Can the courts be used to punish or prevent opposing points of view? Should a corporate bully be allowed to silence protest using the courts? What is the true cost of brown coal electricity and who ends up paying the price?
These are the sorts of questions that we think need to be asked and answered in a public forum and decided transparently in the courts. Maurice Blackburn have been leading the way in cases of social and environmental responsibility for nearly 100 years and continue to fight to protect our communities.
Doctors for the Environment v Dual Gas
Maurice Blackburn represented Doctors for the Environment (DEA) in their challenge to a decision by the Environmental Protection Authority to approve a coal fuelled power station in the La Trobe valley, built by Dual Gas Pty Ltd. DEA made arguments about the significant health problems for people who live near coal burning power plants, especially when compared with renewable forms of energy production. For the first time in Australia, DEA made arguments about the adverse health effects of climate change, which would be accelerated by the proposed power plant.
The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) acknowledged the important arguments made by DEA and its decision and imposed certain conditions on the construction of the power plant as a result. Dual Gas has since abandoned plans to build the plant in the La Trobe Valley.
Enough Pokies in Castlemaine
Maurice Blackburn represented Enough Pokies in Castlemaine at a Victorian Civil and Administration Tribunal hearing in which we opposed more poker machines being introduced into the small Victorian country town.
As Castlemaine has a delicate local economy of family-run businesses, Council has adopted a policy that no further gaming venues be set up in town (the local Cumberland Hotel already houses about 30). The Maryborough Highland Society, headquartered 40km away from Castlemaine in a different shire, attempted to convert Castlemaine's historic Railway Goods Shed into a venue with 65 poker machines, tripling the number of pokies in town. This was an attempt to circumvent Council policy by leasing a building on State Government land that sits outside the local planning restrictions.
The local Council opposed the proposal and argued this view at the Victorian Commission for Gaming Regulation (as it was then called). As part of its case at the Commission, the Council polled public opinion. It found that 72 per cent of local people did not want the venue to go ahead. Community opposition was the centrepiece of EPIC's case before VCAT.
EPIC is a community organisation comprising over 1,500 people from a town of only 7,000, and includes a broad cross-section of the Castlemaine community - with local businesses, artists, the local psychiatrist, problem gamblers and their family and friends all involved.
VCAT handed down its orders on 14 February 2013. This was a significant win for EPIC and community groups throughout Australia.
The Tecoma 8 protest ban
The Tecoma 8 are a group of people opposed to a 24-hour fast food outlet in Tecoma, in the Dandenong Ranges. A McDonalds outlet being built in Tecoma was the subject of a high-profile community campaign. We acted for a group of protesters known as the 'Tecoma 8' and a much broader group for which some of the defendants were deemed to be representatives. Maurice Blackburn represented the 'Tecoma 8' pro bono because we believe peaceful protest is fundamental to civil rights and democracy.