The Guardian 20 July, 2005
Gunns 20 celebrate
Campaigners for Tasmania's forests and wildlife are celebrating the rejection of a damages claim brought against them by Tasmanian timber firm Gunns. Judge Bongiorno of Victoria's Supreme Court described Gunns claims against them as "incomprehensible", "embarrassing" and "unintelligible".
Gunns — Australia's biggest native forest logging company and the world's biggest hardwood-chip company — served writs for damages on 20 critics of its industrial practices in December 2004.
The company claimed a total of $6,360,483 in damages, which it says resulted from years of campaigning by the defendants aimed at blocking and/or highlighting aspects of Gunns' activities, including their policy of clear felling massive areas of native forest to gain timber as well as the ruthless and systematic destruction of wildlife in these areas.
The company alleges it suffered because of unlawful "conspiracies" by the defendants, and because of their unlawful interference in its legitimate business operations.
The 20 defendants included the Wilderness Society, Doctors for Forests, the Huon Valley Environment Centre, Peg Putt (MHA), and Greens Senator Bob Brown. Defendants are now seeking legal costs to be awarded against Gunns.
Spokesperson Virginia Young for The Wilderness Society said: "The judge found that the Statement of Claim against us was 'embarrassing' and that it would be 'unfair to the defendants to require them to plead to this Statement of Claim'".
"This judgement will give forest defenders everywhere a real boost."
Outside the court Greens Senator Bob Brown described the ruling as "a victory for the forests".
"The court ruling has imbued us with a new optimism.
"Now we go back to Tasmania to increase our campaign to save wild, wonderful forests which are being destroyed by Gunns at the greatest rate in history."
"If Gunns thought this case would make us back off they are very wrong indeed", said Senator Brown.
Gunns has just four weeks to resubmit its claim in an acceptable form.