It is an old joke from a testosterone approach to the law that you should use
legal threats to
wallpaper the toilet. But frankly, when it comes to applying
the law to political disputes, wallpapering the loo may be a useful response to
legal threats. They certainly should not be heeded as a reason to stop genuine acts
of public participation.
To help people with their wallpapering, the following are copies of various
lawyers letters which threaten legal action or which otherwise have a chilling
effect on free speech and the community's ability to participate in public
debate and protest action. Of course the lawyers were only acting on
instructions from their clients so they are not responsible, and the Bush Lawyer
would never suggest that there was any wrong intention in making the threats.
You can be the judge of the merits of the letters and the claims made in them.
Please send copies of any legal threats you have received to
firstname.lastname@example.org so they can be add to the
wallpaper. These letters also provide the source information for the
definitive list of Australia SLAPPs.
Links to Legal Threats
1991: Tas Pesticides: Threat over Toxics
Action Network media statements about chemical spraying in Tasmania.
1993: APPM: threat to The Wilderness
Society over proposed protests at Tasmanian paper mill. No litigation ensued.
1994: TAPG: Tasmanian
Agricultural Productivity Group threatened a local environment group over its
1994: Hindmarsh Island Bridge:
developers threatened 35 local people with massive damages over delays to the
bridge process. No litigation ensued.
1995: CFMEU: A media threat by the
Forestry Union against The Wilderness Society over comments in relation to
forest logging disputes and the union's reputation. Union secretary Michael
O'Connor later sued the spokesperson for defamation.
1996: Democrat Senator Robert Bell
threatened The Wilderness Society over comments the Society made about the
Senator's attitude to protection of certain wilderness forests in Tasmania.
Advertisements complained of proceeded; no litigation ensued.
1997: NAFI: The National Association
of Forest Industries threatened TV Channel 10 over their airing of a community
service announcement by The Wilderness Society.
Island Bridge: developers threatened the Kumarangk Legal Defence Fund over
alleged defamations on the KLDF website about other law suits brought by the
developers. No legal action followed, despite
2000: Hindmarsh Island Bridge: complaint
about alleged defamatory and sub judice content in an article in
Bulletin. Authors response is also attached. No litigation followed.
2002: SA State Election:
Liberal Minister Wayne Matthew threatened The Wilderness Society over its Vote
2002: Hindmarsh Island Bridge:
developers demanded removal
of website material and an apology from the Australian Library and Information
2003: Victorian Farmers Federation: threatened Animal Liberation
SA over alleged disruption of live sheep exports. Action was later taken in the
2003: Hardie's Paxton
Development: Property developer threatened The Wilderness Society over
comments on its website about the development's impact on wetlands. The
TWS response points out is instructive.
No litigation ensued.
2005: NSW Forests: a
senior NSW government bureaucrat threatened The Wilderness Society over a letter
sent to her asking her to comment on allegations about her behaviour and that of
her department. The initial letter expressly forbade publication, but the final
threat letter is uploaded here. No litigation ensued.
2005: Maleny Supermarket: a
supermarket developer threatened local residents who opposed the development on
environmental and lifestyle reasons. A follow-up threat was made, but no
2005: Computer Report Card: Computer
giant Toshiba threatened Environment Victoria over its unfavourable report on
the environmental aspects Toshiba's computers. EV acknowledged mistakes and
issued a retraction, but the bush lawyer's question is why did Toshiba go
straight to the heavy-handed lawyering instead of approaching EV directly.
2005: Whyalla Red Dust: One
Steel Manufacturing threatened a Greens candidate and solicitor acting for a
community group for media comments on the public health impacts of red dust.
They also "reprimanded" another
solicitor for similar comments - though why lawyers had to write this letter
2006: Reef Cove
Resort: The resort developer's lawyer threatened local activist Steven
Nowakowski over a series of trespasses in protest against another north