Richard Ackland:

As much as companies which are the subject of protest might be tempted, it is usually folly to trust the law as a weapon to bludgeon detractors into submission.

Geoffrey Hills:

Many of the green activists and politicians being sued by forestry company, Gunns Ltd, in the Supreme Court of Victoria have claimed that the action is an assault on free speech. That claim is an attack upon the integrity of the Supreme Court and Australia’s legal processes. If the Greens and their supporters are confident that their campaign against Gunns has been conducted lawfully, they should welcome the opportunity to try the facts before an impartial tribunal.

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McLibel case a signpost for Gunns action
By Richard Ackland
February 25, 2005

What an utterly hopeless decision it was 15 years ago by McDonald’s in Britain and the American parent to start libel proceedings against a couple of penniless London greenies over the distribution of longwinded but rude leaflets critical of the company’s delicious quarter pounders.

And,

As much as companies which are the subject of protest might be tempted, it is usually folly to trust the law as a weapon to bludgeon detractors into submission.

Litigation has an unsettling propensity to take on an uncontrollable life of its own. The Tasmanian timber company Gunns, which has launched several actions against 20 defendants in the Victorian Supreme Court, might be sobered by the McLibel example.

Gunns is seeking damages of $6.4 million for disruption to its woodchipping and logging operations. Some of the defendants are as poor as Steel and Morris. Maybe the plaintiffs are confident that our courts would be untroubled by the idea that there could be an “inequality of arms”.

Gunns alleges the protesters interfered with its contractual operations and indulged in “corporate vilification”. The writ runs to 216 pages, foreshadowing proceedings of great complexity, cost and length.

The issue for the company’s shareholders is whether, at the end of it all, they’ll emerge better off or at least better off than their counterparts at McDonald’s.

The full SMH article:
McLibel case a signpost for Gunns action

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Gunns Ltd: legitimate protest or economic sabotage?
By Geoffrey Hills – posted Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Many of the green activists and politicians being sued by forestry company, Gunns Ltd, in the Supreme Court of Victoria have claimed that the action is an assault on free speech. That claim is an attack upon the integrity of the Supreme Court and Australia’s legal processes. If the Greens and their supporters are confident that their campaign against Gunns has been conducted lawfully, they should welcome the opportunity to try the facts before an impartial tribunal.

The activists who have reason to worry are those for whom the campaign against Gunns has ceased to be a legitimate attempt to advance the environmental cause and has instead assumed the character of blind, almost pathological, hatred for Gunns and for corporations in general.

Green activists come in many hues but it is this type of activist – the same as those who lobbed bricks through Starbucks’ windows in Seattle – who are themselves trampling upon the rights of others in the community.

Australians thankfully have every right to express their views about environmental policy but the limit of the right to free expression is where it starts to impinge on the rights of others. Just as anti-vilification legislation limits free speech to protect the rights of minorities, tort law promotes the smooth exchange of land, goods and services by protecting the rights of Australians to hold property and to engage in commercial exchange mediated by contracts.

The full Online Opinion link:
Gunns Ltd: legitimate protest or economic sabotage