Surveillance and harrassment of anti-coal protestors stepped up in Victoria and nationally

Surveillance and harassment of direct action protestors campaigning against coal in Victoria and nationally is increasing. This week saw the Fairfax press reveal that ASIO has been spying on domestic green groups at the behest of Federal Resources Minister Martin Ferguson. The evidence was obtained through documents through FOI. Apparently non-violent green groups are seen as a bigger threat to power infrastructure than terrorists! This is symptomatic of how the profit margins of large corporations is equated with national interest. This report comes as the Victoria Police Intelligence Group visited Paul Connor from Quit Coal at his home: Listen to interview. Earlier this year it was also revealed that Martin Ferguson had been encouraged by major power companies to increase surveillance of green protestors.

Non-violent mass actions – what they fear most

The reports also make it abundantly clear which type of demonstration is most feared by the government, that is mass non-violent civil disobedience. The two actions singled out for particular concern was the 2009 Switch Off Hazelwood action resulting in over 20 arrests when protestors jumped the perimeter fence and the
2010 Climate Camp
demonstration when over seventy protestors were arrested after pushing over a fence and blocking a railway line leading to the Bayswater Coal Power station. The major direct action group in NSW is Rising Tide.

Was the Victorian movement infiltrated?

It is interesting to watch what has happened to the direct action climate change movement in Victoria in the last few years in light of the attention they have obviously been receiving from both the State and Federal secret police. After the 2009 protest at Hazelwood, after much internal debate it was decided to not repeat the mass arrests at Hazelwood in 2010. A debate on Indymedia about this issue can be read here. The 2010 action was the last action to be held at Hazelwood. I can attest first hand that almost as soon as the 2009 action was over, some people within the movement began talking down actions at Hazelwood. With hindsight it can be legitimately asked how much of this push away from mass arrests came from conservative bureaucrats, how much came from fear of increased legal penalties but also how much come from infiltrators from the intelligence community? In future if people start talking down successful actions I think we should all be aware that at least some of the people in our movement our working for ASIO or other intelligence services. The direct action movement in Victoria is now being lead by Quit Coal who have conducted a number of highly successful small direct actions on coal targets such as this one in Bachus Marsh resulting in a number of arrests and much media attention but as yet the ability to mobilize hundreds of people into direct actions has yet to be reactivated. Should we be starting to plan a Hazelwood 2013 if this is the type of action the government is most scared of?