The right to protest or lobby should not be abused

The Norwood Resource wholeheartedly defends the right of individuals and groups to protest or lobby against perceived or actual injustice. However, those that do protest or lobby have a responsibility to ensure that they do not deceive or mislead the community in their attempts to achieve their objectives.

Unfortunately, there are many who believe that “anything goes” in pursuit of their objectives and, if they shout their message loudly enough and often enough, they can mislead the media and the public with impunity.  The Norwood Resource has been formed as a not-for-profit organisation with a mission to “assemble and disseminate factual, scientific and verifiable information” and “actively challenge and counter misinformation” about the impacts of oil and gas exploration and production on the environment.  We actually wish that our organisation was not needed and that protest/lobby groups would base their claims on factual, scientific and verifiable information as opposed to myths and pseudo-science.  However they don’t, even though we would argue that they have a duty to do so.

There are so many examples of misinformation being “fed” to an unsuspecting public that the then Federal (Labour) Resources Minister, Gary Gray, commented in his address to the APPEA Conference in 2013, that it is about “about spreading fear and confusion to achieve a dramatic media-driven objective” however “the noise is made by a relatively small number of people” and “We need to put evidence and science into the current debate – and balance the misinformation that is being peddled in the public arena, and we need to be robust about it.

The following are just a few recent examples of “over the top” claims made by various parties in pursuit of their objective to misinform and not let the facts get in the way of their story:

1. SA Greens Senator, Penny Wright, who chose to use misinformation to support the claims of KI Council in their unsuccessful attempt to persuade the Federal Government to reject Bight Petroleum’s application to conduct a seismic survey over 104 km west of Kangaroo Island. The claims that she has made and still makes are not supported by the science and facts as shown in an article entitled “Did SA Senator Penny Wright misinform Parliament and the Community?“, which comprehensively challenged her statements. It is interesting to note that there was no response from the Senator or her handlers. That’s because none of her claims stand up to scrutiny.

2. The KI Council, aided and abetted by the environmental group, Wild Migration, lobbied hard for the Federal Government to reject Bight Petroleum’s proposed seismic survey.  Their claims were totally unsubstantiated as shown articles on this site entitled “Is KI Council misinforming the KI Community regarding seismic surveys?” and “Is the publication, “Seismic Seas:…..” by Wild Migration, a text-book case of the manipulation of science?“.  It is interesting to note that Wild Migration did not defend their position (most likely because it was scientifically and factually flawed!) whereas KI Council tried a variety of fallacious arguments (like “changing the subject”) to try to defend their position.  Any pragmatic reader of the article and comments will see that they failed.  In fact, a recent interview on the ABC demonstrates how questionable KI Council’s claims are in terms of consultation, for example.  While the tuna industry, the industry that actually works in the same area as Bight Petroleum’s survey is proposed, have stated “Southern bluefin tuna industry happy with seismic consultation”, Mayor Jane Bates is quoted as saying “community concerns over oil and gas exploration off the island have been ignored”.  However, the evidence that the concerns were NOT ignored are on the KI Council’s own website with Bight’s comprehensive response to KI Council’s concerns demonstrating that the tourism and fishing industries would not be adversely impacted.  Also, if valid claims had been ignored, Bight’s application would surely have been rejected.  After what is understood to be a very rigorous assessment process, the Federal Regulator, the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA), approved Bight’s survey application in early June and the 67-page summary of their Environmental Plan can be found on the NOPSEMA website.  What does all this tell us?  That the claims of KI Council and Wild Migration are designed to spread fear and confusion and are not based on the evidence and science.

3. Another organisation that is adept at spreading fear and confusion in the community and, in so doing, misinforming its supporters is the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW).  Their latest “effort” on their website not only continues to be misleading it also demonstrates that their claims are contradictory.  For example, they claim that seismic surveys are adversely impacting whales in Australia.  Also, in the section about the Pacific Islands humpback population they also reveal that “their Australian cousins have been going gangbusters”. In their claims about the supposed impacts on whales in Australia from seismic surveys, IFAW has always ignored this very revealing fact, presumably as it would make their claims appear questionable.  Yes, the humpback populations on both the East coast (Group V) and West coast (Group IV) have been “going gangbusters”.  Since cessation of whaling in Australia, which was only in the late ’70’s for some species, the humpback population has increased on both coasts at close to biological maximum from about 5-600 in the ’60’s to over 20,000 (on each coast).  The increase in population on the West Coast has run in conjunction with the extensive exploration and production that has occurred on the NW Shelf, which overlaps their migration routes and is close to their calving/resting areas. The following 5 figures are extracted from a series of 60 slides showing the WA humpback population from 1953 (when nuclear explosions still occurred on the NW Shelf – ie 1952 to 1957) through to 2012 (too many to go into this article!):

1954 NWS Activity

Fig 1. 1954 Seismic traverses shown in blue lines, with humpback population over-plotted on map of WA. Red dash shows population level relative to scale on the right. Red arrow indicates year. Note all seismic activity is onshore only.

 

NWS Activity-1969

Fig 2 1969. Note offshore seismic activity commenced in this year and humpback population near lowest count. Although whaling for humpbacks was banned in 1963, whaling of other species (eg sperm whales) continued in Albany until 1978.

NWS Activity-1985

Fig 3 – 1985. Extensive 2D seismic coverage since 1969. Humpback whale population recovering. First 3D seismic survey occurred in 1986.

NWS Activity-1999

Fig 4 – 1999. Most of continental shelf covered with 3D surveys (blue shaded polygons). Humpback population has been “going gangbusters” since mid-1980’s!

NWS Activity-2012

Fig 5 – 2012. 3D seismic coverage has extended into deep water off the continental shelf. Humpback population has continued to grow and is back to pre-whaling population levels.

Meanwhile, there has been minimal petroleum exploration and no development on most of the East coast although there has been activity in SE Victoria. What does this tell us?  That there have been NO adverse impacts from seismic surveys or petroleum exploration/development on the humpback populations in Australia!  Why then does IFAW continue to mislead? It is probably because, while their claims are persuasive, they have no basis in fact and science.  This still enables them to collect donations and sponsorship from those that believe them.

4. Another very recent example of an eNGO misinforming the media and hence the public was the “information” provided by Kathryn Warhurst, Environmental Scientist, Wilderness Society, on Annette Marner’s “late afternoon” program on ABC radio on 29 July 2014 (unfortunately not available online as far as we are aware).  How can seismic sounds be deafening as claimed by Ms Warhurst when there is no evidence of marine life being deafened by seismic sounds in the natural environment?  In any case, biological and other natural sounds, including their own vocalisations, their breaching and icebergs calving/colliding (in their feeding grounds!) are as loud as seismic sounds!  Why has the humpback population on the NW Shelf of Australia thrived alongside the extensive petroleum exploration and development that has occurred there since the cessation of whaling (see above).  If Ms Warhurst (and IFAW) is correct, surely this would not have happened – but the whales have thrived!  Why does Ms Warhurst comment on laboratory experiments in which marine life are placed in cages/tanks (so they cannot move away) and exposed to sounds that are totally unrepresentative of the sounds they would experience in the natural environment?  Incidentally, some of the “studies” she is presumably referring to have already been rebutted on this website.  Finally, why does she avoid admitting that there are no scientifically proven adverse impacts on marine life, that would affect their population levels, in the vicinity of operational seismic surveys in over 4 decades of seismic surveying despite very close scrutiny and monitoring?  One can only arrive at the conclusion that it is designed to misinform!

Thus, the next time you read or listen to a media article on this “issue”, or are asked by a protest or lobby group to donate, support or even attend their rally, you owe it to yourself to check the evidence and science as, you can be fairly sure, those that are “informing” you, won’t provide the fact!  This reminds me of a quote by Harlan Ellison I read very recently: “You are not entitled to your opinion. You are entitled to your informed opinion. No one is entitled to be ignorant“.  I would agree wholeheartedly that this means that nobody (even protestors or lobbyists!) is entitled to ignore the evidence and science when stating their opinion and trying to influence others.  Another very salient quote is that by Mark Twain: “If you don’t read the newspaper, you are uninformed. If you read the newspaper you are mis-informed“.

Of course, these days, this can apply to all types of media. However, it is TNR’s mission to base all its comment on “ factual, scientific and verifiable information” and thus be a source the community can rely on.

 

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Trackbacks

  1. […] on TNR’s website have highlighted the misleading campaigns run by eNGOs. For example, “The right to protest or lobby should not be abused” and “Do protestors tell the truth and are their protests based on […]

  2. […] eNGOs. Examples can be found on TNR’s website by clicking the following links for onshore and offshore […]

  3. […] drilling and construction of production facilities. See item 3 in the article entitled “The right to protest or lobby should not be abused“. It is interesting to note that there are many areas on the NW Shelf (eg Ningaloo Reef, […]

  4. […] While TNR does not have the expertise to assess the pros and cons of GMOs, the concerns about Greenpeace expressed by the GMO scientists are very similar to the concerns regarding Greenpeace’s (and other eNGOs) stance on scientific issues that TNR members are well qualified to make comment. As regular readers will be aware,  TNR has been highlighting the anti-scientific stand made by Greenpeace and many other eNGOs in articles such as “Is the Greenpeace NZ campaign against seismic surveys fraudulent?“, “Is the eNGO campaign against BP’s Bight drilling program deceptive” and “The right to protest or lobby should not be abused” […]

  5. […] reported in our article “The right to protest or lobby should not be abused” the torrent of wild claims during 2014 about the GAB seismic surveys by groups such as The […]

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