National animal rights group dredges up poll complaint.
QUEENSLAND TELEGRAPH. By John Mikkelsen
AN environmental animal rights group has expressed serious concerns over aspects of the massive Gladstone Harbour dredging program, including a misleading media release claiming most Australians supported the dredging project.
Co-ordinator of Australians for Animals Inc, Sue Arnold, has complained to both the State Environment Minister Andrew Powell and Premier Campbell Newman, about the misleading media release based on a Newspoll, which was later withdrawn from the Gladstone Ports Corporation website last month.
“GPC should be carpeted over this latest effort to disguise the facts,” Ms Arnold said.
She has also written to the Federal Environment Department questioning the GPC’s move to light based monitoring of turbidity levels associated with the dredging, and its effects on vital seagrass beds.
In her complaint to Mr Powell, Ms Arnold claimed the widely reported media release was “highly irresponsible”.
The original press release stated, “A poll covering the entire East Coast of Australia asking people if they support dredging the Gladstone harbour for industry development has received an overwhelming yes.
“The poll conducted by Newspoll Market Research surveyed 17,311 people asking if they are aware and if they support Gladstone Ports Corporation (GPC) Western Basin Dredging and Disposal Project (WBDDP) currently underway in the Gladstone harbour.
“Among those aware of the project to extend Gladstone port, 49% said they are in favour while 29% said they were against the project….”
Ms Arnold said that Australians for Animals Inc. regularly used Newspoll to conduct polls, but had never heard of a poll of l7,311, or one that covered the entire east coast.
Subsequently, a GPC media advisor had told her that, ” They had made a terrible mistake” the story had been taken off the GPC website, and they were going to correct it.
“No, I couldn’t have a copy of the poll results and yes, it was nothing like l7,000 but the usual poll numbers which are around 2,000 or less,” Ms Arnold said.
She had then informed Newspoll that GPC was seriously misquoting the results of a poll which they had commissioned.
“These are the facts: 1402 people nationally were asked: Are you aware of the port extension at Gladstone? No question was posed … asking if they supported dredging in Gladstone Harbor. There was no mention of any dredging in any question.
“The response to this question showed one quarter were against, one third aware. So Newspoll then asked those one-third identified as 400 people in Queensland, with 100 in Brisbane, the question whether they were in favour of the port extension in Gladstone or not,” Ms Arnold said.
She said Newspoll had been in touch with GPC and asked for the press release to be corrected.
“Thus far, nothing has happened on the GPC website,” she said.
A spokesperson for the GPC yesterday admitted a mistake had been made but said that a correction had been posted on the website as soon as it was made known.. (However this does not appear under news and media releases on the main page).
“If you want it go to the quicklinks for western basin project on gpc’s website, go to community go to latest release and then view all releases and you will see it about four or five releases down,” she said.
The spokeswoman said she was not aware of the outstanding complaint by Ms Arnold.
In her email to the Federal Environment Department’s assistant secretary, Compliance and Enforcement Branch, Shane Gaddes, Ms Arnold raised a number of questions about light based turbidity monitoring recently introduced by the GPC. These included whether it would only apply under the present Temporary Environmental Permit to repair leaks in a northern section of the Western Basin Bund Wall, and if it had been agreed to by the Commonwealth.
“Are you aware that within two weeks of the last breach by GPC, they breached the limits again. They will be over the limit for over 12 days of the last 30 days instead of 1 day in 100 (99th Centile),” she said.
“Australians for Animals Inc. is aware that the UNESCO report made a recommendation that there be an independent enquiry into the ongoing problems in Gladstone Harbour resulting from the development.
“It appears that both the State and Federal government are ignoring this recommendation,” she said.
Mr Gaddes confirmed the department was aware turbidity limits had been breached again and this had been expected while the bund wall was being repaired.
“The department understands that the Transitional Environmental Program, using light based triggers, will only be in place over the month of July. This was an emergency process proposed by GPC to the Qld Government and endorsed by the DTRP (Dredge Technical Reference Panel),” he said.
The Commonwealth had not delegated any powers to the State in relation to environmental controls over the Western Basin development project and had not yet received a revised management plan for approval, which included light based monitoring.