Galilee Blockade activist Ben Pennings is currently being dragged through the Queensland Supreme Court by the world’s fourth richest individual, Gautam Adani, as the Indian mining magnate seeks $17 million in damages over campaigning against his Carmichael coal mine.
As part of the proceedings that have dragged on for two years, Pennings agreed last Friday to allow the court to have a forensic investigator trawl through his electronic devices with the aim of attempting to prove the Brisbane family man had misused confidential data.
Pennings’ activism involved secondary boycott campaigns, encouraging the public to avoid other companies assisting Adani with the project. And this led to the Indian company applying for permission to raid his house, as well as hiring a private investigator to surveil his wife and daughter.
Despite a decade-long campaign against the establishment of the Carmichael mine in central Queensland’s Galilee Basin, which included major global financial institutions refusing to fund it, Adani commenced work on a scaled-down version of its proposal in 2019, which is now in operation.
An unfair system
At a Brisbane rally regarding rising repressions against peaceful protesters in July, Pennings told the crowd that Gautam Adani is now worth $150 billion and “25 percent of that income comes from thermal coal”, which is a damning fact in the global context of the escalating climate crisis.
“It’s the dirtiest fossil fuel around,” Pennings told the protesters, before recalling that his activism, which commenced in the 1990s, has seen him threatened with being sued on a number of occasions, with the first being when he was 21, while he was 48 when the current case began.
“The differences are,” Pennings continued, “the wealthier the person threatening to sue me, the more important it has been.” And he added that this is because only those who can spend big dollars on such civil proceedings can afford to see them through.
“The suit that I am under is called a slapp suit, which is strategic litigation against public participation. It is not only about suing me and my family and threatening my family home, it is also about threatening everyone here. It is a very public thing.”
Both local and international supporters have been vocally standing up for Pennings online and calling for others to do the same.
Australian Greens Senator Larissa Waters, performer Ben Lee and the staff at the Green Left Weekly have all recently put out messages of support.
So far over $64,000 has been raised for Pennings’ legal costs. But when you’re fighting one of the richest people on Earth, one needs as much finances as possible, especially when the case threatens to have a chilling effect on further campaigns opposing additional fossil fuel developments.
Pennings told Sydney Criminal Lawyers in late 2018 that the campaign against the Carmichael mine was part of a broader fight that necessitates a “line in the sand politically, in saying that given the evidence from the IPCC report, and all the climate change evidence… we have to stop new coal”.