Following Gunns' complete abandonmment of its case which has tied up 20 Tasmanian anti-logging campaigners and their supporters for up to five years of their lives, Victorian Greens parliamentarian Sue Pennicuik MLC called for the Victorian Government to introduce legislation to prevent corporations from ever again similarly abusing the courts with Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation (SLAPP) suits to harass citizens who organise against their environmentally destructive projects.
"More than five years has passed since Gunns issued their terrible writ against the 20 defendants", Ms Pennicuik said. "Now, on the eve of going to trial, Gunns Ltd has pulled the pin and opted to pay out the remaining four defendants, rather than go to trial".
"It is clear now that there was never any chance of Gunns winning in court, the writ was simply a cynical strategy to tie up the defendants in a protracted legal action to prevent them from speaking out in defence of our native forests", she said. "It has been a mentally and financially exhausting ordeal for the defendants".
"Now is time for all states and territories to adopt anti-SLAPP (strategic litigation against public participation) laws similar to those already in place in the ACT and in US states such as California and Illinois to prevent such an action ever getting that far again", she said.
"Anti-SLAPP laws empower a judge to dismiss a case if he or she considers that the court is being misused for an ulterior non-legal purpose, i.e. to stop protesters from protesting", she said. "Powerful companies should not be able to use our courts to effectively silence community protest or participation in issues that affect their lives".
"I call on the Victorian Attorney-General, Rob Hulls to prepare anti-SLAPP legislation for Victoria to prevent abuse of the court system by corporations in an effort to silence their critics", she concluded.
For more information: Sue Pennicuik 0409 055 875
Adapted from media release originally published as "Gunns case shows we need anti-slapp laws in Victoria" on the Victorian Greens MPs web site, mps.vic.greens.org.au.
See also: "Gunns urged to drop 'Triabunna 13' case" of 3 Feb 10, "Gunns 20 in the dust" in the Hobart Mercury of 30 Jan 10, "Gunns settles with last pulp mill opponents" in the Australian of 30 Jan 10, "Gunns abandons legal chase" on ABC online of 30 Jan 10, "Gunns payout ends case" in the Age of 30 Jan 10.