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Apr 22, 2010

Greenies see red as Wilderness Society descends into chaos

The Tasmanian Supreme Court has slapped down beleaguered Wilderness Society executive director Alec Marr's bid to retain control over the organisation.

The Tasmanian Supreme Court has slapped down beleaguered Wilderness Society executive director Alec Marr’s bid to retain control over the organisation, ruling this morning that a secret AGM attended by just 14 people last year was invalid.

In a short hearing, in which Marr’s umbrella organisation TWS Inc declined to offer a substantial defence, judge Peter Evans also ruled a special resolution passed at the meeting to increase the threshold for constitutional change to 4,500 names was invalid.

Queensland Wilderness Society Campaign Manager Tim Seelig, part of a dissident group challenging Marr for control of the divided organisation, immediately called on Marr and his national committee of management to fall on their swords.

“Alec’s authority and the management committee is now trashed,” he told Crikey outside court. “They should stand down immediately. The state campaign centres are now calling on the committee to immediately stand down so members can properly rule on their future.”

The court was asked to rule on the sparsely-attended AGM in November last year that changed the constitution and ensured the Marr-dominated management committee would serve for another three years. In a move reminiscent of the darkest manoeuvrings of student politics, the AGM was advertised in the mostly-unread Fairfax publication the Burnie Advocate.

Dissidents last night circulated a letter to members and a media release from six campaign centre managers urging members to converge on Canberra for a special meeting on May 2, organised by Marr. The state-based groupings say they have the backing of 95% of the organisation’s 45,000-strong membership.

“We have completely lost trust and confidence in the Executive Director and the national management committee … It’s time for change,” they wrote, highlighting “bullying and poor staff management, wasteful consultancies” and a lack of campaign “direction and accountability”. Marr had originally called the meeting to shore up his authority by allowing a postal vote on its future.

Meanwhile, Crikey can reveal Marr shut down his own email system yesterday to prevent dissidents from contacting members. At 4:40pm, as forces committed to Marr’s overthrow prepared to send out a missive spruiking their intention to roll the veteran campaigner, access to the group’s ‘PHP’ mailing list was shut down.

Marr confirmed this morning that he had ordered the email list be taken off-line, saying the proposed mailout calling on him to resign was “illegal”, an “invasion of people’s privacy” and was designed to spread “misinformation among the members”. Newcastle campaigner Vanessa Culliford, who drafted the letter to members, had “absolutely no legal rights at all” to access the email list.

“We’re a separately incorporated body, and it’s an abuse of the email system,” he said.

But Culliford denied the claims: “the PHP lists are created through the work that state-based campaign centres do. I am simply informing our membership of the views of the state campaign centres … in terms of being abused by Alec Marr, I’ve been working for TWS for a long time so I’m used to it.”

Dissidents say the May 2 meeting to enable members to submit postal votes will now become a referendum on his membership style.

Before this morning Supreme Court ruling, Marr said his proposed changes to the Wilderness Society’s structure would benefit members: “We’ve already agreed to a new AGM. Our biggest problem was the previous AGM didn’t allow enough people to be involved.

“The organisation has overhauled its constitution — we’ve currently got the constitution of a tennis club for an organisation with 45,000 people. It’s completely inappropriate and allows small groups of people to effectively take over without a mandate.”

Acrimony continues to fester in Wilderness Society offices across Australia. One incident, confirmed by three parties, involved a spat over microwaved spaghetti bolognese at lunch time, with the re-heater accused of being a “meat eater” by ecologically-tinged staff.

Marr personally investigated the claims and unleashed a tirade against the complainants, who appeared to be a proxy for the organisation’s split between grassroots eco-warriors and be-suited management focused on business plans.

After the spaghetti eating finance staffer left the organisation, Marr is reported to have unleashed the following tirade: “You don’t have to be a fucking greenie to work at TWS. I’ve got a great big four-wheel drive. But at least I haven’t had a fucking BABY!”

Marr said the comments were “meant to be a joke”.

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6 thoughts on “Greenies see red as Wilderness Society descends into chaos

  1. Edward Thompson

    “Acrimony continues to fester in Wilderness Society offices across Australia. One incident, confirmed by three parties, involved a spat over microwaved spaghetti bolognese at lunch time, with the re-heater accused of being a “meat eater” by ecologically-tinged staff.”

    That is just glorious.

  2. Michael James

    They may have 45,000 members, but have got the constitution of a tennis club for a reason, they behave like a tennis club, a disfunctional one at that.

  3. Michael

    Lunatics behaving badly.

    You average Australian wouldn’t mind seeing them all strung up from an old forrest tree branch.

  4. Tom McLoughlin

    What a pathetic article. Written by someone with an obviously jaded and shallow understanding of this unique NGO, fiercely independent of major parties and business. Unlike virtually any other in the sector.

    Marr’s success against Gunns – not mentioned here – is worthy of an AO. Running second to asbestos criminal Hardy’s for sheer guts and determination and know how.

    Significant that Wade on AM this morning didn’t declare her spouse is the rival for the director’s job.

    The greater membership of TWS have never had real access to the AGM, it’s always been a state office stack in terms of travel and notice. It’s about time the national body did stand up to these petty regional fiefdoms, and got a national vote from the whole membership.

    One thing is clear Andrew Cook wouldn’t have a clue about the merits of the real issues involved with his cheap jack, likely dihonest smear at the end. Too many corporate lunches one assumes.

  5. Lou Porter

    who doesn’t remember Alec marr standing in the tasmanian forrest with ian mclachlan and john howard, giving the conservatives his support in the 96 election.
    that’s the election that gave us 11 years of howard and company. That’s right, he supported howard over keating.
    What a fraud this marr guy is, self interest rules for him.
    he should resign and join the liberals.

  6. Tom McLoughlin

    Ah yes, Keating, who trashed the Deferred Forest areas of then Env Minister John Faulkner in 1996. The best forests in the country. Who paved the way for decades long discredited resource security (making science irrelevant) before climate was even heard of.

    Keating who slashed the Resource Assessment Commission after their timber inquiry of 1992 for having people like Clive Hamilton as head of research.

    Keating who later said ‘I wish I’d done more on the environment’, yet with his RFA/National Forest Policy gave the woodchippers everything they wanted leading to Gunns Ltd today. When it came to the environment in 1996 Keating is Howard, with ashphelt in his veins and there was not one leading greenie who would say different from that time, myself as NSW organiser for FoE in NSW. Indeed the taste from Keating was so bad it crueled any interest in Beazley’s approach to this writer in 2,000.

    Trouble is the ALP believe their own rhetoric and there likely is more dirty ALP influence in this TWS ruction than people know. There is no benefit in appeasing the ALP from the green sector. They are insincere. Power has to be chiselled off them like the Tas Greens are doing. Those who don’t know that are in denial or after their own easy careerism.

    As for 1996 election, it was Marr and ACF’s Jim Downey, later in the Australian Democrats, in the Dandenongs, not Tas forests. So the comment here is ignorant but revealing. And Howard had only one thing going for him – he was not Keating who was one smart *rse election too many for the Australian voter.

    Indeed it was probably his smart *rsery that did more damage, in the memory, to the ALP in 1998 and 2001 elections than anything else.

    I’ve got nothing against Wade but having done her job and more for 2 hard critical years and seeing the dearth of her files information base a few years later, I realised she is a journo trained PR operative. Not a serious policy player in conservation politics at federal level which is what you need in a national director of an NGO, and a NSW green leader for that matter. My feeling she is out of her depth.

    Wade’s strategy back then was to award Bob Carr (think little Keating) with medals – how naive. Carr was running a truck through the conservation estate – the internal govt maps leaked to me show his little purple reservation bits, dotted across the landscape, and the huge dark green shapes being logging areas to dwarf his reserves. What a spinner. And the big media sucked it up with their lattes. Sad stuff.