find the latest legal job
Corporate Counsel and Company Secretary
Category: Generalists - In House | Location: Newcastle, Maitland & Hunter NSW
· Highly-respected, innovative and entrepreneurial Not-for-Profit · Competency based Board
View details
Chief Counsel and Company Secretary
Category: Generalists - In House | Location: Newcastle, Maitland & Hunter NSW
· Dynamic, high growth organisation · ASX listed market leader
View details
In-house Projects Lawyer | Renewables / Solar | 2-5 Years PQE
Category: Generalists - In House | Location: All Australia
· Help design the future · NASDAQ Listed
View details
Insurance Lawyer (3-5 PAE)
Category: Insurance and Superannuation Law | Location: Brisbane CBD & Inner Suburbs Brisbane QLD
· Dynamic organisation ·
View details
Legal Counsel
Category: Corporate and Commercial Law | Location: North Sydney NSW 2060
· 18 month fixed term contract · 3-5 years PQE with TMT exposure
View details
Anti-corporate activism needs public interest test

Anti-corporate activism needs public interest test

A leading environmental expert has said regulations that outlaw anti-corporate actions should be subject to a public interest test.

The call from academic and author AJ Brown (pictured) comes after the ASIC confirmed it was to investigate anti-coal campaigner Jonathan Moylan, who this week was in hot water after issuing a hoax ANZ-branded press release that saw Whitehaven Coal shares nosedive by nearly nine per cent.  

If convicted of disseminating false information that could impact on market securities, Moylan could face a 10-year prison term or hefty fines.

Brown, a Griffith University professor and author of Michael Kirby’s biography Paradoxes & Principles, told Lawyers Weekly that Moylan should at least be allowed an opportunity to explain his actions in court.

“As with laws to protect whistleblowers, the answer lies in ensuring that regulations which outlaw anti-corporate actions like this can be subject to a public interest test or defence at law... so that if prosecuted or sued an activist like Moylan can at least have his day in court to plead the higher justification for his actions,” said Brown.  

“Generally speaking, corporate, consumer protection and environmental protection laws do not currently have strong and clear enough tests of this kind,” he said.  

The difficulty for Moylan, he added, is that unlawful direct action that affects innocent parties such as small investors is more difficult to defend, ethically and legally, than direct action that only directly affects the policymakers or industries activists are seeking to change.

“This is especially when some small investors may have only limited real control over where their money is being put, and if any significant deception is involved,” said Brown, who has previously been involved in environmental direct actions and public interest environmental litigation, including being arrested in anti-logging protests five times.

Brown also argued that no public interest test could ever guarantee that an activist like Moylan would, or should, always escape liability for all his actions just because his cause is just if avoidable damage to more innocent parties is done.

“Prosecution and conviction have always been the risks that non-violent direct activists run when undertaking actions like this, as the price of challenging the status quo in order to secure change,” he said, before adding that public interest activists play a vital role in challenging social and corporate practices that deserve serious public scrutiny.

“Worthy public interest activism may require civil disobedience and even non-violent direct actions, of an unlawful nature, in order to secure the necessary change.”

Earlier this week, the Greens senator Lee Rhiannon congratulated Moylan for “exposing ANZ investment in coal mines”.

Like this story? Read more:

QLS condemns actions of disgraced lawyer as ‘stain on the profession’

NSW proposes big justice reforms to target risk of reoffending

The legal budget breakdown 2017

Anti-corporate activism needs public interest test
lawyersweekly logo
Promoted content
Recommended by Spike Native Network
more from lawyers weekly
LCA president Fiona McLeod SC
Aug 17 2017
Where social fault lines meet the justice gap in Aus
After just returning from a tour of the Northern Territory, LCA president Fiona McLeod SC speaks wit...
Marriage equality flag
Aug 17 2017
ALHR backs High Court challenge to marriage equality postal vote
Australian Lawyers for Human Rights (ALHR) has voiced its support for a constitutional challenge to ...
Give advice
Aug 17 2017
A-G issues advice on judiciary’s public presence
Commonwealth Attorney-General George Brandis QC has offered his advice on the public presence of jud...
Allens managing partner Richard Spurio, image courtesy Allens' website
Jun 21 2017
Promo season at Allens
A group of lawyers at Allens have received promotions across its PNG and Australian offices. ...
May 11 2017
Partner exits for in-house role
A Victorian lawyer has left the partnership of a national firm to start a new gig with state governm...
Esteban Gomez
May 11 2017
National firm recruits ‘major asset’
A national law firm has announced it has appointed a new corporate partner who brings over 15 years'...
Nicole Rich
May 16 2017
Access to justice for young transgender Australians
Reform is looming for the process that young transgender Australians and their families must current...
Geoff Roberson
May 11 2017
The lighter side of the law: when law and comedy collide
On the face of it, there doesn’t seem to be much that is amusing about the law, writes Geoff Rober...
May 10 2017
Advocate’s immunity – without fear or without favour but not both
On 29 March 2017, the High Court handed down its decision in David Kendirjian v Eugene Lepore & ...