But it has outdone itself in spades with its report of the outcome of the unforgettable and outrageous SLAPP* suit by Gunns against Hobart physician Dr Frank Nicklason. The “Gunns 20” SLAPP suit has already irretrievably enshrined Gunns as a corporate bully without parallel in Tasmanian history, but the suit against Nicklason made a complete mockery of any of their claims to social responsibility – period.
The absurd Gunns flunkeys on the Ex-newspaper (when it became ex is a matter for debate) have reported the outcome as a victory for Gunns ( Gunns welcomes Burnie woodchip apology ).
The fact of the matter is that Nicklason’s concern, and only concern, has always been, and still is, about the health issues relating to Gunns’ woodchip stockpiles in Burnie. There is, and always has been, absolutely no doubt about that. For him to be sued about his concerns about that are a mockery of the notion of natural justice as it operates in Tasmania.
The Tasmanian government’s failure to stop this absurd legal attempt to punish Nicklason for his temerity in questioning the possible negative impacts on human health of Gunns’ woodchip piles is reprehensible in the extreme. Blind Freddy could see that Nicklason was acting totally in the public interest.
If the Labor government had any modicum of interest in matters of possible harm to people they would have stopped this SLAPP suit in its tracks, and proceeded with a hands-off independent analysis of the health risks to which Nicklason had alerted them.
As far as Gunns are concerned, the reality is that they tried to silence a man who had legitimate concerns about their operations on the health of people in Burnie (and has that been satisfactorily resolved?), by suing him for $250,000.
This is something that should not be forgotten by Tasmanians.
Nicklason has been put through the ringer for more than five years of his life. He has been forced to waste more than $80,000 of his own money on legal costs for airing his concerns about Gunns’ woodchip piles.
Now, with Gunns agreeing to throw away their SLAPP suit because Nicklason agreed to apologise for not taking his concerns to them before going public, we are being asked to swallow the Examiner’s line that Gunns has had a moral and legal victory.
The Examiner is a disgrace to the notion of a free press.
Instead of this transparently subservient obeisance to Gunns’ wishes, the Examiner should be asking questions about the public interest in these matters. Do they have any inkling at all about what their role should be as a regional newspaper?
No. Categorically no. They are arguably worse now as a representative regional print medium than at any time since John West established the paper in the mid 19th century.
The ridiculous case against Nicklason is well beyond sufficient evidence for legislative action banning SLAPP suits by corporations to silence well-meaning critics speaking on behalf of the public interest. That is what the Examiner should be arguing for. That is what any free press worth its salt would be fighting for.
But the Examiner is not, and cannot responsibly claim to be, part of the fourth estate, with an independent, professional approach to the issues which exist within its regional influence. It is a paper with its forelock tugged hard and low.
In short, we cannot hope that they will ever be interested in supporting the public interest against the interests of corporate power. The angle they have taken on Gunns’ action against Nicklason is testimony to that.
We need more Frank Nicklasons. They are our hope, our courage, our humane future. Without Tasmanians like Nicklason we are lost.
*Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation: Wikipedia, Here
Victorian senior counsel Brian Walters, author of Slapping on the Writs, says they are a deterrent to debate, cost money and resources and can be just plain frightening. “This case more than any other has led to an impetus for legislation to ban SLAPP suits,” he says.: Andrew Darby in The Age, March 2009. Read more HERE