02 October, 2006

THE AGE:Revealed: spying on Greens

Michael Bachelard
The Age, October 2, 2006

Multinational packaging company Amcor stacked the Labor Party, infiltrated environment groups, sent people pretending to be greenies to forest protests and paid bribes overseas to secure its supply of native hardwood in the 1990s.

Company documents obtained by the ABC's Four Corners show that, for more than a decade from 1989 to 2001, the company funded its staff, through the so-called "A-team", to spy on and sabotage its opponents.

The union, the pulp and paper workers, which later joined the forestry division of the CFMEU, co-funded the A-team.

It was led by Derek Amos, a former state Labor MP and shadow minister for energy, and Victoria was the epicentre of the group's activities.

At its height in the late 1990s, A-team representatives were in the majority on the state ALP's environment policy committee, hindering any discussion of forest policy in the party.

They had got their places on the committee by working through the union, but also by taking over the Traralgon branch of the ALP.

"Oh, it was stacked, there was no doubt about that," the Labor MP for Morwell, Keith Hamilton, told the program.

A-team spokesman and mill worker Chris Moody became the branch's president and Mr Amos' daughter, Leanne Martin, the secretary.

"We would sit around a table and the A-team would sit in a group together; they were extremely well organised," former environment policy committee member Kerry Baker said.

Another member, Cheryl Wragg, said "any time that people other than the Amcor A-team mentioned forestry policy, they would be yelled out of the room". Calls by non-A-team committee members to ALP head office for an investigation fell on deaf ears.

But in the lead-up to the 1999 state conference, an election year, something was finally done. The environment committee drafted a forest policy, which would have opened up 40 per cent of Victorian old growth forest for logging, but, as non-A-team members threatened open revolt, ALP head office, under state secretary John Lenders, took the policy in and rewrote it.

Mr Amos has also confirmed that the A-team infiltrated the Australian Conservation Foundation, the Wilderness Society and Environment Victoria, where a spy, "Tracy", would get paid time off from her shifts at Amcor's Maryvale pulp and paper mill to attend meetings, photocopying any documents she could get hold of.

She took "copious notes" and filed written reports on Environment Victoria's discussions.

Some of those reports found their way to the then member for McMillan, Barry Cunningham, a Labor MP whom the A-team had helped to get elected to Federal Parliament. When he started quoting Environment Victoria minutes in Federal Parliament, the environment group realised they had been infiltrated.

Mr Amos said this was part of "a program to discredit environmental groups" through "covert operations which included the planting of volunteers as bogus greenies in targeted environmental organisations".

A-team players were active on the front line of the 1990s environment movement: the forest protests.

In 1993, the team's members joined in as the green protesters set up camp in Goongerah, East Gippsland, to protest against woodchipping in national estate forests.

According to veteran green campaigner Jill Redwood, the two spies, "David and John", turned up at the camp in "a big, clean, white four-wheel-drive ute" and "nice neat clothes".

The spies' report to Amcor says the protesters were "unkempt" with "matted hair and dishevelled clothing, similar to early '70s styling".

Mr Amos claimed success, through the help of federal Labor MPs, in convincing the Keating government in 1995 to institute a more pro-logging policy. He also admitted to international bribery, saying in a document he had paid the customers of Amcor's competitors to find out commercially sensitive information.

The A-team was disbanded in 2001 after Amcor's paper-making operations were spun-out into a new company, PaperlinX. Amcor went on to further notoriety when its executives were sacked two years ago for their part in a cartel to fix prices for cardboard boxes

Original article

No comments: