New enviro-group flounders

The Australian Environment Foundation fell flat on its face right from the start. Even the gullible and tame journalists from rural media didn’t swallow their lines.

A well-known woodchipping industry supporter and lobbyist, Kirsten Gentle, launched a US style front group on World Environment Day. The attempt to mimic a highly respected national environment group, the Aust Conservation Foundation, didn’t fool anyone.

This group’s spokesperson also advocates cattle grazing in National Parks and logging and grazing of our degraded redgum forests. Other members have similar attitudes.

The US corporate world has become a master at setting up industry front groups to take on the appearance of community or environment groups. Now we have some of our very own.

One board member of the group is Mt Gambier dairy farmer Leon Ashby who is strongly opposed to regulations preventing land clearing, and doesn’t believe there is a connection between it and salinity. Leon Ashby also advocates cattle grazing in national parks – to help recycle organic matter or “civilisation will go backwards’ as a result” (true! check out his website!).

Dr Jennifer Marohasy from the Institute of Public Affairs, a right-wing think tank, was the AEF’s chairwoman but said she acted as an individual and not part of the IPA. The IPA is known for opposing anything that could prevent large profit driven industries from expanding.

But Jennifer Marohasy has stepped aside and is now their environment advisor, while sacked gardening show presenter Don Burke has taken over as Chairman. One of his opening statements was that “The greatest threat to the world’s environment is the conservation movement.”

The address and phone number for the group’s website registration are those for the Victorian office of the logging industry front group, Timber Communities Australia.

When losing public sympathy, industrial exploiters seem desperate to employ tactics that will undermine the green message or confuse the public. The wolf is putting on a sheep’s clothing but the fangs still drip saliva.

The AEF looks just like an industry designed association. Will this “rational” enviro group soon be standing side by side with governments to sign off on uranium expansion, forest exploitation and other destructive projects? They’ll have to garner a wee bit more public credibility first though; a difficult task given its see-through beginnings.

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