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Corporate Gangster: Adani’s Pursuit of Scientists

The Adani conglomerate should be best described as a bloated gangster, promising the earth even as it mines it. Like other corporate thugs of such disposition, it will do things within, and if necessary outside, the regulatory framework it encounters. Where necessary, it will libel detractors and bribe critics, speak of a fictional number of as yet non-existent jobs, and claim that it is green in its coaling practices. It will also hire legal firms claiming to be trained attack dogs and hector the national broadcaster to pull unflattering stories from publication and discussion.

As a marauder of the environment, the Indian mining giant has left little to chance. It has politicians friendly to its cause in Australia at both the state and federal level, but it faces an environmental movement that refuses to dissipate. It also has a problem with environmental science, particularly in the area of water management. Conditional approvals have been secured, albeit hurried in the aftermath of May’s federal election, and even here, further testing will have to be done.

Given the inconveniences posed by scientists wedded to methodology and technique, the company did not surprise in freedom of information findings by the environmental group Lock the Gate that it had asked the federal environment department for “a list of each person from CSIRO and Geoscience Australia involved in the review” of the Groundwater Dependent Ecosystem Management Plan (GDEMP) and Groundwater Monitoring and Management Plan (GMMP).

In a bullying note to the Department of Environment and Energy (DOEE) in January 25 this year, Hamish Manzi, head of the company’s environment and sustainability branch officiously gave a five day limit to the request, claiming that it “simply wants to know who is involved in the review to provide it with peace of mind that it is being treated fairly and that the review will not be hijacked by activists with a political, as opposed to scientific, agenda.” Manzi had noted “recent press coverage regarding an anti-coal and/or anti-Adani bias potentially held by experts reviewing other Adani approvals.” For Manzi, the only expert worthy of that name would have to be sympathetic to the mining cause.

The corporate instinct is rarely on all fours with that of the scientific one. The former seeks the accumulation of assets, profits and dividends; the latter tests hypotheses using a falsification system, a process that can only ever have fidelity to itself. The corporate instinct is happy to forget troubling scientific outcomes, and, where necessary, corrupt it for its ends. Where the science does not match, it is obviously the work of ill-motivated activists or those inconvenienced by conscience.

The Union of Concerned Scientists in February 2012, through its Scientific Integrity Program, supplied readers with a list of fields where science, and scientists, have been attacked or compromised. More importantly, it notes how governments become the subject of influence, their decisions ever vulnerable to wobbling. “Corporations attempt to exert influence at every step of the scientific and policy-making processes, often to shape decisions in their favour or avoid regulation and monitoring of their products and by-products at the public’s expense. In so doing, they often attempt to fundamentally alter the decision-making process.”

The methods of corrupting science are not exhaustive, but the UCS report suggests a view tried ones. Research, for instance, is either held up by the company in question or terminated. Scientists are intimidated or coerced through threats to job security, defunding and litigation. Defective methodologies in testing and research are embraced. Scientific articles are ghost written, with corporate sponsorship blurred. Negative results are slyly under-reported; positive results are glowingly celebrated. And never forget good old-fashioned vilification.

The FOI documents regarding Adani’s conduct show the company as a witchdoctor wooing the federal government into timed releases of information and an obsession with preventing a broader public discussion of findings. A January 9 email from Adani to DOEE demanded that CSIRO/GA reports not be circulated to third parties or the public. The next day, the department obligingly informed the company that it would only share advice with Queensland’s Department of Environment and Science.

The uncovered documents also show a certain degree of cyber stalking at play. On January 15, a staff member of Geoscience Australia wrote to DOEE expressing concern that the company had viewed LinkedIn profiles of employees. Such concerns did little to ruffle the growing accord between the department and the company.

The abdication of government to the corporate sector is one of the more troubling features of this tawdry chapter in Australian non-governance. Corporate giants know they must enlist the support of representatives who they can trust to be of sound mind. History is replete with successful lobbying efforts in the name of corrupted science.

In 2007, ReGen Biologics, a New Jersey company, faced a sceptical Food and Drug Administration (FDA) concerned with Menaflex, a device intended to replace knee cartilage. With the FDA’s rejection came a mobilisation effort. Politicians were sought and cultivated. In December that year, Senators Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez, and Rep. Steve Rothman all wrote to FDA Commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach. The Commissioner’s ear had been bended sufficiently to lead to a new review headed by Dr Daniel Schultz, head of the FDA’s medical devices division.  Scepticism vanished; the product was approved. In 2010, a shamefaced FDA had to concede that it had erred and duly revoked approval.

Instead of defending practices of departments and professionals engaged in the task of assessing the merits of such ventures, individuals such as the Australian deputy prime minister suggest that Adani might have a point in is heavy-handed enthusiasm to root out contrarians. In Michael McCormack’s view, Adani “were made to jump through more environmental hoops than perhaps any previous project in the nation.” They merely “wanted to determine… that those arguing against their proposals were not just some quasi anti-development groups or individuals.” The thug’s narrative has found a home in the hearts of the anti-scientific representatives that currently rule the Canberra roost. Scientists have been warned.

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10 comments

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  1. Jack Cade

    Political things that should scare people shitless happen every day in this country. On ABC24 this morning, they were featuring farmers and residents of Guyra, complaining that they have to ship water in because their dams are dry. And they re-elected two governments which actually engineered and benefited from the theft of water from the Murray-Darling. Somnolent doesn’t begin to describe these people.

  2. Keitha Granville

    If Adani is confident that it will have no problems contaminating the environment, why does it matter what the CSIRO scientists had to say in their report ? It should be irrelevant.

    But of course, they aren’t, and it isn’t. They know they will have issues from day 1, so they are trying to discredit the science now in advance.

    Shameless, disgraceful, extremely poor corporate citizens to which our government has given an open door.

  3. Mr Shevill Mathers

    Greed stops at nothing to make more money and Australians will see very little of this money if ADANI and others gets the green light to rape and pillage vast tracts of precious land and water. If this is ADANI’S attitude now towards our scientists, imagine the way they will treat Australia if it gets full approval.These people disgust me to the core.

  4. New England Cocky

    @Jack Cade: Never underestimate the gullibility or naivety of Australian voters in New England, especially in the smaller towns where most individuals are related by marriage or extracurricular activities. Guyra is one such town where rusted on Nat$ voters have watched the economic decline of the Guyra CBD so that even the newsagency has closed for lack of business.

    Meanwhile a new blow-in resident is fronting a proposal to build a “fail rail trail” by ripping up the Great Northern Railway between Armidale and Wallangara (Queensland border) (about 220km) so that the Northern Inland Railway supported by John Anderson, formerly Nat$ leader and Minister for Roads, will have no competition from the NSW State Rail. This will significantly improve the financial case for the NIR that by their own economic analyses show will take at least 50 years to return the investment.

    John Anderson was the Campaign Manager for Barnaby Joyce, Adulterer-in-Chief for the Nat$, when Joyce purchased two “grazing properties” in the Pilliga Scrub while Anderson was CEO of Eastern Star Gas before that corporation was sold to Santos to become part of the Narrabri CSG fields. The proposed NIR rail easement will pass close by the Joyce properties.

    The Guyra water debate is linked to a Nat$ controlled former Guyra Shire Council deal to provide filtered water to one of the about 50 acre Guyra Tomato Farm glasshouses growing export tomatoes. The expected local Farm jobs failed to materialise because the corporate culture and working conditions were unacceptable to local Guyra residents, leaving temporary South Pacific 457 visa workers to fill the jobs and remit the pay back to the Islands.

    The Guyra Tomato Farm is part of a national conglomerate that about 5 years ago was valued for an Initial Public Offering on the ASX at $750 MILLION when about 50% was sold to a Canadian investment corporation.

    Following the forced amalgamation of Guyra Shire with Armidale Dumaresq Council to form Armidale Regional Council, Armidale residents are asking why Armidale town water from Malpas Dam is being sold to the GuyraTomato Farm through a pipeline costing a $14 MILLION NSW Gladly Back-flip-I-can Liarbral Nat$ misgovernment building grant.

    If every other agricultural enterprise has to provide their own water supply during a drought why should residential town water be diverted to export tomatoes? Let the Tomato Farm build their own water storage like every other agricultural has to do.

    Or, have the Nat$ done another dirty water deal for consideration to the Party?

  5. whatever

    They are really pushing the ‘Dam Building’ message, its all you hear on TalkbackRadio.
    The laws of Thermodynamics have radically changed, apparently, as these RWNJ’s explain that every drop of rain just dissapears back to the sea when you don’t have a dam.

  6. Jack Cade

    New England Cocky.

    They deserve all the shit ‘God’ throws at them. Pig shit thick, two short plank thick, 4 by 2 thick. Whatever criterion you can drag up about lack of intellectual capacity can be sheeted home.
    And we hear this week that they even pay the rent for Barney’s love nest.

  7. Wendy Alexander

    I was disgusted by this large coal Miner “demanding” the names of the scientists? Just who do the think they are to demand anything! All I have seen is government giving them practically all help 6yrs free royalty’s understand! Already have had illegally bore producing water fromArtisian Basin before any approval sure I read of this before Xmas! They are aiming to use everyone for little return to anyone really? Now we have fountain of non knowledge advocating on behalf Ardani! Nationals love coal people don’t they? All get very well paid lucrative jobs immediately leaving parliament? Just what McCormack could add to any company is beyond me? That’s right he will give performances for all Elvis in full regalia! Where do they find these fool Nats?

  8. John Ocallaghan

    I think that a vast number of voters especially out bush are just plain old fashioned bloody stupid!

  9. Lawrence S. Roberts

    The Dark Forces wish to pollute The Ancient Aquifer.

    Makes sense.

  10. whatever

    There are a few Coal Industry types who are regular ‘guests’ on TalkBack Radio. They seem to think they can now push the same ‘Greenie Conspiracy’ message on TV news and in the papers.

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