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Using whales as a stalking horse

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GreensMPs 18 Jan 2008

The debate flying in Crikey.com.au about whaling campaigns in recent days is symptomatic of the way predictable players use the summer whaling season as an opportunity to further their anti-environmental campaigns. Here's my contribution to the debate from today's Crikey email. Apologies if the links are behind the Crikey paywall...

Steve Shallhorn, my former boss at Greenpeace Australia Pacific and a man whom I admire, has, I fear, looked straight through a forest to focus on one particular tree.

His suggestion in Crikey yesterday that ITS Global may have taken on the Japanese whalers as a new client may or may not be an accurate guess. But it is not relevant.

Khalil Hegarty's piece in Crikey on Wednesday was not about the whales. The details of the piece, sprinkled liberally as usual with half-truths and distortions, were a side-show to the main event: the ongoing campaign to discredit and undermine the environment movement.

ITS Global, and its Managing Director, Alan Oxley, are world leaders in the anti-environment cause. Their view has always been that the best way to achieve the goals of their clients - unfettered logging across PNG and the region, building the Tamar Valley Pulp Mill, slowing action on climate change, etc - is to place their opponents in as bad a light as possible.

This means that spreading misinformation about Greenpeace's whaling campaign, as detailed by Steve Shallhorn yesterday, is entirely relevant to ITS Global's work for the Malaysian logging giant, Rimbunan Hijua, for whom Greenpeace is a bete noir. Whaling is, we hardly need reminding, a far higher profile campaign than logging. So any mud that sticks to Greenpeace over whales is likely to have a bigger impact on Greenpeace's capacity to campaign effectively for sustainable logging than any mud thrown directly at them over forestry.

To take a further step back, Oxley and ITS Global are strongly focussed on slowing and undermining effective action on climate change. Taking a pot-shot at Greenpeace over whales could help discredit one of the strongest and most public climate campaigning organisations on the planet.

Indeed, it might not be a stretch too far to suggest that ITS Global actively sought out the consultancy on the Tamar Valley Pulp Mill not only to help get the Mill built, but as an effective avenue for attacking and undermining the Australian environment movement.

Having said all that, it wouldn't surprise me to find out that an organisation that works for some of the world's greatest environmental vandals had taken on the Japanese whalers as clients. But they don't need to be working for the whalers in order to find it useful to help them.

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