, is not just any ordinary person, not even any old protester. Rees is a decades-long activist who also happens to have leveraged herself into an extremely influential position on a critical NGO body.

In 2019 and 2020, Ms Rees was deputy chair of the Australian arm of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).

It’s an international not-for-profit that assesses products made from wood for sustainability, and gives them a tick of approval.

Having that tick of approval is important for companies such as VicForests, since some customers won’t purchase their wood without it.

So, from VicForests’ point of view, Rees is in an influential position that can drastically affect their business. She is also alleged to be heavily biased.

The alleged bias of Ms Rees and other board directors was so bad, according to the reports, that VicForests postponed its attempt to get FSC certification.

Several of those stories reported a complaint VicForests lodged with FSC, calling for Ms Rees to be sacked.

To prove its case, VicForests compiled what Rees calls a “digital dossier”.

It contains a list of hundreds of tweets, which VicForests alleged demonstrated her promotion of illegal protest activity and “actively seeking to discredit VicForests, a government agency, and the Victorian government regulatory system”.

If that’s the case, then that’s material that Rees has publicly broadcast. Did she think only her pals in the conservation movement were going to read them?

The complaint also compiled the tweets and other public appearances of Chris Taylor, a forest scientist from the Australian National University.

Dr Taylor’s research has alleged VicForests has been engaged in widespread and systemic illegal logging, a claim denied by VicForests.

“They more or less compiled a dossier of tweets that I made, articles that I’ve published, research papers that I’ve published and co-authored, and misrepresented them,” Dr Taylor says.

ABC Australia

So, Taylor was compiling evidence to discredit them, but is upset when the same is done to him.

Still, it can’t be denied that this is opening a box of worms. Who can honestly say that they’re happy with the idea of government agencies surveilling private citizens?

On the other hand, how long can someone be an activist, particularly an activist with an influential position on a critical NGO, and seriously call themselves a private citizen?

How long can taxpayers fund the work of a scientist who moonlights as an activist, without expecting some sort of accountability?

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Should Activists Expect to Get Off Scot-Free?
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Lushington D. Brady

Punk rock philosopher. Liberalist contrarian. Grumpy old bastard. I grew up in a generational-Labor-voting family. I kept the faith long after the political left had abandoned it. In the last decade...