Ninety-five year old Bill Ryan was one of about 15 protesters from the Galilee Blockade group who tried to meet mining contractor Downer’s chief executive Grant Fenn on May 16. Their aim was to encourage Downer to pull out of the Adani coal mine.
As Adani’s “preferred contractor”, Downer has $2 billion plans to build and run the Carmichael mine. But Downer’s “letters of award” do not become enforceable contracts until Adani reaches financial closure. There is still time for them to pull out.
If the campaign manages to persuade Downer to cancel this contract, Adani will have to find another Australian company of similar size and speciality to build and run their mine. Any possible candidates will know direct action forced Downer out and the same thing will happen to them.
Bill, a legally blind World War II veteran, said Australia’s future depends on winning the battle against the giant coal mines proposed by Adani and other miners in Queensland's Galilee Basin.
“If we don't put a stop to these megamines … we’ll end up with a great catastrophe for Australia.”
But the group did not meet Fenn. Forewarned of the protest, Downer's offices were largely empty, with both staff and executives “working” off site. Downer locked down its Brisbane headquarters as well. It seems you can close multiple workplaces with 15 people and a Facebook event.
Undeterred, Bill and others tried to access the floor where Downer executives work. After Bill forced the issue an executive came out and talked to Bill and Galilee Blockade spokesperson Ben Pennings for 20 minutes.
Bill pressed the urgency of climate change and his concern for his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. Pennings outlined why Downer will be targeted with direct action by a passionate environment movement, escalating over time in locations all around the country.
Asked what would happen if Downer got out of bed with Adani, the executive said no jobs would be lost but profits could be threatened.
Bill was not impressed. “I know you've got to fight against things that are not right,” he said. “It’s a beautiful country and we can’t allow it to be damaged any more by outdated industries such as fossil fuels.”
Pennings said the aim of this protest and others planned against Downer was to show “it’s worth their while to get out of bed with Adani”.
Bill, the oldest known person to ever be arrested in Australia, has previously been arrested for obstructing coal trains “on a number of occasions”. He said non-violent direct action was needed because companies “take no notice otherwise”.
“We know we have the people with us and I’ll continue as long as I can push my walker around,” he said.