Having it both ways

The Gunns case, in which the world’s largest woodchip exporter is suing critics it accuses of ‘corporate vilification‘ is a typical instance of companies wanting to have it both ways. On the one hand, advocates of the corporation deny that corporations can have any moral or ethical obligations, other than to their shareholders. On the other hand, they want all the protections available to a natural person, including protection from defamation[1]. An individual who acted the way a company is supposed to act in the standard theory would be a sociopath, incapable of being defamed because of the absence of any justified reputation.

In this case, of course, we have the equally important issue of defamation laws being used to suppress free speech on political issues. I doubt that Gunns will prevail, but they don’t have to – a corporation with deep pockets will always win at this kind of game, unless the courts come down hard. I hope that they not only lose but are forced to pay a full accounting of the costs they’ve imposed.

fn2. On the third hand, to mangle the metaphor, the officers and shareholders expect to be protected from any sort of liability for their corporate actions, relying on the sanctity of the ‘corporate veil’. I had a go at this topic here

28 thoughts on “Having it both ways

  1. JQ, I just had a look at your old post you refer to. By coincidence – considering you are in the throes of another spam raid – that post has some residual spam stuck on the end from yonks ago.

  2. http://tasmaniantimes.com/index.php/weblog/comments/world-class-forestry-practice/

    [For those who are not too familiar with Tasmania, Gunns Ltd is the biggest woodchipping/native forest clearfell company in Tasmania. The company is sueing 20 environmentalists…some with the dubious charge of ‘corporate villification.]

    Posted by Gerry Mander on 05/09 at 12:52 AM
    Gunns Pty. Annual General Meeting – 2056

    Chairperson’s report.

    It gives me great pleasure to be able to address this shareholder’s meeting on the fiftieth anniversary of our historic legal win over our traditional enemies, and to report on the progress we have since made. That legal precedent having been set, any of the recalcitrant ‘Old timers’ who were determined to cling to their redundant farms and homesteads and try to avoid the march of progress, have now seen the light. They have realised that the punitive damages that can be inflicted by the Supreme Court for impeding the progress of a Project of State Significance are a sufficient inducement to hand over their land to Forestry, now, of course, one of our own departments.

    With the remaining vestiges of Tasmania under our control, the fifty year plan laid down by our former chairperson, John Gay, has come to fruition, and export and home consumption of logs is now running at a record 26 million tonnes per year. This is easily sustainable under our wealth generating policies since we no longer have to bother with the ‘Old Growth’ problem. It is with some satisfaction that I can say that the entire area of Tasmania from space looks somewhat like a giant cricket pitch after the mowers and rollers have left their patterns. Thirty kilometre squares, all at different stages of growth of the double crops of e.nitrans and pines, plus the harvested and burnt areas is an aesthetically pleasing sight. We are expecting another ‘Best Practices Award’ to be added to our already large list of trophies.

    Our Press Officers are particularly to be applauded in their handling of the then controversial burning of the State reserves and heritage forests. It was pointed out by them that the drought years were to blame for the highly inflammatory nature of these forests, and it was not, as suggested, that they were fire-bombed by our helicopters. After all, with a water shortage and lack of resources due to the ‘best water usage’ policies implemented by the government at our behest, it was almost impossible to extinguish the blaze. Once burnt, there was no point in retaining their heritage status and it was decided that the land could be put to much better use under rotational crops. It’s a pity in some ways, for the Gordon/Franklin reserves were very pretty in their day.
    The total loss of tourism due to this transformation is regrettable, but not when seen in the light of the extra profits that the land gave us and the effect on the State finances. With this decline in the tourism menace, the tourist industry also collapsed, and that meant the exodus of most of the workers – those that could not be placed in our own expanded employment program. It has been said that the new pulp mills and subsequent paper mills have been a major plus for the state. At the last estimate, 94% of all inhabitants of Tasmania now work for our company, and we are by far the largest company of our kind in the world. We are currently looking into the other 6%. Also on the plus side, the old, non-profit Spirits of Tasmania have been converted to very profitable pulp carriers.
    There have been several major economies made by this company since the departure and loss of interest of the conservationists. As you must be aware, in the latest Project of State Significance, our industry has been amalgamated with the government to form a single State body, currently referred to as ‘The Gunnerment,’ which is not as big a step as it sounds, as most of the Cabinet members were also directors, or potential directors of this company. The new corporate headquarters have been moved from Gayton and are now housed in the old Parliament building in Lennonville.

    Part 2.

    This has brought a remarkable amount of efficiency to our organisation and has resulted in many savings. We no longer contribute to party funds, and with the extra money available we have been able to carry out some remarkable ‘Public Relations’ projects at Federal and International levels. Our ratings, as a result, have never been higher!
    Other projects now have a smooth passage and there is no longer opposition. As previously mentioned, the water of Tasmania, once intended for the inhabitants, now has a single use, and that is to boost the efficiency of the Gunnerment. All rivers have been dammed and the results guarantee the supply for every mill and paper factory, as well as for irrigation and our own hydro power. Pollution and water quality is now no longer a political issue and in consequence, we have added further efficiencies. With the crops currently growing in thirty kilometre squares, we can spray with the new mixture of pesticides, herbicides and fertilisers from converted Boeing 747’s. The feral pests that were once such a bone of contention are now completely under control, and like the original inhabitants, only to be found elsewhere.

    The question has arisen, ‘now that we own the whole of Tasmania, are we at the end of the line as far as expansion is concerned?’ Gentlemen, let me assure you, the future is bright. Already China is asking for an increased quota of disposal wooden chopsticks from three billion sets to five billion sets per week and the latest estimate for toilet paper to that same country is staggering. We have made significant progress in our take-over bid for the South Island of New Zealand and the new name of ‘Clarkia’ for Wellington seems to have found favour. I think I can say in conclusion, that we have finally dispelled the myth ‘that money does not grow on trees!’

    Posted by Gerry Mander on 05/09 at 12:51 AM

  3. We need an investigativel jounalist/s – if there are any left that are not owned by murdoch? to check and see if gunns have contributed, and how much, to the liberals. Howard really gave them all they wanted during the last election – surely gunns must repay howard?? The poor stupid unionists thought that howard was on their side – what a pack of neanderthal dummies, typical self serving unionists. It’s OK none of these unionists would have the brains to get on the net, so they won’t read this. numbat

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