How the nuclear lobby pays big bucks to ‘soften up’ South Australians


Nuclear Fuel Chain Royal Commission WEEK 11 – MANAGEMENT,

Michels Warren is a PR company working for the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission. The company was involved in the Howard government’s failed 6-year attempt to impose a national nuclear waste dump in South Australia. A great deal of information is available about the role of Michels Warren in this controversy thanks to documents released under Freedom of Information (FoI) legislation.

A September 27, 2000 email written by Stephen Middleton from Michels Warren talked about the need
to “soften up the community” and “sell” the repository: “We will lose ground once again unless we can soften up the community on the need for the repository and the reasons why SA has been identified as the best location. The prospect of the Minister announcing the preferred site before we can get to the community with something that explains what it all means makes my head spin. The wider research into issues such as Lucas Heights, uranium mining, the nuclear fuel cycle etc etc can be tackled as a separate issue. It should not hold up anything we are doing in terms of selling the repository to South Australians. The rest of the country probably doesn’t care less about the repository, but it is a big issue in SA. Further delays could be potentially disastrous.”

Why was a South Australian company willingly involving itself in the federal government’s nuclear dump plans? After all, Michels Warren itself acknowledges that the dump is an unwanted imposition on SA.

A 2003 Michels Warren document released under FoI legislation stated: “The National Repository could never be sold as “good news” to South Australians. There are few, if any, tangible benefits such as jobs, investment or improved infrastructure. Its merits to South Australians, at the most, are intangible and the range and complexity of issues make them difficult to communicate.”

So why was Michels Warren dumping on its home state? Money, of course. In total, Michels Warren was paid at least $487,000 to dump on SA … and possibly much more. Michels Warren staff were paid at rates up to $192.50 per hour for their work on the nuclear dump campaign.

secret-agent-AustAn August 16, 2000 “high priority” email reveals that Caroline Perkins, a senior official in the
Department of Industry, Science and Resources – at that time under the direction of Senator Nick Minchin – was asked to compile information on protesters. “[T[he minister wants a short biography of our main opponents in the Ivy campaign by about 11am our time (pre-rally)”, the email said. The rest of the email is blacked out under FoI provisions. The email refers to a Michels Warren employee – no doubt Michels Warren helped compile the biographies.

In 1999 Michels Warren was working hard “obviating the impact of campaigns by opponents and the ‘I’m With Ivy Campaign’ run by Ch 7.”
The Michels Warren worksheet for February 2000 includes the following: “Liaise investigator re green planning. Liaise R Yeeles [from WMC Ltd.] re updated intelligence.” Was Michels Warren employing a private investigator as that comment suggests? Is Michels Warren now employing a private investigator as part of its work for Kevin Scarce and the Royal Commission?
On March 28, 2000, Michels Warrne invoiced $150 for activities concerned with a “Protest at South Australian Parliament”, and $160 four days earlier to “Liaise WMC, Police and media re weekend protests.”

And in April 2000: “check re new protest activities”, “liaise SA Police re same”, “internet search re protests”, and “update intelligence re OHMS Not Boms protest group”.
In March 2000, Rosemary Marcon, a government official, asked Michels Warren for the details of an “activist website which we should monitor”. She was advised by Michels Warren that the site is Evidently that piece of ‘intelligence’ was off-beam – the website advertised streaming live shows from nude male dancers in Montreal!

The FoI documentation is frequently contemptuous of opponents of the planned nuclear waste dump (about 80% of the South Australian population). The option of displaying the Environmental Impact Statement in the Conservation Centre of South Australia is treated as a joke. Opponents of the dump are described as “anti-nuclear anarchists”. Michels Warren co-founder Daryl Warren refers in a July 14, 2003 email to protests and “demons”. On July 10, 2003, Warren stated that: “It has become apparent during the week that people seem to have lost the plot on the repository as it becomes embroiled in a political fight.”
In response to an invitation to the federal science minister to attend a conference at Adelaide University in March 2000, Michel’s Warren employee Stephen Middleton recommends against attending the conference. Middleton wrote: “The better option is to:
(i) dismiss the gathering as nothing more than a stunt
(ii) attempt to discredit it with counter media measures before, during and after.”

The FoI material reveals that photographs were doctored to suit the government’s ends. A February 14, 2000 email from a senior government official to Michels Warren’s graphic designer refers to a photo “with the sandhills removed.” The rationale was explained in a December 13, 1999 email by the same government official: “Dunes are a sensitive area with respect to Aboriginal Heritage.”
The February, 2000 email also asked: “Can the horizon be straightened up as well.”

Scare campaign
A recurring theme in the exchanges between the federal government and Michels Warren is the attempt to justify the dump by mounting a scare-campaign in relation to existing storage facilities. Yet they get their lines muddled up. One document released under FoI includes that statement that “none” of the waste “is stored satisfactorily” in existing stores. That is in direct contradiction to a June 2000 document document under Senator Nick Minchin’s name (“Radioactive waste: the eight biggest myths”), which states: “The safety of the storage of radioactive waste is proven by the fact that there are fifty stores around Australia housing radioactive waste and there has never been an accident exposing a person to unsafe levels of radiation.”

And in a May 17, 2000 media release, Minchin said: “South Australians have nothing to fear from radioactive waste. The fact is that waste is already stored in downtown Adelaide in complete safety.” Anyone claiming otherwise was merely trying to “whip up anti-radioactive waste hysteria”, Minchin claimed. So by his logic, Michels Warren and the federal government itself are guilty of trying to whip up hysteria.
Michels Warren has also been involved in the following campaigns (among others): a controversy over cadmium at West Lakes, Bridgestone tyres, bacteria in fast food, SA Water contamination, ETSA Utilities, the SA Freemasons, Telstra, WMC Ltd., and campaigns on behalf of the corporate owners of the Beverley and Honeymoon uranium mines in South Australia.  pro-nuclear voices.


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