Business Titans
Business Titans

Big two to take fight to activists

SELF-made Queensland titans have urged businesses to stand up to shouty climate change activists as Scott Morrison faces new pressure from his back bench and the resources industry to crack down on green protesters.

In a sign of growing frustration, Queensland Resources Council chief Ian Macfarlane is today urging the Prime Minister to widen new laws targeting vegans storming farms - with jail terms of up to 12 months - to include the "anarchists" who block coal trains and target resources-aligned businesses.

Cement king John Wagner and Sentinel Property baron Warren Ebert - who are collectively worth over $1 billion and proud supporters of Adani - are throwing their support behind Mr Macfarlane's legal push. And Australia's largest rail freight operator, Aurizon, is also backing the plan, saying the activism has become too dangerous.

North Queensland MP George Christensen said he had lobbied Mr Morrison and his colleagues for the changes Mr Macfarlane was urging.

 

Warren Ebert (left) and John Wagner are tackling protesters head-on. Picture: David Clark/AAP
Warren Ebert (left) and John Wagner are tackling protesters head-on. Picture: David Clark/AAP

 

Mr Christensen will move a motion to have the plan adopted as official National Party policy at federal council in September.

It comes amid growing anger over "an extreme green website set up to 'dob in a contractor' working for Adani".

Mr Wagner, Mr Ebert and their businesses have regularly been in the crosshairs of protesters, but have refused to take a backward step.

Some activists have obtained the private mobile phone number of Mr Wagner and bombarded him with texts and calls, accusing him of "destroying the planet" and "making a profit at the expense of your grandchildren".

Mr Wagner said he gave it back to them, labelled them "hypocrites" who forgot they were charging their phone with electricity from coal.

Asked if he was considering changing his number he said: "Why should I have to change my number because of these people?

"They are entitled to their view, but they should not be breaking the law,'' Mr Wagner said, referring to those trespassing and chaining themselves to port and rail infrastructure.

"I support what Macca wants to do."

 

 

Mr Ebert said he was sick of anti-Adani protesting outside Adani's Townsville's headquarters, which Sentinel owned.

"They (anti-Adani activists) go in and terrorise people, yelling and screaming. People get upset,'' he said.

Mr Ebert, who wrote to then police commissioner Ian Stewart earlier this year to demand protesters be charged if they set foot on his property, said he had no problem giving the activists a serve back.

"I tell them to piss off and leave our property. They are feral-looking bastards who have no respect for the business of the economy. They are trespassing and should be charged."

He said that while he had in-house lawyers and resources to take on the activists, it was harder for smaller businesses as they could not afford the disruption.

He urged business not to be afraid of protesters trying to stop them from making a buck, or expanding their firms by taking on work from the mining industry.

Mr Ebert said he could understand small business being nervous about taking on the protesters, but they should remember, "evil prospers by good people doing nothing".

"It has been shown by the number of arrests that these people have no respect for the law, or other people's wellbeing, only their own selfish ill-founded beliefs,'' he said.

 

A protester chained to a drum on a rail line near Adani's Abbot Point coal terminal last year
A protester chained to a drum on a rail line near Adani's Abbot Point coal terminal last year

 

The Courier-Mail has been told some businesses were too scared to take on contracts with Adani because they could face scores of protesters at their doors.

Mr Macfarlane saidthat action was needed.

"There's no difference between vegan activists storming a farm and anti-coal activists blocking a rail line,'' Mr Macfarlane said.

"Both show complete disrespect for everyday Queenslanders who are working hard to make a living so they can support their families.

"There should be no tolerance of this type of behaviour from activists, who are nothing more than anarchists obsessed with disrupting people's lives.

"We're calling on the Federal Government to broaden the Bill to cover all legitimate businesses, including mining, rail and port infrastructure."

A spokesman for Aurizon said it believed the proposed laws flagged by Mr Macfarlane were needed.

"We would strongly support extending this proposed legislation, and any other initiatives, to the many other legitimate businesses providing jobs for Australians that are being targeted by activists.

 

Protesters at the site of an Adani contractor. Picture: John Gass/AAP
Protesters at the site of an Adani contractor. Picture: John Gass/AAP

 

"Aurizon recognises everyone has a right to express their opinion, however not when it is done illegally and comes at the expense of safety.

"On-track protests are now one of the primary safety concerns for Aurizon.''

The Government has introduced a Bill that creates two new offences relating to the incitement of trespass or property offences on agricultural land.

It includes a sentence of up to 12 months' jail.

Attorney-General Christian Porter said trespassing on business property was most immediately a state law issue.

"One difference being it is more often agricultural businesses ... are also peoples' homes,'' Mr Porter said.

"The Commonwealth will monitor the operation of the new laws regarding agriculture and assess their potential suitability in other contexts on that basis.''