Jono Moylan, ANZ and the great fossil fuel swindle

When Jono Moylan was told last Friday that he would not be going to jail, but would instead be getting a two year good behaviour bond, I breathed a huge sigh of relief, along with most other Australians I’m sure. But it also reminded me of a night that occurred about 6 weeks ago, on another Friday night.


Jono outside the Supreme Court after sentencing. Source: We Stand With Jono Flikr

After a tough week in my job with Greenpeace, campaigning to halt development of the largest coal mine currently under construction in Australia at Maules Creek, I met my family and friends for some dinner and a beer at the Marrickville Golf Club in Sydney’s Inner West.

While standing at the bar awaiting my chance to order some schooners and pink lemonade for the kids, I gazed up to see the Pope and ABC 24’s ticker tape news update: ‘Deutsche Bank rules out funding Abbot point coal terminal’.

“An announcement about a bank deciding not to fund a major coal-port project? Must be that young Moylan fella’s work” I joked to myself.


Supporters and friends of Jono gather outside the courtroom. © Abram Powell/Greenpeace

At this point, you may recall that Jonathan Moylan pleaded guilty on 23 May of this year, to disseminating false information after distributing a fake press release claiming ANZ had withdrawn support for a Whitehaven coal project, an action that temporarily wiped $314 million from the miner’s market value.

This is the same coal mine that — together with the Leard Forest Alliance, Traditional Owners, war veterans, farmers and ecologists — Greenpeace is working hard to stop.

Ever since I met Jono and heard — direct — the now famous tale of the aspirational (and fake) press release saying that ANZ had withdrawn $1.2 billion in financing for Whitehaven’s new Maules Creek mine near Boggabri in northern NSW, I’ve been on guard against any story in the press about any bank following a moral compass away from dangerous climate change. ‘Banks are bastards’ right? That’s what the 80’s bumper sticker exclaimed. So if Deutsche Bank is declaring that it won’t fund QLD’s Abbot Point coal terminal, it’s gotta be a hoax right?

Then before my beer arrived, the ticker tape clicked over to this: ‘Whitehaven protester pleads guilty to false press release’.

“Aha! Maybe I was right about the hoax? That young Moylan fella is in the news again!”

But I was wrong.

Jono was in the news, having plead ‘guilty’ to a issuing a fake release, but he was sharing the bulletin with another announcement about a real bank, making a very real commitment, aligned with very real community concerns about the expansion of the coal industry in Australia (Deutsche has now been joined by the Royal Bank of Scotland and HSBC in publicly ruling out financing of the controversial coal terminal).

No hoax. No joke. As my drinks finally arrived, I thought the updates about Maules Creek and the politics of coal financing were over, but there was one last twist: ‘NRL: Tinkler officially relinquishes control of the Knights’.

Nathan Tinkler, ‘Boganaire’ and former owner of the Maules Creek Coal Project that was the subject of Jono’s release, and remains the ongoing target of a movement-wide push against the expansion of coal, also claimed a spot on the ticker tape feed. His sponsorship of Newcastle’s rugby league team finally ended after one-too many risks were taken in the development of his coal and horse-racing business interests.

Both men share an appetite for risk.

Tinkler’s risks were about building his personal fortune at the expense of a unique forest, Gomeroi cultural heritage and the global climate.


92-year old Kokoda veteran Bill Ryan joins the silent vigil for Jono © Abram Powell/Greenpeace

Jono’s risk, was that his liberty would not be at stake from a well-intentioned campaign tactic designed to draw attention to the scandalous behaviour of Australian banks, which continue to fund coal projects that will push our planet to the brink of dangerous climate change and beyond.

Our community has a long way to go with this issue. It’s not easy standing up to big coal and the ruthless banks which provide their finance. We need more Jono’s in our community, willing to campaign for the future. The real Jono Moylan is no hoax. He’s the real deal. A good man. An up-standing man.