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Blue Sky Mine
January 8, 2013 11:16 PM   Subscribe

An environmental group's hoax e-mail dropped the more than $300 million from share price of Australian mining company Whitehaven Coal. The Australian Greens party has supported the economically destructive attack, drawing ire from the conservative Coalition party.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants (161 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
How nice to see environmental groups turning to market-based solutions.
posted by benito.strauss at 11:24 PM on January 8, 2013 [16 favorites]


How nice to see environmental groups turning to market-based solutions.

I suppose it's less directly destructive than ramming whaling ships or blowing up research labs. Part of me wants to support the pranksterish spirit, but part of me hates the attack on progress implicit in it. And of course all the groups in Australia that attack coal also attack nuclear or anything that isn't 'sustainable energy'.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 11:28 PM on January 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


Their stock is back to $3.50 from the pre-press release value of $3.52, so ... no harm no foul? I don't really understand the whole thing (so I hope someone who does pops in), but it just seems like the rightwingers are just seizing on this a convenient opportunity to whip up some outrage against anti-coal groups.
posted by barnacles at 11:40 PM on January 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


Their stock is back to $3.50 from the pre-press release value of $3.52, so ... no harm no foul?

Well, not exactly.

Their share price went down 9% before a trading halt was called, and the ASX has made a statement to the effect that they're not going to reverse any trades made on it due to the hoax. I think shareholders who sold when it was plunging aren't exactly likely to share the attitude of no harm done.
posted by solarion at 11:43 PM on January 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Considering that day trading is basically gambling I don't see that any harm was done at all really.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:44 PM on January 8, 2013 [20 favorites]


Lowering the share price of a stock is not economically destructive in the long term. The share price is just a bet made by gamblers playing the stock market. If it ultimately tracks the fundamental value of a corporation, it will go back up again as it went down. This is not any sort of concrete loss of real wealth, comparable to sinking whaling boats or even getting a mining contract cancelled.

I'm going to guess that the combination of Australia, skepticism of environmentalists, and The Hold Steady means you're someone who I know has strong ideological commitments to a definition of "progress". I'd like to suggest, though, that leaving the coal in the ground for now, maybe waiting until extraction technology has progressed to the point that it can be done nondestructively, also counts as "progress." (Of course, I'm treating planning ahead for the future as more progressive than getting as much as one can as fast as possible; you may disagree.)
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 11:47 PM on January 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


Dump, push rumour, rebuy.
posted by jaduncan at 12:01 AM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Pretty great example of non-violent activisim, as far as I can see. Also great example of the evils of the press release.
posted by Jimbob at 12:02 AM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Charlemagne In Sweatpants: "attack on progress"

The word "progress" has nothing to do with mining in Australia. A lot of mines don't even allow miners to bring in cameras.
posted by dunkadunc at 12:03 AM on January 9, 2013 [13 favorites]


I thought this was hilarious. Would love to know who lost out on the money, especially if there was automated selling involved.

Both Whitehaven and ANZ are ASX listed, and are required to tell the Securities Exchange if there is a major change. How this rumour got out is that people didn't spent 30 second checking regulatory filings.

Only the stupid and robots lost out, and people are now aware of Maules Creek if they weren't before.

(I thought the post was a bit Grar against the Greens than was called for too, but eh... markets gonna market).
posted by Mezentian at 12:04 AM on January 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


As someone who knows nothing about the Australian political scene, might I ask: The Coalition supports... coal?
posted by ancienteyes at 12:05 AM on January 9, 2013 [5 favorites]


Their stock is back to $3.50 from the pre-press release value of $3.52, so ... no harm no foul? I don't really understand the whole thing (so I hope someone who does pops in)...

tl;dr ANZ Bank loaned a mining company a lot of money ($1.2 billion AUD) to fund a mining venture. Without the loan, the venture could not proceed.

A random activist that didn't like the mining venture because of its deleterious effects on the environment knocked up a fake press release saying that ANZ Bank had withdrawn the loan, which would mean that the venture could not proceed.

Investors (mostly institutional) awaiting the soaring stock price that would result from the venture panicked and dumped this stock looking for a quicker gain.

The Australian Stock Exchange (ASX) realised what was going, called trading halt, called out the hoax.

The investors flooded back, resulting in no loss at all to the company. Some institutional investors would have made a minor loss, almost certainly near-completely mitigated by their other purchases. Others made a minor gain, snapping up the stock at a 9% discount on market price.

If anything, this all highlights the massive regulatory failure of the ASX in not requiring players in the market to have some basic level of security and verification on these kinds of documents. ANZ should have had a digital signature on their press releases, allowing the hoax to be easily detected. But nope, anyone with MS Office and a command of corporate speak can put something together that will rock the market. Utter security fail.

but it just seems like the rightwingers are just seizing on this a convenient opportunity to whip up some outrage against anti-coal groups.

Pretty much.

CiS, your claim of 'economic destruction' is overblown and ultimately inaccurate. The company suffered no damage. This does, however, highlight a massive flaw in the way that the modern stock market operates.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 12:06 AM on January 9, 2013 [21 favorites]


Yeah, ancienteyes. Pretty much every party except The Greens supports digging shit out of the ground and selling it as fast as possible.
posted by Jimbob at 12:07 AM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Adding: yes, coal is one of our three biggest exports (along with iron ore and LNG) and a major export earner (and a large employer overall, I suppose, although the importance of mining jobs can get over-stated).

To be fair, Australian black coal is some of the "cleanest" in the world, when compared against other coals. So, it's better to burn our coal than many other coals. But it's still coal.
posted by Mezentian at 12:10 AM on January 9, 2013


Thanks, his thoughts were red thoughts, you've helped clear it up for me. I guess my conclusion now, especially after seeing what you pointed out about the ASX, is just "ha-ha!"
posted by barnacles at 12:11 AM on January 9, 2013


Investors (mostly institutional) awaiting the soaring stock price that would result from the venture panicked and dumped this stock looking for a quicker gain.

I am not sure this is accurate, with respect.
The development was recognised in the share price, so whoever sold was trying to get our before the value of the Gunnedah project was removed.
They can "wisely invest" their money elsewhere, and get back in when Whitehaven organises finance. This wasn't a Tasmanian Pulp Mill deal. Someone would have paid.
posted by Mezentian at 12:12 AM on January 9, 2013


Incidentally, the Whitehaven mining project in question (one of the biggest coal mining operations in the world) will result in serious degradation to, if not the total destruction of, an endangered white box woodland ecosystem in the Leard State Forest.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 12:16 AM on January 9, 2013


They can "wisely invest" their money elsewhere, and get back in when Whitehaven organises finance.

...which is exactly what happened when the hoax was exposed.

But yes, I was being a bit snarky.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 12:18 AM on January 9, 2013


If a stock is being sold in a stock market, it has no real effect on the operation of the company if the market price of the stock fluctuates.
posted by Windopaene at 12:19 AM on January 9, 2013


I suppose it's less directly destructive than ramming whaling ships ...

No, see, it's creative destruction. They are only acting to expose any fundamental weaknesses in the company that the market may have missed as of yet. This eliminates inefficiencies and clears the market space for stronger and better companies going forward. Heck, the United States came within 300,000 votes of electing a guy who made millions doing this.

Sure, this particular guy wants to take his profits in terms of changes in types of energy used, rather than in dollars. But we shouldn't limit what people want to pursue — that's communism.

Also, you're not actually in favor of whaling ships, right? But you just find some methods of opposing whaling not to your taste?
posted by benito.strauss at 12:38 AM on January 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Also, the activist, Jonathan Moylan, is now being investigated by the Australian Securities and Investment Commission for breaches of the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth) (probably re making a false or misleading statement that affects a financial market, although charges haven't been laid yet).
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 12:39 AM on January 9, 2013


And in totally unrelated news, heat records are being broken and fires are raging all over the country.
posted by moorooka at 12:45 AM on January 9, 2013 [9 favorites]


If ASIC wanted to chase up people who make "a false or misleading statement that affects a financial market", man, are they going to have their hands full.

He's not a market participant. It'll be curious to see how far those charges stick. ASIC's prosecution and conviction rate is pretty piss poor.
Still, I reckon ASIC can mop the floor with a guy who only owns a tent and a computer.
That'll teach the fucker to be poor.
posted by Mezentian at 12:45 AM on January 9, 2013 [6 favorites]


Much as I dislike extractive companies, peddling bullshit to distort the stock market is not right (and yes, I know many others do it, if perhaps less blatantly). There are many, many good reasons for this to be thoroughly banned, and even if the perpetrator himself didn't benefit from the hoax, somebody else surely did (intentionally or not).
A crime doesn't cease to be a crime just because the criminal is a "good guy", folks.
posted by Skeptic at 12:59 AM on January 9, 2013 [8 favorites]


Also, you know who certainly benefitted from the hoax? Investors who got the chance to snap up Whitehaven shares at a discount before the market went back to normal. That's right, people investing in Whitehaven Coal. Was that the activist's intent?
posted by Skeptic at 1:03 AM on January 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


The snark at some investors being - just robots - is I think kind of shitty in a number of important ways.

We should want a stock market that is stable enough that institutions and amateurs don't get fleeced like this. These hoaxers defrauded a lot of people and just because they didn't clean up afterwards, assuming they didn't, doesn't make the fraud any less real. Stock markets will always have an element of gambling to them, but the less they resemble casinos the better off society will be. To throw up our hands and laugh at those hurt by this is to say that the incredible wealth generated by investing should be inaccessible to people like us with real jobs, or pensions, or money being saved up for a house.

Stock Markets have multiple purposes, the first and most obvious is to assist companies in the acquisition of capital and with the rebounding of their stock price there was really no meaningful damage done, however they also exist to make investing accessible to more than just elite clubs of inbred networks of rich people who quickly gain the ability to defraud with impunity, which is all these activists really managed to promote here.
posted by Blasdelb at 1:06 AM on January 9, 2013 [6 favorites]


So funding an ecologically destructive mine to dig up fossil fuels that are slowly making the planet uninhabitable is okay.

But putting together a fake press release to draw attention to such a mine is just... criminal!! Some investors (the ones who dumped their shares at the first hint that this environmental destruction might not take place) might have lost a bit of money. Lock up the bastard!
posted by moorooka at 1:12 AM on January 9, 2013 [9 favorites]


Good on this guy, pity that he got caught though. I wonder how he got emails of all the investors...
posted by Joe Chip at 1:13 AM on January 9, 2013


Nothing's as precious as a hole in the ground.
posted by professor plum with a rope at 1:26 AM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Blasdelb - The snark at some investors being - just robots - is I think kind of shitty in a number of important ways.

I think Mezentian might really mean robots - i.e. automated trading software that is programmed to react to certain stock movements. I could be wrong though.
posted by guy72277 at 1:32 AM on January 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


But putting together a fake press release to draw attention to such a mine is just... criminal!!

Well, the fake press release didn't only (or even mainly) draw attention to the mine. Indeed, the people who read it and reacted upon it obviously were very well acquainted with the existence of the mine, and hardly needed their attention drawn to it. So, if the intended purpose was "to draw attention to the mine", that's a fail.

However, this fake press release did succeed in (briefly) manipulating the stockmarket. And that, in most jurisdictions, is a crime, regardless of whether the particular stock you are manipulating is "My Little Unicorn Rainbow Farts Ltd." or "Belzebub's Raping, Sacking and Plundering Inc."

Besides, the investors who held and dumped shares lost money, but those who bought those shares gained. How exactly did this help the environment?

As hoaxes go, this was in the stupid and/or evil category. Don't expect me to summon much sympathy for such self-defeating grandstanding.
posted by Skeptic at 1:37 AM on January 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Well, yeah, automated trading systems that handle the money of real people with pensions and savings of various kinds.
posted by Blasdelb at 1:38 AM on January 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


The worst bit about this is the role of the media. A hoax like this depends on their credulity, and they failed, big-time.

First, you had The Age's Financial Services editor -- you know, the guy responsible for reporting on this stuff -- admitting it was a shoddy hoax but still making excuses:
… there were several red flags. Banks don't usually go about advertising the fact they have pulled a financing facility. They leave that to the company.

Even if they did, it's not the head of corporate sustainability (named in the press release) that does the talking over controversial banking decisions. It's the executive in charge of the business - in this case, either institutional banking boss (Alex Thursby) or ANZ's Australian boss (Phil Chronican).

Finally, such a statement would have come from the Australian Securities Exchange's announcement platform, rather than an emailed press release. Still, it was good enough to leave some running with it and wipe more than $300 million off Whitehaven's market capitalisation.
And today, The Age's editorial called it "financial terrorism", and again tried to divert attention:
That is why The Age urges the corporate regulator to ensure that swift and rigorous action is taken against the perpetrators of the latest fraud on the market, a hoax conducted via a bogus press release …
(but not via a bogus financial press)
This is certainly not the first time financial markets have been duped by an elaborate hoax.
(yesterday, your financial services editor made it pretty clear there was nothing elaborate about it)
Some would blame the media for jumping on to a bogus statement without double-checking its accuracy, but that is hitting the wrong target. The media have a critical role in distributing accurate information, and it is imperative on journalists to check the veracity of statements …
This hoax could not have succeeded if the journalists had carried out the admitted "imperative" that they check the truth of what they publish. They are absolutely the right target if you want to protect the market from manipulation of this kind.

Now, here's the interesting part.
… but fraud is, by definition, intended to deceive.
Nobody's talking about fraud. ASIC is investigating the hoaxer under s 1041E of the Corporations Act.

This is a "strict liability" offence in relation to the impact on the market --- there is no need to prove that the accused intended the market impact, or that the accused had even considered the potential market impact.

It also includes this:
(c) when the person makes the statement, or disseminates the information:

(i) the person does not care whether the statement or information is true or false
So, you don't need to even think about the market impact or whether the information is true or false. And this carries a 10 year prison sentence (or a fine of 10% of a corporation's annual turnover).

But how about this hypothetical.

What if there was a newspaper that published a report (and thereby "disseminated the information") based on a press release that the relevant editor admits was suspicious on its face, without checking its veracity? Might it be thought that the newspaper "did not care whether the statement was true or false" at the time of publication?

Might that newspaper be guilty of an offence?
posted by robcorr at 1:41 AM on January 9, 2013 [6 favorites]


I should clarify that this is a hypothetical because I don't think The Age printed the story in its hard copy, and I can't find an online story (either it wasn't published or it has since been deleted).
posted by robcorr at 1:48 AM on January 9, 2013


part of me hates the attack on progress

I don't support the action, and I think the Greens are kinda crazy for publicly endorsing it so strongly, but I'm really failing to see how a fake press release lapped up by the gullible and/or lazy could be construed as an 'attack on progress' - maybe you could expand on that a little?

More broadly I think this stunt exposes the hysteria & ignorance that underpins a lot of volatile market moves and confirms my general opinion of the ASX (a total joke, basically). The ASIC action - whilst justified I suppose in the letter of the law - strikes me as little more than a face-saving attempt, and given their inability to get a conviction (or even pursue a conviction half the time) for the most egregious insider trading and other nonsense, I would be surprised if they can make it stick. But I am definitely not a lawyer, nor very familiar with the corporations act.

My problems with the stunt are manifold:

From a moral perspective, we have a capitalist system and within that it is important that our sharemarket and information relating to it is robust. It's funny when it's Whitehaven - and believable because of Tinkler's stupid megalomania - but imagine if it was one of our biggest (and no less evil, I might add) companies like BHP. In a risky economic climate, this stuff can be serious.

From a utilitarian perspective, what did it accomplish? The mine is still going ahead, and won't be stopped, slowed down etc as a result of this.

From a Communications perspective, firstly it suffers because - like most stunts - the stunt itself consumes its ostensible purpose. Coverage is a) largely valueless in our debased media-cycle and b) centered around the stunt, not around the mine's environmental issues or the grandiose stupidity of continuing to dig up coal.

Secondly, it confirms a popular stereotype of both environmentalists and Greens as immature ideologues, refusing to - incapable of - using the proper channels, and focused more on Pyrrhic victories than hard yards. Ignorant and/or disdainful of business or corporate priorities and needs. In an election year, this is the last thing that the Greens - whose vote will already suffer as this election becomes a referendum for or against Abbott - need.

tl;dr is was a silly stunt that will accomplish nothing, plays into a banal and ineffectual media cycle, preaches to the choir and confirms outdated stereotypes of environmentalists.

Note: none of this has anything to do with my opinion on the merits of the mine, The Greens, the ASX etc. I think that is somewhat immaterial when assessing the success of this as a PR exercise. It makes me sad some times, it's seems like so many people who possess the fire to want change lack the mindfulness to achieve it. They celebrate winning the battles whilst steadily losing the war.
posted by smoke at 1:51 AM on January 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Some would blame the media for jumping on to a bogus statement without double-checking its accuracy, but that is hitting the wrong target.

Ha. Honestly, is there a more entitled bunch of pricks than the Australian Media? Nothing is ever their fault. Gross misreporting, profits crashing like the Hindenburg, public levels of trust in them and what they report on lower than the Marianas Trench.

Some would blame the media because they are shit, they have been shit for years and don't care about not being shit.

Of course ASIC won't touch em.
posted by smoke at 1:55 AM on January 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think Mezentian might really mean robots - i.e. automated trading software that is programmed to react to certain stock movements. I could be wrong though.

You are 100% correct.


Ha. Honestly, is there a more entitled bunch of pricks than the Australian Media?

Do we have any proof the media reported this in any substantive way? There are a lot of services that simply repost pressers, almost automatically.
posted by Mezentian at 2:12 AM on January 9, 2013


In the kind of Alice In Wonderland world we inhabit that sees AIG suing the American government for bailing them out, this little lark should be seen as the minor comic relief it really is. That the stock market can react in such a fashion to a fabricated press release is just more evidence of how filthy, corrupt, and badly broken the financial markets really are.

"A gold mine is a hole in the ground with a liar on top" ~ Mark Twain
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 2:13 AM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Do we have any proof the media reported this in any substantive way? There are a lot of services that simply repost pressers, almost automatically.

Most have deleted their articles. However, Business Spectator reported it (and later deleted their article titled 'ANZ withdraws from Whitehaven loan'), and it was reposted by other sites.

So in short, yes, we have proof that Business Spectator (at least) reported it.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 2:21 AM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't know who to blame for the lack of any ironic elements surrounding a situation that should be awash in it.
posted by vicx at 2:32 AM on January 9, 2013


Well, the fake press release didn't only (or even mainly) draw attention to the mine. Indeed, the people who read it and reacted upon it obviously were very well acquainted with the existence of the mine, and hardly needed their attention drawn to it. So, if the intended purpose was "to draw attention to the mine", that's a fail.
In terms of public and media attention (duh!) then it's not a fail at all.
However, this fake press release did succeed in (briefly) manipulating the stockmarket. And that, in most jurisdictions, is a crime, regardless of whether the particular stock you are manipulating is "My Little Unicorn Rainbow Farts Ltd." or "Belzebub's Raping, Sacking and Plundering Inc."
If it were done by a market participant in order to profit, then sure, but it wasn't that type of "manipulation". And whether he technically broke the law or not does not determine whether it was right or wrong - civil disobedience has been an important part of many political movements.
Besides, the investors who held and dumped shares lost money, but those who bought those shares gained. How exactly did this help the environment?
You're missing the forest for the trees, this is part of a broader political struggle against a planet-killing industry. If a bank knows that making unethical investments will make it the subject of potentially costly activism, maybe it will think twice. If planet-killers cant trust the market to work as conveniently as they would like, then all the better. This was a huge dose of negative PR for those involved in a toxic project, which unlike this quite brilliant hoax, really is "evil" and "stupid".
posted by moorooka at 2:33 AM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Unbelievably brilliant, great work. So funny to hear people stand up for companies that are damaging the environment on here. And all the "whaa its still a crime even if your the good guy" is even better.
posted by marienbad at 2:38 AM on January 9, 2013


Do we have any proof the media reported this in any substantive way? There are a lot of services that simply repost pressers, almost automatically.

Actually, I saw an article on it in the Australian Financial Review too. Of course, it's gone now, and the old link redirects to an article about the hoax. But Google still has it indexed. Here's a screen grab.

The AFR is the dominant player in market reporting in Australia. So yeah, the media is culpable.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 2:40 AM on January 9, 2013


These guys or someone who knew them had the stock short when they put out the hoax. The SEC goes after people like this all the time in the US.
posted by michaelh at 2:48 AM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Unbelievably brilliant, great work. So funny to hear people stand up for companies that are damaging the environment on here. And all the "whaa its still a crime even if your the good guy" is even better.

The environmental movement has a serious sense of self-righteousness that can lead to dangerous places. This was honestly clever and mostly harmless. But there was recently a post about an environmental activist who followed the Unabomber's writings and I think a leader of the Australian Green Party just sailed with the eco-terrorist Sea Shephard organization.

The issue isn't guerilla activism but it being supported and sanctioned by a legitimate, recognized party. The same as we criticize Tony Abbot for playing to Men's Rights Activists.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 2:50 AM on January 9, 2013


Re: the reporting. This is from an article in The Australian (never shy about bagging its competitors) about "gullible media":
The company had made no announcements to the stock exchange that would explain the slump but quickly discovered reports on The Australian Financial Review and other Fairfax Media websites and newswire AAP saying ANZ had withdrawn a bank loan that would have funded its new Maules Creek coalmine in the Leard state forest 18km northeast of Boggabri in northern NSW.
That Fairfax fell for it certainly explains The Age's pathetic response.
posted by robcorr at 2:58 AM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


If it were done by a market participant in order to profit, then sure, but it wasn't that type of "manipulation".

Well, if manipulating the stock value of an evil corporation is A Good Thing, then what could be wrong with earning a little money in the process? Or is it only A Good Thing if only other people earn money from it? Can't you see how absurd this position is?

In terms of public and media attention (duh!) then it's not a fail at all.

Except that, as smoke points out, said attention is being directed to the perpetrator of the stunt and his advocates, rather than to the mine. And not positively.

And whether he technically broke the law or not does not determine whether it was right or wrong

It does however determine whether it was criminal.

civil disobedience has been an important part of many political movements.

And going to prison as a consequence of said civil disobedience has also been an important part of them...But this guy is not a Gandhi or an MLK in any case. His action is foolish, misguided and counterproductive. He has ultimately done zero to prevent that mine being dug. My "Rosa Parks" touchstone for the morality of civil disobedience is whether the law being infringed is moral or not. In this particular case, would you like the already overly porous provisions against stockmarket manipulation to be further slackened by a gaping "Robin Hood" loophole or not? Because those are the legal provisions this guy has breached, not those allowing environmentally destructive mining.
posted by Skeptic at 3:15 AM on January 9, 2013


The environmental movement has a serious sense of self-righteousness that can lead to dangerous places.

Oh geez, and mining companies don't? The Australian media circus doesn't? By the way, this will cheer you up... Bob Brown has just been made head of those nasty nasty eco-terrorists.
posted by Jimbob at 3:24 AM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


So funny to hear people stand up for companies that are damaging the environment on here. And all the "whaa its still a crime even if your the good guy" is even better.

I'm not saying that a decent case for this dude can't be made, but that's a really one-dimensional, terrible, defence. If someone damages the environment, we can commit crimes against them?

Am I to assume, Marienbad, that you don't damage the environment with your lifestyle? You must surely be using 100% renewable power, etc etc, if the ends justify the means in your book. Whitehaven may be an immoral company, but they are not an illegal company, and so far as I'm aware do not largely finance any of the AU denialist orgs and lobbyists. They are the wrong target.

I see this myopia a lot. You complain about the company and the crime; changing the law would address both issues. It is legal to pollute.

eco-terrorist Sea Shephard organization

Straight back to your old hyperbole, eh CiS? (I would not, I personally criticise political party involvement with MRAs [not that I've seen any, even from Abbott] because they are horrible and chauvinist. They are not illegal, and nor is associating with them, much like associating with Sea Shepherd... I think the Greens made a mistake, politically, more than anything else. ]
posted by smoke at 3:41 AM on January 9, 2013


"Heck, the United States came within 300,000 votes of electing a guy who made millions doing this."

No we didn't. When it comes to the popular vote, then Mitt lost by nearly five million votes.

If, however, you are talking about the absolute most advantageous shift in the electoral votes, then you're talking about 429,000 votes. (74K extra votes in Florida (29 e.v.), 166K in Ohio (18 e.v.), 149K in Virginia (13 e.v.), and 40K votes in New Hampshire (4 e.v.). A 64 electoral vote shift, 270-268.

Really, that's not particularly close... especially since elections don't really work that way. It was certainly a more substantial margin than we saw during the Bush administration.
posted by markkraft at 3:43 AM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


"If someone damages the environment, we can commit crimes against them?"

What crime?!

Companies issue press releases all the time, with the intent of manipulating and deceiving presenting issues in the best light. Why is it a crime for someone else to do the same?

It's not like they did it to profit from their press release. We're not supposed to allow satire and social critique that might be thought about and taken seriously for half a minute?! We're not supposed to allow this form of criticism because the company in question could lose money or have their public trust undermined?

Get real. No crime has been shown to have been committed.
posted by markkraft at 3:57 AM on January 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


If the sharemarket is so incredibly sensitive, so hugely reliant on completely honest, trustworthy information, then systems should be in place so investors know what is real news, and what isn't. As others have pointed out, there are mechanisms in place for reporting of financial goings on. The "sustainability officer" or whatever of a bank doesn't send out an email to everyone saying they are denying a loan. It was not an "elaborate hoax". It was a lucky shot, which probably hasn't had any positive impact on the environment, but it could potentially have some positive impact on how the sharemarket is run and how financial news is reported and digested...although given the way the media, politicians and investors are crawling up their own arseholes in an effort to ignore these lessons, I don't hold much hope of that.
posted by Jimbob at 4:05 AM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


This could be the beginning of the end for the Greens. Labor is under pressure from Murdoch and the mining lobby to put them last in their preference, behind religious parties and cold-war dinosaurs like the DLP and next to overt racists like One Nation. So far, they have resisted, though now that the Greens have endorsed criminal activity, having any truck with them could be a bridge too far, unless they expel those who endorsed the prank (which may be impossible given the Greens' lack of disciplinary mechanisms). After this, the Greens will probably be down there with the Australian Communist Party and the LaRouche paranoiacs in the fringes of perpetual unelectability. Even maintaining a government with the Greens on pain of an early election and predicted Tory landslide could become unviable.
posted by acb at 4:15 AM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


And it does seem ironic to see Eric Abetz of the conservatives saying "with the Greens it is always a case of the ends justifying the means", given that he lied about his citizenship in order to be eligible to hold office.

And his links to Focus on the Family and the right to life orgs are charming too. And his record for attacking and basically lying about ordinary people who don't have the level of public attention needed to adequately defend themselves.

He's an extremist right winger who previously called environmentalists "traitors". It seems odd that he's even being taken remotely seriously by anyone.
posted by markkraft at 4:16 AM on January 9, 2013


" though now that the Greens have endorsed criminal activity"

Can you cite the conviction in question? Or even actual charges being pressed?! Or is this just an issue of freedom of speech, just like any other press release, real or satirical?

Let me guess... you were offended by A Modest Proposal, right?!
posted by markkraft at 4:25 AM on January 9, 2013


Well, if manipulating the stock value of an evil corporation is A Good Thing, then what could be wrong with earning a little money in the process? Or is it only A Good Thing if only other people earn money from it? Can't you see how absurd this position is?
That's kinda like saying that there should be no laws against insider trading. I mean, if an insider knows the share price is going to change anyway, what's wrong with earning a little money from that knowledge?

Actually insider trading happens all the time and seldom results in getting caught, which is what makes all the "criminal" talk about this guy all the more absurd.

Now for this guy to profiteer would make a pretty obvious difference to the moral legitimacy of the hoax. I think it's absurd that a non-participant in a market should have their freedom of speech curtailed based on possible share price movements that result from any given investors' stupid lack of due dilligence.

What we have here is a company investing in a toxic coal project and a few share traders looking out for no one but themselves. Verses one guy who cares, with no resources but his own wit, engaging in some creative social activism, which has harmed nobody but might have cost a few impulsive and greedy idiots a small bit of money.

I seriously doubt he will actually be found guilty of any crime, but if he is then it is the law that's at fault.
posted by moorooka at 4:31 AM on January 9, 2013 [4 favorites]


There's a difference between A Modest Proposal and publishing a false press release to affect stock prices. The latter is, in the eyes of the law, fraud (see also: pump-and-dump scams).

I voted Green in the last few elections, and it disappoints me that the one progressive party in Australia has to end this way, but in this case, it seems to be an act of death by misadventure rather than foul play.
posted by acb at 4:33 AM on January 9, 2013


I think that the Greens in question are simply weighing the seriousness of this so-called "crime" against the seriousness of the danger posed by the coal industry.

Of course, there are "respectable" environmentalists who understand that the coal industry is slowly roasting the planet but still balk at the idea of a something as grossly irresponsible as a prank that disrupts trading in one coal company's stock for a few hours.
posted by moorooka at 4:42 AM on January 9, 2013


It's amazing anyone defends this as a bold strike for the environmental movement. It undermines the CORE rhetorical position of the environmentalists: global warming and the need to cut carbon emissions are settled scientific facts that cannot be disputed in good faith, which in defines the battle as between altruistic truth tellers and selfish liars, rather than between people with differing ideologies, economic interests or scientific opinions. You don't get to hold that posture when you enthusaistic endorse calculated deception in schemes for market manipulation.
posted by MattD at 4:49 AM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


That's kinda like saying that there should be no laws against insider trading. I mean, if an insider knows the share price is going to change anyway, what's wrong with earning a little money from that knowledge?

As a matter of fact, laws against insider trading also generally sanction leaking insider information even when the leaker hasn't profited himself from the leak. Which would be a more appropriate parallel.

Now for this guy to profiteer would make a pretty obvious difference to the moral legitimacy of the hoax.

Exactly how? You haven't answered my question: if what you are doing is Good, how does it become less good if it also earns you money? What you call "moral legitimacy" has very little to do with morals, I believe.

I think it's absurd that a non-participant in a market should have their freedom of speech curtailed based on possible share price movements that result from any given investors' stupid lack of due dilligence.

Slander and libel laws curtail freedom of speech, even when the slanderer or libeler doesn't personally profit from it, and even if the target of his slander is perfectly despicable for other reasons.

which has harmed nobody but might have cost a few impulsive and greedy idiots a small bit of money

If you can't parse that sentence without noticing the intrinsic contradiction, then I guess it's pointless to argue. In any case, this guy hasn't just cost "a few impulsive and greedy idiots" (including probably quite a few pension funds running high-frequency trading robots) "a small bit of money" (quite a few millions, in fact), but in fact transferred that money to other similarly "impulsive and greedy idiots" (who may, or may not, have had advance knowledge of the hoax).

This stunt hasn't been in the least anti-capitalistic, but rather an expression of capitalism at its worst.
posted by Skeptic at 4:58 AM on January 9, 2013


Can't access the first link right now but as I gather from reading the second link and the comments Jonathan spread a lie to the public with the intent to hurt the mining company? It seems pretty uncomplicated that that act in itself is illegal. What's interesting is that he's doing it to protect a legitimate societal interest rather than for personal gain. Not sure what Australian law can do with that. I hope he gets off easy, it's a good publicity stunt. But rule of law means that, well, the law rules, until you change it. You can't just say "oh, but by then it is too late!". I tried that on a few speeding tickets and it didn't work.
posted by deo rei at 5:06 AM on January 9, 2013


I am an environmentalist. I am a Geosciences major. The real way to combat the drastic over-extraction and over-consumption of fossil fuels is to become a goddam scientist and help research alternative energy sources.

As much as my heart likes people acting against mining, it's bull that the ends justify the means. If you're failing in your cause, defying the law isn't (generally) the right course of action. Brainstorming for a legal way to set them back, now that I would support.
posted by DoubleLune at 5:12 AM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Basically, he made a fake press release in order to bring serious attention to the fact that the money that people were putting into their bank accounts was being loaned out for very environmentally damaging coal mining. If that was my money being loaned out for strip mining, even as many Australians can't get a loan, I would want to know that. They did far more serious informing than they did hoaxing.

Just because you seek a major spotlight for your issue, that doesn't mean that your intent is necessarily to hurt the share price of the companies in question.

How do you differentiate this from, say, what The Yes Men have done? And where are the criminal charges against them?!
posted by markkraft at 5:17 AM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


The environmental movement has a serious sense of self-righteousness that can lead to dangerous places.

Seriously? SERIOUSLY? You must have a very different take on what "civilization ending climate change" actually means. Nor is the use of "self-righteous" appropriate. The wasteful, growth-fetishizing, consumer-driven economic system we're stuck in, and the extraction industries that power and are enriched by it, have already led us to a very dangerous place. Those who tut-tut the growing minority who is sounding the alarm are the self-righteous, because a phony morality is all that is left to justify the status quo.

If someone damages the environment, we can commit crimes against them?

Don't confuse the immoral with the criminal. We live in a time when the word "terrorist" is not just thrown around, but codified statutorily for the expressed purpose of stifling dissent.

This stunt hasn't been in the least anti-capitalistic, but rather an expression of capitalism at its worst.

Precisely. It has the karmic quality of the best culture jamming.
posted by mondo dentro at 5:32 AM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Skeptic

If you can understand the distinction between whistleblowing and insider trading (which hapens to involve "trading", hence the name), then this shouldn't be too difficult to follow.

Any pecuniary gain compromises the integrity of the hoaxter's motive, as it would for a whistleblower.

And here, where the motive is to punish those who have undertaken an unethical investment, it would be hypocritical for the hoaxter to undertake the same investment himself.

Slander and libel laws can be, and are, used to suppress free speech. Of course there is a difference between a prank like this and an effort to ruin a human being's reputation (especially for monetary gain, which is not necessary for a slander/libel prosecution but which would of course be a relevant consideration and piece of evidence in any such legal case).

Now when I say "harm nobody" I'm obviously (I thought) talking about physical harm (which coal does cause to humans and the environment), not the financial harm of a few easily-fooled polluter-industry investors.

But, oh, won't somebody think of the "Pensioners[' funds running hi-frequency trading robots]"!! Give me a fucking break.

If the sellers bought again at the lowered price then the net transfer may have been quite small in the end, and if some smarter traders made money off some stupider traders then boo-fucking-hoo. Who cares. Invest in something less evil next time.

Any trader who profited from advance knowledge of the hoax should be subject to the relevant laws, but you of course have zero evidence of this and so your "may or may not" is just weasel-word bullshit.
posted by moorooka at 5:50 AM on January 9, 2013


Non-Aussie question: Is Whitehaven Coal the actual company in "Blue Sky Mine"?
posted by Chrysostom at 5:53 AM on January 9, 2013


Contingent on Green support for the formation of a minority government, Gillard and the ALP proposed and passed the Clean Energy Bill, a fixed-price carbon tax set to proceed to a floating-price emissions trading scheme after three years. In other words, thanks to the Greens, we will soon have a market-based emissions trading scheme, designed to increase the price of energy and thereby enable currently non-competative alternative energy companies to compete against coal mining companies. So to see the present-day Greens leader publicly endorsing a market manipulator is quite surprising. Fledgling alternative energy companies will not only need the ASX for capital raising, they will also be far more vulnerable to market manipulation coal mining companies. This guy's actions should not in any way be supported or condoned, and not just because of the investors.
posted by kisch mokusch at 6:01 AM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


I dunno, if this dude goes down it seems like maybe someone should be arresting the Yes Men too.
posted by aramaic at 6:06 AM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Any trader who profited from advance knowledge of the hoax should be subject to the relevant laws,

Day traders don't have to have "prior knowledge" to profit from this sort of event. And if they did, they wouldn't need to do something stupid and risky like shorting on the stock. All they need to do is get the information (i.e. that it's a hoax) a minute earlier than everyone else and buy while it's cheap, which is exactly what they do. Stock brokers love this sort of thing, it's really easy money for them.
posted by kisch mokusch at 6:14 AM on January 9, 2013


The regulator will have to investigate in order to determine that none of the hoaxers were short the stock. If it turns out they were not, then the issue will probably be resolved with some sort of minor wrist slap
posted by JPD at 6:28 AM on January 9, 2013


Just because you seek a major spotlight for your issue, that doesn't mean that your intent is necessarily to hurt the share price of the companies in question.

That is true, but in this case, from the reporting I gather it was pretty obviously intended to hurt the share price. According to SMH he has admitted to "tricking investors".

How do you differentiate this from, say, what The Yes Men have done ? And where are the criminal charges against them?!

Interesting comparison, but I don't see how criminal law comes into play in the spectacular Bhopal stunt given that there was no material benefit for The Yes Men and Dow (wisely) chose not to pursue the matter. The Yes Men themselves seem to grant the possibility that what they're doing is illegal (see the Yes Men FAQ), they just don't care. In any case I think the situation is more complex than "they both impersonated somebody so they should get the same treatment". What The Yes Men pull off is genuinely impressive and closer to theater/satire. This isn't.
posted by deo rei at 6:35 AM on January 9, 2013


"Interesting comparison, but I don't see how criminal law comes into play in the spectacular Bhopal stunt given that there was no material benefit for The Yes Men and Dow (wisely) chose not to pursue the matter."

There was no material benefit for Jonathan Moylan... and any criminality in this case should have nothing to do in this case with whether the coal company wishes to pursue matters. Doing so would be in their worst interest, however.
posted by markkraft at 6:51 AM on January 9, 2013


Well, we'll see. As I said, I hope he gets off easy, but at the same time I don't think there is anything wrong in principle with the idea that sending out fake press releases with the intent to trick investors should be illegal.
posted by deo rei at 6:57 AM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


If you can understand the distinction between whistleblowing and insider trading

Where was the whistleblowing here? Whistleblowing involves revealing some truthful, if inconvenient information. This guy didn't "reveal" anything that wasn't either public or false.

Any pecuniary gain compromises the integrity of the hoaxter's motive, as it would for a whistleblower.

I don't have any moral trouble whatsoever with a whistleblower who also manages to earn money from his whistleblowing (as opposed to a blackmailer, who earns money from shutting up). You seem to mistake unselfishness with goodness. They're very emphatically not the same.

I'm not about to glorify selfishness à la Ayn Rand, but unselfishness isn't per se proof of goodness: some of the worst crimes in history were perpetrated quite unselfishly.

Now when I say "harm nobody" I'm obviously (I thought) talking about physical harm (which coal does cause to humans and the environment), not the financial harm of a few easily-fooled polluter-industry investors.

So, it's alright if I pick your pocket without physically harming you?

This guy basically took the money from one set of mining investors (not just the "easily deluded", but also those running market-tracking algorithms) to give it to another set of mining investors. Hardly Robin Hood stuff, so knock off the self-righteousness.

your "may or may not" is just weasel-word bullshit

No, just a reminder of the obvious risk of relying on the good faith of liars when large quantities of money are at stake.
posted by Skeptic at 7:01 AM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


some of the worst crimes in history were perpetrated quite unselfishly

I'm having a hard time coming up with something in this category. Please don't tell me that Pol Pot and Stalin had "unselfish" motives because they were "communally oriented"...
posted by mondo dentro at 7:04 AM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


where the motive is to punish those who have undertaken an unethical investment

...then you don't drive the share price momentarily down, thus offering a discount to others keen to undertake that very same unethical investment.
posted by Skeptic at 7:04 AM on January 9, 2013


I'm having a hard time coming up with something in this category.

Then you don't appear to consider the acts of patriotic millions going to war for their countries or religions and slaughtering each other, as well as quite a few bystanders, for some glorious ideal...
posted by Skeptic at 7:07 AM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


where the motive is to punish those who have undertaken an unethical investment

...then you don't drive the share price momentarily down, thus offering a discount to others keen to undertake that very same unethical investment.


But there's not much else you could do with just internet access and limited financial resources to impact a company across the globe. I doubt they believed that this would cause anything but a "momentarily" driven down share price but they will still claim a win nevertheless. Guerrilla PRfare.
posted by guy72277 at 7:20 AM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


they will still claim a win nevertheless

On the difference between claiming a win and actually winning.
posted by Skeptic at 7:22 AM on January 9, 2013


Then you don't appear to consider the acts of patriotic millions going to war for their countries or religions and slaughtering each other, as well as quite a few bystanders, for some glorious ideal...

Yes, I do. My thinking was biased toward the leadership level, because that's the real locus of evil lies. But, sure, at the level of individuals you are correct. The road to hell, and all that... I guess I would just slightly modify what you wrote to be "some of the worst crimes in history were perpetrated by people who claimed to be acting unselfishly..."
posted by mondo dentro at 7:23 AM on January 9, 2013


On the difference between claiming a win and actually winning.

A great example of how horribly embarrassing it can be if the "claimed win" PR strategy backfires. Depends on your audience though. Whereas Bush's audience was the world (whether he meant it to be or not), this environmental group's audience will be its followers, so the embarrassment factor should in fact be zero (I'd have thought).
posted by guy72277 at 7:43 AM on January 9, 2013


To be fair, Australian black coal is some of the "cleanest" in the world, when compared against other coals. So, it's better to burn our coal than many other coals. But it's still coal.

That's funny - we say the same thing in British Columbia about our coal. I guess it's true, because if we didn't have coal we wouldn't have an economy.

Since gas prices have collapsed, British Columbia has relied more and more on coal exports for tax and royalty revenues - the coal mining industry has expanded over the past five years. Vancouver is also home to the largest bulk coal terminal on the west coast of North America.

Coal trains from all over northwestern United States travel to Vancouver, and the soot and crap these trains dust along the tracks has increased dramatically in the past few years.

But we tell ourselves our coal is clean.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:00 AM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Does it bother anyone else that there is a strict liability law covering false or misleading statements that influence the stock market? It's not like they can't prove intent in this case. Also, does the phrase "whether in this jurisdiction or elsewhere" mean that they can prosecute anyone for it regardless of location or citizenship?
posted by Pseudology at 11:03 AM on January 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


Oh, I know. I find it incredibly bothering. What does that mean for satire, like what the Yes Men do?
posted by dunkadunc at 12:12 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Where was the whistleblowing here? Whistleblowing involves revealing some truthful, if inconvenient information. This guy didn't "reveal" anything that wasn't either public or false.

You're the one pretending to think that revealing inside information constitutes "insider trading" even if no actual trading takes place. And a whistleblower who shorted a bunch of stock before their whistle-blowing would be engaged in insider-trading and market manipulation, and it would make a difference, even if you're going to pretend that you can't see it.

This guy didn't pick anyone's pocket - he engaged in a prankster act of political activism that harmed nobody who didn't deserve it (tiny violins for those who sold at the bottom and were too slow to buy again til it was back up, even tinier violins for those lazy and dumb enough to rely on algorithms for their trading). They were harmed by their own gullibility. Non-participants in a market are under no obligation to curb their political speech to make life simple for participants.

That it might have incidentally benefited other traders who didnt "deserve" it either is neither here nor there - the point wasnt to make the discount available, nor to make the share price low forever (impossible to do with no resources available but a fake letterhead), but to cause disruption and confusion in an unethical market, to remind participants that there are political risks involved in unethical investment and to draw public attention to the cause using creativity and humour (mission accomplished).

Yes, it may be against the Queensbury rules, but this is highly asymmetrical warfare. Perhaps you can advise activists with no money or power on a better way of trying to advance their cause, such as writing a strongly-worded letter against the coal plant to their local newspaper.
posted by moorooka at 12:14 PM on January 9, 2013


Its is pretty unlikely that the cause of this price action was some "news reading" algorithm, but rather day trading types not smart enough to know how bad a hoax this is. I have never ever seen a bank make any sort of comment about a loan. Its just not done. Add into that the time it was announced, and the fact there was no accompanying regulatory release, and yeah - you basically have to be schmuck to have gotten caught in this.
posted by JPD at 12:27 PM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Chrysostom:

No, Blue Sky Mine is about asbestos mining.
posted by pompomtom at 12:28 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think it's absurd that a non-participant in a market should have their freedom of speech curtailed based on possible share price movements that result from any given investors' stupid lack of due dilligence.

Good lord. I think the only "stupid lack of due diligence" here is your own tunnel vision which ignores how the rest of the real world functions.

Behind institutional funds, funds that use high frequency trading, etc are real people. In the US, this means 401k and IRA accounts amongst others. A huge amount of these are invested in bog standard mutual funds, and almost any person would be hard pressed to tell you even the top ten companies held in any of the mutual funds they have money in, let alone if they hold this particular company. So your idea that people are immoral for holding this particular stock is dumb, because I would guess that most people who own shares don't even know they hold it. I would love it if every person who invested money in the stock market was a highly active participant and took a stronger role in corporate governance. That is never going to happen. Although I know that there are companies and funds that are moving in that direction so I hold out hope that we will see stronger corporate governance in the future. In the meantime, expecting every person to know about every stock they hold is unrealistic and little unreasonable. The market does rely to a certain extent to people not attempting to manipulate it with dumb stunts like this.

I am very sympathetic to environmental causes and would very much support more action on this and other environmental issues. I am also very sympathetic to animal rights activists, but I don't support the actions that PETA take. It is possible to turn otherwise sympathetic allies against you by engaging in dumb or extreme stunts (see: the NRA) but by making broad sweeping assumptions about investors and then resorting to making it an issue of free speech (????), you're going to lose a lot of ears you might have otherwise had.
posted by triggerfinger at 12:48 PM on January 9, 2013


but to cause disruption and confusion in an unethical market, to remind participants that there are political risks involved in unethical investment

Please name for me one "ethical" investment. I'll wait.
posted by triggerfinger at 12:51 PM on January 9, 2013


Hiding behind grandma again. Any "pension fund" that has large fractions of their clients' money in a single stock, and trades this stock at high frequency on the basis of second-hand information is being is being grossly irresponsible with their clients' money and should be shut right down. The people who lost out here were day-traders who try to make their living playing the market by choosing individual stocks (which is a mug's game anyway), not big diversified funds.

As for your question, go google "socially responsible investing", it isn't a new concept.
posted by moorooka at 2:28 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Incidentally, the Australian Stock Exchange has the ability to "unwind" trades like this, since all trades have to pass through its central clearing facility. However the threshold for this is a 10% change in price, and this was only an 8.8% change, meaning that the ASX says the trades will stand. So poor-little dumbass day-trader can go take it up with the ASX for their arbitrary 10% cut-off.
posted by moorooka at 2:33 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


You don't have to wait too long, triggerfinger. Check out these companies which my form my superannuation / 401k plan.

FWIW, the website Australian Mining has called the action "a prank" and "a hoax". In other words, they are not getting as het up about it as some of the posters here. Australian Mining also said that investors were shying away from Whitehaven due to the instability of one of its major shareholdes, Nathan Tinkler. They are also, for some reason, now wishing to reduce their stake in the Maules Creek project. Investors hate controversial projects. If folk can pull stunts that bring the controversial nature of a project to a potential or current investor's attention then that is a good thing.

It is worth noting that the leader of the Greens, Christine Milne, made her comment in support of Moylan on the day when Australia had it's highest recorded national tempreature and bush fires were raging in four states. She directly linked those weather events to climate change, and thus her support for an activist who used a non-violent means to bring attention to yet another new coal mine seems in tune to me.

Christine Milne is a brave independent thinker, a 'young rural matron in a print dress' from a small dairy community in Tasmania who became a politician over environmental issues that threatened her region. She has been internationally awarded for her environmental work and was vice president of the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature). She is an excellent networker, a brilliant strategic thinker and, most unusually for a politician, she does what she thinks is right for the good of the planet not what she thinks will get brownie (or greenie) points. She also has a very dry sense of humour.

I've been involved in civil disobedience for environmental causes for many years. The (high achieving) crowd of activists I know laugh at folk who, like many of the posters in this thread, sit on the sidelines and say "you should do it this way! you should do it that way!". Unless you are actually getting up and doing something yourselves - unless you are willing to put your time and effort on the line - then no one has time to pay any attention to your comments. There are a hundred talkers for every doer and they've heard it all before.
posted by Kerasia at 3:35 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


If I'd seen this sooner I probably would have flagged it for editorialising. "Economically destructive" is a loaded phrase that would have been best left to be discussed in the comments.
posted by harriet vane at 6:30 PM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


As for your question, go google "socially responsible investing", it isn't a new concept.

I don't need to google it, I work in it. It sounds like you don't really know about it beyond generic talking points though, since you haven't answered my question.

You don't have to wait too long, triggerfinger. Check out these companies which my form my superannuation / 401k plan.

Where shall I start? Since a lot of these are Australian companies that I am not familiar with, I'll just pick out a few names that I recognize.

Tokyo Gas Company is the largest supplier of natural gas in Japan. Lots of the other companies on your list are also heavily involved in natural gas. Because you are an activist for environmental causes, I probably don't need to tell how contentious and troubling an issue fracking is.

ING Direct (parent of ING Australia) is one of the largest banking groups in the world and is subject to a lot of the same controversy as other banks are these days, including for example accusations of trying to skirt the Community Reinvestment Act in the US, which compels them to lend money to low- and moderate-income borrowers in cities where they have branches. They also accepted a government bailout during the mortgage crisis and transferred their exposure to risky mortgages to the Dutch State (and ultimately, taxpayers).

Pharma companies always have controversy surrounding them, and Sigma hasn't been an exception with reported accounting irregularities, shareholder class action lawsuits and an investigiation of their loyalty program which provides kickbacks to pharmacies to prominently display its products.

Rubicon Technology is a military contractor, as is Tennant Company.

Computershare has courted controversy over the very, very generous pay packages for the senior executives. They're obviously not the only company, but this is a pretty topical issue over the past few years as executives have been awarded pay packages which are not aligned with company performance and the "shareholder spring" last year in the UK. Executive remuneration is for sure one of the issues looked at when looking for SRI investments.

One of the largest US SRI funds has Apple and Microsoft as its top two holdings. This despite the widely reported labor practices at Foxconn, Apple's factory in China (not to mention its outsourcing) and Microsoft's antitrust issues. "Do no evil" Google is the fourth biggest holding in the fund and I'm sure you've heard about Google, data collection and privacy concerns. And those are the biggest holdings in a pretty big fund that is marketed as "ethical".

I'm not saying that a lot of the companies in these SRI funds aren't good companies - a lot of them are. But does an ethical company like Starbucks deserve the the "green" rating and inclusion on SRI lists because of its fair trade coffee while at the same time they're dodging UK corporation tax and clashing with labor unions in Chile? If a company gets credit for making environmentally friendly products, do they get a pass on not having any women in senior management positions or on the board of directors? If Target gives a ton of money to charitable and community initiatives, is it okay that they also give campaign contributions to organizations that have virulently anti-gay links? Ben and Jerry's has a strong ethical history so a lot of people might overlook that they are now owned by Unilever, a big contributor to deforestation and fined for price fixing not long ago. The list of "ethical" companies with some very questionable, decidedly unethical practices goes on and on and on.
posted by triggerfinger at 7:07 PM on January 9, 2013 [3 favorites]


If I'd seen this sooner I probably would have flagged it for editorialising. "Economically destructive" is a loaded phrase that would have been best left to be discussed in the comments.

I concur. It's also inaccurate.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:38 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


I get your (perfectionist) point, triggerfinger. But you have cherry picked a few companies from well over a hundred, misrepresented some of them (eg: the investment is in ING Australia and not ING US) and then brought in a straw man in the form of Starbucks which is not part of the portfolio I linked to. You'll have to do better research to prove your point (which is, actually, a derail from the topic).
posted by Kerasia at 7:57 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


If I'd seen this sooner I probably would have flagged it for editorialising. "Economically destructive" is a loaded phrase that would have been best left to be discussed in the comments.

It's not just loaded, it's wrong. The value of the company is the same now as it was before, but a large number of trades were made, many of which involve commissions and fees. So the total economic activity in the finance sector increased. The mining is unaffected, the media may have sold a few more papers. There may be further spin-off effects in the public and legal sectors to boot. This was -- using GDP definitions -- an economically productive activity.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 9:25 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


ING Australia, as I pointed out, is a part of the larger, parent company ING Direct, and subsidiaries are generally considered part of the overall company. As I said, I picked the companies I did because they were ones I recognized off the top of my head and I'm not going to put in a bunch of time doing research on how ethical (or not) the companies in your pension plan are. I do suspect, that as is true with most companies, it wouldn't be hard to find problems with a lot more of the companies in your plan from various ethical standpoints. This is because there is no one size fits all plan that works for socially responsible investing and that it would be impossible to put one together, because that's how bad corporate culture is and we all accept it as the cost of doing business.

In any case, the companies I picked (as well as my other examples like Starbucks and Target), were picked to illustrate my larger, overall point that "ethical" investing is not what so many people believe it is. Not that it's the fault of investors - it's not unreasonable to look at a company packaged as "ethical", "green" or "socially responsible" and think that it lives up to many, if not all of the general overall value set of any individual investor. While it may do very well in one regard (say environmentalism), it fails utterly in another, large and just as important area (say, workers rights) and as a company won't point out this distinction in their shareholder meetings, it can be very misleading. This point is a direct response to moorooka's statements that seem to either paint the sort of market manipulation in the original post as some sort of victimless crime because stupid traders/investors, evil company, boo hoo and they should have known better than to invest in unethical investments. Like it's some sort of cut and dry distinction. Most people don't even realize how unethical so many of their SRI investments are. Transparency in this area is horrible or nonexistent. Coal companies are an easy target because everyone knows about fossil fuels. But what about the less obvious companies? There are a hell of a lot of them. Just looking at it from a purely environmental point of view the companies with the worst environmental performance had the best environmental reputation.

SRI investing is still changing and growing and I think it's a great thing to do but it is very imperfect in so many important ways. Slapping a "ethical" label on something is kind of meaningless. If your specific SRI investing goal is something like avoiding gun manufacturers or tobacco companies, then it's a lot easier to pick investments that adhere to that goal. But a lot of investors I talk to just want investments that are ethical in a vague and undefined way and that's not possible because that's not the ways companies do business. Oftentimes, being socially responsible means a company cannot be competitive. Paying living wages, complying with strict regulations (environmental, health and safety, etc), not avoiding corporate taxes, etc, these things all hit the bottom line, and often investors who say they want SRI investments will often not appreciate that their ethical investment is lagging the sector or index when they get their performance statement. Because there is always a Wal-Mart or some other company who is willing to exploit loopholes and abuse workers in pursuit of higher profits if they think they can get away with it.

So yeah, coal companies aren't great. But a lot of those so called ethical investments? Also not great.
posted by triggerfinger at 10:27 PM on January 9, 2013


And of course some are worse than others, and some are unambiguously at the evil end of their spectrum. Coal is worse than any other energy source, and a coal mine in an endangered species' habitat worse still. So, yeah, stupid traders/investors, unethical company, boo-hoo.
posted by moorooka at 10:43 PM on January 9, 2013


The almost always good Mike Seccombe: Extremism: it's so hot right now.

On further reflection, Rob Corr and Red Thoughts have between them moderated my original stance. The hoax was trivially easy to pick up, the media bear the culpability for the very minor outcome.
posted by smoke at 2:23 AM on January 10, 2013


Here's an interesting opinion piece which suggests that all is not right with the Mauls Creek development.

I don't know how they can make that claim.
To suggest any kind of corruption in the NSW coal mining industry/government relations is just UNHEARD OF.
posted by Mezentian at 2:47 AM on January 10, 2013


"It's not just loaded, it's wrong. The value of the company is the same now as it was before, but a large number of trades were made, many of which involve commissions and fees. So the total economic activity in the finance sector increased. The mining is unaffected, the media may have sold a few more papers. There may be further spin-off effects in the public and legal sectors to boot. This was -- using GDP definitions -- an economically productive activity."

The Broken Window (Glazier's) Fallacy

Wandering down the main street of a town throwing rocks at all the windows will indeed increase economic activity in that town but that doesn't mean it is either beneficial or not economically destructive. The total economic activity in the finance sector increased because investors were defrauded as a result of false information, it made the market more volatile and less safe for honest investors, and moved hundreds of millions of dollars from the hands of those who either trust the market to accurately reflect economic reality or trust the seal of the ANZ to the hands of those with special knowledge. If that is not economically destructive I don't know what is.
posted by Blasdelb at 2:50 AM on January 10, 2013


The value of the company is the same now as it was before, but a large number of trades were made, many of which involve commissions and fees. So the total economic activity in the finance sector increased.

Yay! Commissions and fees for financial traders, just what the world needs...
posted by Skeptic at 3:17 AM on January 10, 2013


A thought: If the Greens are advocating criminal activity (i.e., stockmarket fraud for political purposes), could they lose their registration as a political party, or even be banned as an extremist organisation (on a par with groups like Hizb ut-Tahrir, who advocate armed struggle)? Could Lee Rhiannon, the Greens leader who made the offending remarks, be expelled from parliament?
posted by acb at 4:19 AM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


You'd have to take Lee Rhiannon seriously first.

I would doubt it. They'd need to go further, but I suppose an axe-grindy government could push that way. I doubt Labor would.
Who knows if the Bronny faction get their way and we see an end to proportional voting the Greens might get wiped out anyway.
posted by Mezentian at 4:35 AM on January 10, 2013


Oh please. This is my home town area. It's basically the number1 export versus the number2. Coal versus fine white wine. Who will win?

Wrap into that everything you know about corrupt incompetent governments, and there you have the NSW state parliament. And endless hearings about the inherent corruption of that government.

First State? Worst State.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 6:05 AM on January 10, 2013


Who knows if the Bronny faction get their way and we see an end to proportional voting the Greens might get wiped out anyway.

Does this proposal have support from either party caucus, News Ltd., any mining oligarchs, &c.?
posted by acb at 7:18 AM on January 10, 2013


acb should the Liberal party lose their registration for advocating things that are illegal, ie. discrimination against workers, union members? Like the ones who paid lip service to Gina Reinhart's call for 3rd world wages in Australia? I would have thought those who make he laws should be allowed to support changing the laws, ie. thing that are currently illegal.
posted by Jimbob at 12:13 PM on January 10, 2013


Okay I know it's a bit of a stretch, but if the people who make/change/repeal laws aren't allowed to express support for things that are currently illegal,who is? Maybe The Greens should be deregistered for supporting gay marriage - it's against the law too.
posted by Jimbob at 12:20 PM on January 10, 2013


A thought: If the Greens are advocating criminal activity (i.e., stockmarket fraud for political purposes), could they lose their registration as a political party, or even be banned as an extremist organisation (on a par with groups like Hizb ut-Tahrir, who advocate armed struggle)? Could Lee Rhiannon, the Greens leader who made the offending remarks, be expelled from parliament?

Come on, this is a bit silly. Additionally, as helpfully pointed out up thread, this was not fraud. You are also exposing your ignorance in thinking Lee Rhiannon is the Greens Leader. That would never happen. Additionally, comparing The Greens, ffs, with Hizb ut-Tahrir is getting into Andrew Bolt territory, dude.
posted by smoke at 1:14 PM on January 10, 2013


I'm just playing devil's advocate. And the argument that this was just a harmless protest seems a bit too glib and flimsy. Millions of dollars were wiped off the value of a company temporarily, and traders did incur financial losses, and “but they were evil capitalist greedheads” would have very little force in a court of law. Besides, taking on the Rineharts of this world would require much more solid calculations, and leave little margin for error.

Anyway, it seems to me that the Greens have made a serious tactical error in endorsing a protest of dubious legality, one which could be claimed to have caused economic losses to third parties with little in the way of disprovability. Banning or expelling the Greens might not happen (though we may hear calls from The Australian, the IPA and the Liberal Party for this to happen, and attacking Red Juliar for not taking the decisive action against these Communists/terrorists/enemies of Australia &c. that urgently needs to be taken, but for relying on their votes to cling to office). Gillard may be faced with having to pledge to declare war on the Greens, at the risk of her government, with the ALP putting them last in preferences, or even supporting electoral reforms aimed at marginalising minor parties (if the IPA was to float some in The Australian and Abbott was to endorse them, there would now be a lot of pressure on the ALP to throw its hats in with a “stable, economically sound Australia” and not with extremists). As for legal sanctions against the Greens, those could happen if they're still in a position of influence when Abbott comes in.

In short, I imagine that we're about to see a bipartisan declaration of war against the Greens in Australia; not a phony war like the one The Australian has been running, but one with real consequences.
posted by acb at 2:46 PM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


The war should have been declared the second they allied themselves with an organization that attacks the ships of one of our main diplomatic and trading partners.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 2:57 PM on January 10, 2013


Pragmatically, the ALP still can't afford to get the Greens offside. And they will be relying on Greens preferences as much as the Greens rely on theirs.

There is this idea that the Greens are a weak, flimsy party who only exist because of ALP preferences. I'd argue that ALP prefernces might mean the difference between them getting 12% of the vote and 15%, but that 12% is going nowhere. Christine Milne could be filmed stealing sweets from kiddies, and Greens supporters (including myself) would interpret it as an anti-obesity campaign.

Meanwhile we have a situation where senior Liberal party figures, supported by senior shadow ministers including Abbott, conspired in an attempt to bring down the government, in the Slipper-Ashby affair. Now the partisans screaming "OMG this is Australia's Watergate!!1!" are perhaps a little hyperbolic, but if Abbott can get away with that I doubt the Greens have much to answer for.
posted by Jimbob at 2:58 PM on January 10, 2013


Gillard may be faced with having to pledge to declare war on the Greens

It is a fact that Labor have already done this when Bob Brown declared that he wanted to "replace" Labor as the second party in Australia, Bandt took Tanner's old seat and Greens came close in other areas. We had family first and DLP senators for Victoria because Labor preferenced them above the Greens.

or even supporting electoral reforms aimed at marginalising minor parties

Who do you think brought in optional preferential voting in QLD and NSW? It wasn't the coalition.

The war should have been declared the second they allied themselves with an organization that attacks the ships of one of our main diplomatic and trading partners.

Give it a rest, mate. I think Sea Shepherd are stupid, too, but they're not really a big deal and your hyperbole when it comes to animal rights and environmentalists should have been left in Brooklyn.
posted by smoke at 3:01 PM on January 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


That trading partner who is flaunting international law, bribing impoverished nations to support their whaling, lying about the research they conduct? The Labor premier of Tasmania welcomed Sea Shepherd. The Labor government allows them to use our ports and facilities. If I recall, the Mayor of Hobart invited them to fly their flag at city hall. I don't see how you can regard The Greens as the criminals in the matter of Sea Shepherd.
posted by Jimbob at 3:02 PM on January 10, 2013 [2 favorites]


Abbott has the press on his side; Murdoch is partisanly right-wing, and Fairfax is sitting on the fence (even more so with Rinehart's investment). Witness all the insubstantial “scandals” dogging Gillard throughout her career, whilst Abbott gets a reputation as a solid, trustworthy leader.
posted by acb at 3:04 PM on January 10, 2013


Pragmatically, the ALP still can't afford to get the Greens offside. And they will be relying on Greens preferences as much as the Greens rely on theirs.

Are Labor aiming to be The Greens Lite or The Liberals Lite these days? They seem to be stranded between two posts.
posted by acb at 3:07 PM on January 10, 2013


Grounding the supertrawler against the advice and scientific evidence from their own party makes it clear that they're with the Greens on the environment. We do need the Greens because they're the only party who what to treat refugees like human beings.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 3:15 PM on January 10, 2013


They are aiming to be Liberals lite. Which means they've almost completely (hi Doug Cameron!) abandoned the left-wing of their party. Those people have flocked to the Greens, and won't switch back because of a gaffe like this. However, having abandoned their left-wing to the Greens they are now reliant, whether they like it or not, on them.

Compare this to the coalition/One Nation. The coalition killed One Nation by adopting their policies. The ALP aren't attempting this strategy with the Greens, so they're stuck with them.
posted by Jimbob at 3:15 PM on January 10, 2013


Charlemagne, the scientific advice on the supertrawler was mixed. I know this as a scientist who has marine population ecologist colleagues who explained so to me. And it's not a 99%/1% split like climate change. It was more a case of "we just don't know, we need more information". The precautionary principle.
posted by Jimbob at 3:18 PM on January 10, 2013


Compare this to the coalition/One Nation. The coalition killed One Nation by adopting their policies. The ALP aren't attempting this strategy with the Greens, so they're stuck with them.

Unless they can kill them off by changing the electoral system.

Who was it said that ‘politics is the art of saying “nice doggy” until you can find a rock’?
posted by acb at 3:18 PM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Greens hold sway in the senate, which has multi-member electorates, and as far as I can see the only way to manage that is with proportional voting. Which benefits the Greens. Can you detail a way to run the senate, with 12 senators per state, but with first-past-the-post voting? Unless you want to have staggered individual elections for each senate seat, maybe.
posted by Jimbob at 3:23 PM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


I guess you could do what they did in Tasmania's proportional system to attempt to kill the Greens - reduce the number of senators so the quota per seat is above the Greens vote. That worked for a decade in Tasmania, but the Green vote kept increasing, and now we have Green party ministers in the Tasmanian parliament, again.
posted by Jimbob at 3:28 PM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]


it seems to me that the Greens have made a serious tactical error in endorsing a protest of dubious legality

Read up on Green political history in Australia, acb. You'll see that not only have they have frequently and repeatedly endorsed civil disobedience actions on environmental and social justice issues but that a number of their parliamentary members have spent time in jail for such actions. A tactical error? More like part of their charter.

Millions wiped off the value? Oh, give it a rest. Happens every minute, every time a big corp drops a cent or two in share price. The company is worth just as much now as it was then...*

*That said, individual investors may reconsider their shareholdings in Whitehaven now that they know the environmental destruction it will cause to native habitat. If so, then Moylan did his job.

In communities where coal, CSG and LNG mines are expanding, most of the residents (upwards of 80% in most cases) are against both the expansions and the mining itself. There are ongoing on-site civil disobedience protests in Glenugie, near Grafton in NSW for example. And this is no rent-a-crowd. It's the local grandmothers, old-timers, young family folk, middle-aged office workers all trying to stop a gross abuse of community rights and environmental degradation.

To anyone who thinks non-violent acts of civil disobedience are wrong, please refrain from enjoying the benefits of such actions. This means avoiding the Daintree rainforests of QLD, the Great Barrier Reef, the magnificent Franklin River and the stunning forests areas of Tasmania, most national parks north of Sydney up to Byron Bay, Byron Bay itself.... Oh, and if you are a woman or a renter, don't vote.

It's so old it's a cliche but Margaret Mead was right: Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.
posted by Kerasia at 3:32 PM on January 10, 2013 [2 favorites]



The Greens hold sway in the senate, which has multi-member electorates, and as far as I can see the only way to manage that is with proportional voting. Which benefits the Greens. Can you detail a way to run the senate, with 12 senators per state, but with first-past-the-post voting? Unless you want to have staggered individual elections for each senate seat, maybe.


Rigging electoral eligibility would be one way. Some other proportional systems have an additional part of the process which eliminate all parties with less than X% of the vote prior to divvying up the votes. This is usually a single-figure percentage, so unless it was set at, say, 15-20% (an obvious rig, and hard to rationalise as anything but a naked attempt to shore up major-party power), it wouldn't work.

Another option may be to split state senates into multiple electorates, each with 2-4 MPs.
posted by acb at 3:49 PM on January 10, 2013


Another option may be to split state senates into multiple electorates, each with 2-4 MPs.

Heh. Bet the jokers in North Queensland would be into that solution...
posted by Jimbob at 4:08 PM on January 10, 2013


Another option may be to split state senates into multiple electorates, each with 2-4 MPs.

Ha! haha! Yeah, right, change the constitution. Go on. Betcha can't.

Unless they can kill them off by changing the electoral system.... Rigging electoral eligibility would be one way.

Geeze. Way to go. 'The Greens support a civil disobedience action that may or may not include an act of fraud (ASIC yet to decide). Let's fight them by rigging the electoral system!'

I can no longer take what you say seriously.
posted by Kerasia at 4:37 PM on January 10, 2013


Geeze. Way to go. 'The Greens support a civil disobedience action that may or may not include an act of fraud (ASIC yet to decide). Let's fight them by rigging the electoral system!'

I am not advocating this, just stating that it is possible and would be in the interests of the powers that be, specifically the ALP electorally and the mining lobby economically.

And there are other countries with proportional representation where the system is rigged specifically to keep small (and thus too non-mainstream) parties from getting seats and posing a risk of having coalition-making power. Selling this to the Australian electorate as an “electoral reform” designed to “protect prosperity from the extremists” (and, to be ecumenical, trotting out Family First as an alternative bogeyman whom this would keep from the balance of power) could be possible.
posted by acb at 5:01 PM on January 10, 2013


Selling this to the Australian electorate as an “electoral reform” designed to “protect prosperity from the extremists” (and, to be ecumenical, trotting out Family First as an alternative bogeyman whom this would keep from the balance of power) could be possible.

Possible? No, not really. It would require a change in the Constitution. Not going to happen. Sure, a party in power might try, but they won't succeed and it would be seen as the undemocratic move that it is.

BTW, stopping miniscule parties like Family First from gaining the balance of power is easy. All the main parties have to stop doing preference deals with such minor players. But once a party starts getting over 10% of the 1st preference vote consistently, you have to accept them. That is, after all, what democracy is about.
posted by Kerasia at 5:44 PM on January 10, 2013


Are Labor aiming to be The Greens Lite or The Liberals Lite these days? They seem to be stranded between two posts.

I honestly don't see why Labor can't split and then form a coalition akin to the Liberal/National parties. Labor Left could then claw back ground from the Greens, and Labor Right could take the more moderate Liberals. They would have the opportunity to put two candidates into contentious electorates and preference each other above the Greens/Independent. It would probably mean fewer union cronies in the senate and the position of Labor Prime Minister might even hold some level of security.
posted by kisch mokusch at 4:29 AM on January 11, 2013


Farmers at wits' end applaud hoaxer's anti-coal stance

FOR the rural communities living in the shadow of ever-expanding mines and gas projects, it is an uphill battle to get politicians, the media and the urban public to pay attention to their concerns.

Numerous blockades, arrests and mass protests have failed to make much of an impression on national awareness, nor have they stemmed the inexorable march of the mining juggernaut.

This is why the farmers of northern NSW, opposing several proposed mines, think this week's hoax press release by anti-coal activist Jonathan Moylan worked a treat to focus national and global attention on three mammoth coalmines that will tear apart the 8000ha Leard State Forest. . .

posted by markkraft at 6:09 AM on January 11, 2013


I honestly don't see why Labor can't split and then form a coalition akin to the Liberal/National parties. Labor Left could then claw back ground from the Greens, and Labor Right could take the more moderate Liberals.

From what I gather, it's because Labor's internal structure looks vaguely feudal, with too many deeply entrenched factional fiefdoms desperate to preserve and expand their influence. Such a reform would put too many power bases at risk, and as such would be shot down by all sides.

Such a reform could probably best happen with the expiry of the ALP; it is a party whose official narrative (20th-century pragmatic socialism founded in an industrial working class) is somewhat out of step with a country whose industrial workforce has been largely outsourced to Shenzhen, and in which those in formerly proletarian trades are comfortably affluent to the point of voting Liberal. Perhaps if the ALP loses its way enough and loses its share of the electorate, squeezed between the Greens on one side and a media-backed Coalition on the other, parts will break off and form new parties. If Abbott/Abetz take the Coalition in an (undoubtedly Rinehart/Palmer-approved) harshly right-wing Tea Party direction, we could see the Liberal "wets" split off and possibly join the ALP centre-right in a party playing to university-educated aspirational types who don't go to Hillsong.
posted by acb at 6:15 AM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


...And we could call them The Australian Democrats! Then we could wait a few years for them to self-destruct and watch their vote get taken over by an environmentalist party...
posted by Jimbob at 6:40 AM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


The problem with the Democrats was that they were explicitly a protest party, defined in terms of not being the big guys whose role it was to contend for government. Their motto was “Keep The Bastards Honest”, after all.
posted by acb at 8:20 AM on January 11, 2013


That's the weird thing with the Australian Democrats vs. The Greens. It's undeniable that when the Democrats dissolved, their vote pretty much switched straight to The Greens - but you're right, they have very different ideologies. The Democrats were there, as you say, to "Keep The Bastards Honest", to bolster the Senate's role as a house of review. The Greens are very explicitly an activist party - they have policies, they believe they have the right to form government one day. Maybe the public perception of the Democrats was out of whack, and people expected them to be activist?
posted by Jimbob at 4:21 PM on January 11, 2013


Maybe the public perception of the Democrats was out of whack, and people expected them to be activist?

Not to my experience.
But when they caved on the GST.... they crossed a line many people never forgave them for.
posted by Mezentian at 5:01 PM on January 11, 2013


Back to the whole financial cost, I take John Quiggin's point of view on it, which is that every share sold on the basis of the hoax was also necessarily a share which was bought as well, so it's a zero sum game. He also points out that the big investing companies (where most Mums and Dads and presumably some people who haven't got kids but don't deserve to be ripped off keep their superannuation) have a long history of financial fraud. No-one seems to get upset about their criminal activities, but one guy issues an easily-spotted hoax and the financial sector worries about people losing faith in them. What a crock.
posted by harriet vane at 5:11 AM on January 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's undeniable that when the Democrats dissolved, their vote pretty much switched straight to The Greens

Actually, I think Possum has done some writing about this, but it's not actually true - a large proportion certainly went to the Greens, but significant minorities went back to the majors, and taken together, they might actually have constituted the majority of Dems voters.
posted by smoke at 1:37 PM on January 12, 2013


For those interested, a blog post I came across on potential legal remedies, including the media that failed to check the facts because: media.
posted by Mezentian at 6:31 PM on January 13, 2013


Jonothan Moylan reposonds with an opinion piece in the SMH
posted by Kerasia at 2:24 PM on January 23, 2013


Jonothan Moylan reposonds with an opinion piece in the SMH

I didn't even need to read it to know 'why he did it'. He did it because he's a scruffy faced good looking guy who wants environmental cred to get all the girls. Cue Facebook memes of his super-stoned face with "Life, water, health and climate are things you cannot put a price on. For Maules Creek, it is up to Burke to pass sentence. In terms of the bigger picture, it's up to us." on them.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 2:43 PM on January 23, 2013


Whereas the motives of the mining company are always as pure as the driven snow, of course. Each day they wake up bright and hopeful, eager for their opportunity to deliver energy for the good of the world!
posted by Jimbob at 2:54 PM on January 23, 2013


As per usual, CiS, you are speaking out of your fedora.

I like the comments in the Moylan piece. Many are positive. Some rehash the "pensioners lose their money!" Show me one old-aged pensioner who
1) daytrades
2) is willing to sell investments based on an unverified media report

and I will
1) give them all the money they lost
2) take it away again as a stupidity tax.

Mezentian's link is an interesting one. Published on Resource Spectator, "a video network dedicated to the promotion of the mining, oil and gas and associated service industries" it is obviously not pro-greenie.
If you’ve paid attention to the mainstream media since 24-year-old Jonathan Moylan issued a hoax press release recently you may believe he single handedly managed to wipe more than $300 million off the share market in minutes. However, if you do believe that line then there’s a little bridge in Sydney you may be interested in acquiring from me.

Sarcasm aside, I’d like to, from the outset, point out that I don’t condone or approve of Moylan’s fraudulent misrepresentation of ANZ’s (ASX: ANZ) position vis- a-vis the loan or the use of that company's intellectual property to deceive an increasingly vulnerable media.

One can see several possible causes of litigation against Moylan in the civil sphere, which is a good thing because a prosecution under the Criminal Code, based on the Corporations Act, might be problematic… but more on that later.

However, the silence surrounding the media’s culpability in this debacle, while predictable, has been deafening despite, from my reading of the relevant section of the act, there being a realistic chance of successfully prosecuting the outlets that published the erroneous information.

In their rush to beat their competition by nanoseconds, a number of media outlets posted the story as fact on their websites and soon after panicked traders dumped Whitehaven shares which plunged from $3.52 to $3.21, around nine percent, within minutes.

And these weren’t amateur, or even junior, reporters. The ‘news’ was published by Australia’s (supposedly) premier business media including The Australian Financial Review's website, Australian Associated Press (AAP) wire service and the Business Spectator website (which is NOT associated with the Resource Spectator group of websites).

That none of these organisations took the time to contact ANZ to confirm the statement, or check that it had been published on the ASX's official platform, speaks volumes for the diligence, or lack of, displayed on the day by newsrooms at those organisations.
posted by Kerasia at 3:31 PM on January 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


The increase in deadly coal dust, the draw down and potential contamination of the aquifer and loss of thousands of hectares of critically endangered forest threatens farmlands and animals such as koalas, not to mention people.


Notice how 'people' is an afterthought after 'farmlands' and 'koalas'.


The Iroquois people of North America survived by asking how people seven generations ahead would be affected by their actions - but here, hundreds of generations will be affected.

I'm more interested in how my generation and my family's generation will be affected. In 'hundreds of generations' society will be unrecognizable.


Over my lifetime, I have seen the world's largest coal export port - my home town of Newcastle - expand rapidly, doubling its output in 15 years, with an accompanying increase in dust, asthma and respiratory illnesses.



So he admits that coal has caused Newcastle to 'expand rapidly', which is turning it into more of a cultural destination.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 3:47 PM on January 23, 2013


Show me one old-aged pensioner who
1) daytrades
2) is willing to sell investments based on an unverified media report


Sadly, I can confirm that (2) is a subset of (1), and there are a not insignificant number if older self-funded retirees who do daytrade. They can, and do, freak out on plunging shares. The overall numbers impacted by this are likely to be minimal, however the personal impact might be greater,
Of course, it's a market for chumps.

So he admits that coal has caused Newcastle to 'expand rapidly', which is turning it into more of a cultural destination.

I have not been to Newcastle, but I have been to other mining towns, so that is probably correct.
But it's a larger city with increasing health problems. And as we have seen with the lead mines at Mt Isa, it's the long term consequences that we need to worry about.
posted by Mezentian at 4:02 PM on January 23, 2013


So he admits that coal has caused Newcastle to 'expand rapidly', which is turning it into more of a cultural destination.

You want to apply that logic to cities whose economies were built on the back of, say, slavery?
posted by Jimbob at 4:22 PM on January 23, 2013


So he admits that coal has caused Newcastle to 'expand rapidly', which is turning it into more of a cultural destination.

You want to apply that logic to cities whose economies were built on the back of, say, slavery?


Slavery hurts humans in a concrete way. I'm not sure that coal plants do. And if he really cared about reducing admissions rather than improving his cred, he'd push for nuclear.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 4:34 PM on January 23, 2013


Slavery hurts humans in a concrete way. I'm not sure that coal plants do.

OMFG.

Fine particles from coal power plants kill an estimated 13,200 people each year in the US alone, according to the Boston-based Clean Air Task Force (The Toll from Coal, 2010). Additional fatalities come from mining and transporting coal, and other forms of pollution associated with coal.

"There is no question," says Joseph Romm, an energy expert at the Center for American Progress in Washington DC. "Nothing is worse than fossil fuels for killing people."

Certainty achievement - Unlocked!
posted by smoke at 4:43 PM on January 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also relevant: We're number two in fucking up the planet!
Greenpeace analysis shows 14 planned giant fossil fuel projects will increase global emissions by 20%

Oh I know, it's Greenpeace. They're partisan and there is absolutely no evidence that all these megaprojects are going to do what they say, and Australia is working hard to minimise emissions. Very hard: That development alone would increase WA's greenhouse emissions by as much as 52 per cent compared with 2007 levels..
posted by Mezentian at 5:26 PM on January 23, 2013


Slavery hurts humans in a concrete way. I'm not sure that coal plants do.

This is the stupidest thing I have read all week.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:32 PM on January 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


Including today's FPP re Time Magazine proclaiming that 'steampunk' is the new black.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:32 PM on January 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Show me one old-aged pensioner who
1) daytrades
2) is willing to sell investments based on an unverified media report

Sadly, I can confirm that (2) is a subset of (1), and there are a not insignificant number if older self-funded retirees who do daytrade. They can, and do, freak out on plunging shares.


old age pensioners ≠ older self-funded retirees.

It irks me when people conflate 'self-funded retirees' with old age pensioners and seek to privilege the former with the same hardships that the latter endures. One is an investor living off the income of his/her assets, the other has almost no income and few assets.
posted by Kerasia at 8:33 PM on January 23, 2013


True. I did try to make that distinction.
I think self-funded retirees whine more.
posted by Mezentian at 8:53 PM on January 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm more interested in how my generation and my family's generation will be affected. In 'hundreds of generations' society will be unrecognizable.

Which generation do you think they start counting from? Hint: the current one. You and your family are included in this damage.

And if you think being an eco-friendly hippy is a great way to get girls, your knowledge of society is even poorer than I previously believed. I know you've got a hate-on for nature and anyone who tries to protect it, but try not to let that completely cloud your sense of logic.
posted by harriet vane at 9:49 PM on January 23, 2013


Plus everyone knows eco hippy girls are all lesbians!
You can see it in the footage when they chain themselves to trees, or march on the gleaning towers of progress, all while getting paid dole -- which your taxes pay for!
Those nasty layabouts!
posted by Mezentian at 10:14 PM on January 23, 2013


I went to one of the most left-wing colleges in America, and I live in a hippie area. I'm stereotyping based on people I know, and I know so many people who 'just want to make a difference, man'. You can tell how insincere and self-rightous most of them are.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 10:17 PM on January 23, 2013


I went to one of the most left-wing colleges in America, and I live in a hippie area.

Inner west Sydney is hardly a 'hippie area'. And your ridiculous broad strokes stereotyping is tiresome. Why bother going through the brand new day process if you're just going to recycle the same old crap?
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 11:08 PM on January 23, 2013


I'm stereotyping

We know. Stop it. It's lazy thinking, and not conducive to interesting conversations on MeFi.

To try to drag this back on topic, has anyone got any updates on this issue? Will there be charges pressed, or any new regulations for ASX-relevant announcements, or any whacks on the bum for journalists who regurgitate press releases without checking them?
posted by harriet vane at 6:32 AM on January 24, 2013


has anyone got any updates on this issue?

Yes.
There are no updates.
Charges are pending (civil and criminal), ASIC is "thinking" and the journros are, ad best, admonished by management.
posted by Mezentian at 6:51 AM on January 24, 2013


Plus everyone knows eco hippy girls are all lesbians!
You can see it in the footage when they chain themselves to trees


The possibility exists that you may have accidentally viewed different footage.
posted by jaduncan at 7:15 AM on January 24, 2013


Slate: Nuclear documentary Pandora's Promise is "persuasive and timely".

Since we touched on the coal/nuclear/renewables.
posted by Mezentian at 6:29 PM on January 24, 2013


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