Federal Court judgment allowing the pursuit of environment groups ‘anti-democratic’ – Peak Environment Groups

Nature Conservation Council

26th April 2024

Australia’s peak environment groups have expressed their alarm and profound opposition to the Federal Court’s decision to allow Santos to pursue environment groups that were not directly involved in a recent court case against them.

The decision means that the Environment Centre NT, Sunrise and Jubilee must hand over documents to Santos, and face a potential costs order, even though they were not directly involved in the case.

“This is a staggering decision that the public should be very concerned by,” Jess Beckerling, Executive Director of The Conservation Council of Western Australia, said today.

“These sorts of SLAPP suits are designed to deter public participation and they are profoundly anti-democratic.”

Conservation Councils want the decision overturned and for charities’ rights to stand in solidarity with traditional owners and defend nature and communities to be protected.

Jono La Nauze, CEO of Environment Victoria said:

“By hounding organisations not even involved in the case, Santos is trying to send a message to every community group in Australia that they are safer remaining silent.

“This is a chilling move by one of Australia’s biggest polluters, it is the kind of corporate bully-boy tactics that have no place in a functioning democracy.

“If Santos were actually proud of their environmental record they would not be afraid of defending their actions in court.

Jacqui Mumford, CEO of the Nature Conservation Council of NSW said:

This is a staggering decision. None of these groups were parties to, funded or conducted the litigation.

The judge has found that their common interest in wanting to stop the Barossa project may be grounds for a non-party costs order against them.

If this proceeds any further it could have a chilling impact on campaigning and public interest litigation across the country.

Statement Ends

/Public Release. View in full here.