10 April, 2017
Courtesy of the AFR
First there was the rule of law, which all companies naturally have to follow. But then came “social licence to operate”, a vague status above and beyond the law that firms have to obtain. Now, there appears to be business-by-blacklist, whereby some companies are expected to denounce the law-abiding practices of unrelated companies in order to appease activists.
At least that seems to be the case after activist group GetUp! organised a protest of Westpac’s 200th birthday dinner, calling on the bank to “Stop Adani!”. Westpac has never funded Adani and isn’t financing its Carmichael coal mine. But for GetUp!, because it hasn’t “publicly distanced” itself from the coalmine, the activist group won’t let it “get away with supporting such a destructive project”.
To top it off, a protester broke into the event, stole a microphone and chained himself to scaffolding in the ceiling, stalling the event for an hour and and half, ruining a celebration two years in the planning. While it is not clear if the man was with the GetUp! rally or a lone wolf anti-fossil fuel activist, it is clear that these vindictive campaigns are now designed to unlawfully intimidate any business which might have any links with fossil-fuel companies.
Yet these undergraduate social media fear merchants are not interested in the reality that if approved, the Carmichael mine, besides injecting $16 billion into the Queensland economy, could actually help the global environment. While The Australian Financial Review does not support a subsidy for Adani’s rail line, the Indian firm is doing its bit to help lift millions of Indian citizens out of poverty, and the coal it will import will displace far dirtier forms of energy. A richer India will be able to afford to replace really dirty coal and methane-based fuel like cowpats with better alternatives. After all, all Indians reasonably want is what GetUp! members already have: reliable coal-fired electricity to power their lights and charge their smartphones.