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Anti-coal protesters defend motivations and their tactics

Media Academy

A protest group which aims to stop the coal industry in north Queensland is committed to using non-violent tactics, even if they sometimes break the law.

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The Frontline Action on Coal group (FLAC) has targeted Abbott Point near Bowen in North Queensland as the site for its main action, as the port is owned by the Indian giant Adani which intends to use it to ship coal to India from the Galilee Basin, some 500 kms inland.

According to a statement on FLAC’s website, the groups aim is to “protect the Galilee Basin from destructive coal and gas extraction, including Adani’s Carmichael mine, in order to create a world in which we all wish to live in.”

The group was established in August 2012 at Maules Creek in NSW, the site of a blockade to save the endangered Leard State Forest. Since then, it has targeted other potential coal mines around Australia, but its current focus is to stop the Adani coal mine in the Galilee Basin in central Queensland.

One way this small group of committed people intends to stop the global powerhouse of Adani is through various acts of civil disobedience.

The group is attempting to dissuade outside contractors from supporting coal related organisations and submit legal challenges in the courts.

But the group, while committed to non-violence, also implements tactics which break laws, such as members chaining themselves to train tracks or locking themselves to conveyer belts.

Andy Paine, one of the leading members of FLAC, is convinced that their actions, despite being unlawful, will one day be seen as necessary.

“There is a great history of civil disobedience around the world and in Australia, people have protested against war, slavery, systemic racism, and these [practices] were legal,” he said.

“There have been a number of protests that have led to arrests, but ultimately the history has justified those peoples. This give us the moral justification to keep doing what we are doing.

“It shows the priorities of our society, an industry that will result in climate break down, has a government that offers subsides for it, yet we are criminalised.

“We hope that we can look back on coal mining as something that was stopped.”

While FLAC’s passion to save the environment from global warming, bush fires and bio diversity loss is admirable, in a world where money talks, it is a seemingly impossible mission.

One thing is certain: Andy Paine and those who are a part of FLAC will continue to strive to complete what they see as their noble mission.

InQueensland’s Media Academy is a partnership involving Education Queensland and UQ, teaching high school students about critical thinking and the journalism skills needed to develop the next generation of public interest journalists. Their stories will be published regularly by InQueensland.

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