Anti-coal activist Jonathan Moylan was sentenced at a hearing of the Supreme Court in Sydney on July 25. He was sentenced to one year and eight months imprisonment, but was released immediately on a two-year good behaviour bond with $1000 surety.
Moylan was charged under the Corporations Act for issuing a press release on ANZ letterhead saying the bank had withdrawn its $1.2 billion loan facility from Whitehaven’s Maules Creek Coal Project on environmental and ethical grounds. Whitehaven’s share price temporarily fell before quickly recovering.
The judge noted that charges laid under the Corporations Act are usually for "personal gain", that in this instance it was not the case and that any sentence imposed must be of a severity to match the nature of the offence.
He said that Moylan is "not a criminal in the classic sense" and therefore doesn't need rehabilitation. In deciding the sentence he was mindful that there was a "need for a specific deterrence” and that the prank was successful in drawing media attention to the issue. He was satisfied that Moylan didn't plan the drop in the Whitehaven share price and believed the hoax would be uncovered quickly.
Moylan said in a statement: “I bear the consequences for my decision to bluff ANZ Bank with a fake press release. But the day will come when banks will have to choose between coal and their reputations.
“My sentence today reflects the need for investors to be fully and correctly informed in order for the share market to work. We need total transparency for financial markets to work effectively — that's what continuous disclosure is all about.
“Ultimately, they should also be fully informed about the environmental impact of their investments in order for the planet to work, because it's the only home we have.”
About 150 supporters held a vigil in support of Moylan outside the court. Among the crowd were farmers from the Maules Creek area, who have stood with Moylan since charges were laid.
Farmer Rick Laird said: “To most people ANZ is just a bank, but to our community at Maules Creek their loan to Whitehaven Coal threatens to put an end to 150 years of farming in the region.
“We’ve been fighting this mine for years but what [Moylan] did means the world knows what is happening to Maules Creek farms and the Leard State Forest.
“I’d just like to say that justice has been done. He’s a champion. It’s as simple as that.”
Nicola Paris, a coordinator with the Stand with Jono campaign, said: “When someone puts themselves on the line and stands up to big coal and big business we need to stand with them and that is what this campaign tried to do.
“Moylan opened up an important conversation we should be having in this country. What future do we want, what does ethical investment look like and how do we push for what we need in the face of overwhelming corporate and government opposition. A good place to start is by getting out there on the ground with the Leard blockade.”
[For more information about the Leard Forest, visit frontlineaction.org.]