HECKLED: MP George Christensen is surrounded by Adani supporters outside the Bowen courthouse.
HECKLED: MP George Christensen is surrounded by Adani supporters outside the Bowen courthouse. Jessica Lamb

Adani claims anti-coal activists cost company $7.5M

EXCLUSIVE: How did a regional country town's court room in North Queensland become the battlefront for the coal versus climate debate in Australia?

At either end of the scales of justice sit climate change activists and the Bowen community.

At the centre is Magistrate Simon Young, presiding over the 14 anti-Adani protesters who fronted Bowen Magistrates Court and copped a combined $79,500 in fines.

Earlier in the year, the efforts of the protesters twice stopped operation of the Abbot Point Coal Terminal, as well as halting two coal-carrying Aurizon trains in protest at the proposed Adani Carmichael mine.

Many in the Bowen community feel targeted as Adani has invested heavily with the promise of new jobs and cash flow into the town - something that's threatened by mostly interstate protesters who have no personal ties with the community.

As sworn by a Bowen police senior constable in an affidavit tendered in court, the Bowen community was left without police numbers during the protests because all available officers were sent to deal with the unrest.

This forced the Bowen Police Station's 27 officers into more than $18,000 worth of overtime since the protests began.

And on one occasion, as Mr Young told the court, the station was left without officers to take people into custody in January.

At the other end of the equation sits a diverse age range of well-educated protesters, each of whom in their joint submission to the court by Lacey Lawyers' Tanya Lacey expressed frustration with the government for failing to listen to their views and its inaction on climate change, leading to their protest in Bowen.

Police prosecutor Hannah Beard outlined two separate incidents where protesters went into the Abbot Point Coal Terminal and attached themselves to the coal-loading trestle 20 metres off the ground in January. This shut down the port's operations for stints of 7.75 hours and 6.75 hours.

In a memo tendered by Adani it was estimated to have cost the company $7.5 million over two days.

Mr Young, however disputed the claims, saying the figures appeared to have been submitted on the value of the coal not put on the ships, not the loss of revenue as the coal would have been transported later.

"I put much more weight on the transport costs of ships not loaded for the day which are $4000 and $5000 respectively," he said.

The eight activists charged with "interfering with a port'' made history yesterday as no one, not Mr Young, the prosecutor, the defence nor the Supreme Court library could find relevant case law.

The proceedings mark a legal precedent, setting a benchmark for future cases heard under the legislation.

Fines of $8000 were imposed against each protester.

Mr Young said he considered the protesters' acts to be "very serious and very dangerous".

"You relied entirely on the professionalism and vigilance of port workers - your lives in the hands of other people, who were not expecting you to be there and outside their usual routine - I consider it to be stupid," he said.

He said he would not make an order for restitution as it was beyond the financial means of the offenders, and it was "not the practice of the court to impose symbolic or token restitutions".

Mr Young gave special significance to Bowen as the "small community has already suffered more than its fair share of industrial accidents and deaths; emergency response capacity here is extremely limited and you have stretched this beyond breaking point".

"This community just cannot afford to have this type of irresponsible behaviour continue," Mr Young said.

In a twist to proceedings Member for Dawson George Christensen, who had been an observer in court, was heckled about his appearance all the way to his car by the protesters after his controversial remarks on social media about "greenie punks''.

Mr Christensen posted video footage of the confrontation with the group on social media yesterday.



"I popped into the Bowen courthouse to see the proceedings today," Mr Christensen wrote.

"More than 20 extreme greenie activists were in the dock.

"They decided to ambush me on the way out but I gave them a bit of a lesson in adhering to the law myself."

In the video, the protesters can be heard heckling Mr Christensen, who in turn tells them to "stop breaking the law''.


  • Tessa Cunningham Newport, 22, Melbourne
  • Nicholas Scott Avery, 27, Sydney
  • Jeffrey James Cantor, 71, Trinity Beach (conviction recorded)
  • Juliet Lamont, 47, Byron Bay
  • Luca Rose Lamont, 19, Melbourne
  • John Alister Ross, 69, NSW
  • Daniel Timothy Skerrett, 30, Bonville NSW
  • Liisa Susanna Rusanen, 26, Coffs Harbour
  • Ella Margaret Skerrett, 26, Bonville NSW
  • Charges: trespass, contravene police direction and intentionally or recklessly interfering with ports operation
  • All fined $8000, no conviction apart from Cantor
  • Nathan Soloman Bernfield, 24, Sydney
  • Charges: Interfere with railway, trespass railway and contravene police
  • $3000 fine referred to SPER, no conviction
  • Lilli Latimer Barto
  • Charges: Interfere with railway, trespass railway and contravene police
  • $2500 fine and no conviction
  • Anna Hush, 24, Sydney
  • Charges: Interfere with railway and trespass on railway
  • $1000 fine, no conviction
  • Gareth Davis, Sydney
  • Charges: Interfere with railway and trespass on railway
  • $1000 fine no conviction