Mining giant accused of taking covert photos of child
An environmental activist protesting against the Adani coal mine was followed by a private investigator hired by the multinational conglomerate to photograph him and his family.
The investigator took photographs of Ben Pennings and his nine-year-old daughter walking to primary school in a move he describes an "extremely creepy" and an attempt to "intimidate citizens".
"(They) followed my wife despite the fact she's never been to a Stop Adani protest," he said. "Taking photos of our nine-year-old daughter walking to school is extremely creepy and completely abhorrent.
"Adani will continue to intimidate citizens and threaten our precious environment until we get a government willing to revoke their suitable operator status."
Guardian Australian first reported that a private investigator had been hired by Adani to carry out surveillance on Mr Pennings and his family. The surveillance included the trawling of Mr Pennings' wife's Facebook page.
Documents describing details of the surveillance were revealed in court on Wednesday where Mr Pennings is being sued for conspiracy, intimidation and breach of confidence.
The mining giant, which is constructing the Carmichael coal mine, a 10 million-tonne per annum thermal coal mine in Central Queensland, alleges Mr Pennings encouraged workers to join Adani's operations in the Galilee Basin for the purpose of later divulging information to activist group The Galilee Blockade.
The mine operator was granted an injunction ordering Mr Pennings to stop using confidential material from Adani. Adani was twice refused a search order to raid Mr Pennings' home and search it for evidence.
Mr Pennings said that two private investigators had followed him - "one in the car, one on foot".
He told news.com.au he was frightened by the big corporation's tactics.
"Just creeped out really and obviously concerned enough to look into these dudes (who followed me).
"Two burly blokes following your wife and kids around is extremely unnerving, just how Adani wants me to feel.
"Our nine-year-old is thankfully oblivious to it all. The older kids are really creeped out that Adani's goons photographed their little sister and want to know if they were followed too.
"I'm desperate for Adani to stop following my family but also give up on thermal coal. That's the real danger to kids."
Mr Pennings last month spoke to reporters outside the Queensland Supreme Court following the court's injunction.
"I have a family at home, kids, a kid with a disability," he said. "If Adani is successful with their civil action, I'll have to sell my house, and that's really difficult for my family, but Adani seem determined to hurt me.
"I don't believe I should have to sell my suburban family home to make an Indian multi-billionaire even richer.
"The 'Stop Adani' movement is massive. I'm just one passionate person. They really can't sue all of us."
A spokeswoman for Adani Australia told news.com.au the company was "unapologetic for exercising our legal rights".
"Adani has launched civil legal proceedings against anti-fossil fuel activist Mr Ben Pennings to protect our rights, as well as those of our employees and contractors, to carry out legal and legitimate business activities free from intimidation and harassment," the spokeswoman said.
"In preparing our civil legal proceedings we had sought an Anton Pillar order from the Queensland Supreme Court in August 2020. While the order was not granted we subsequently launched civil proceedings against Mr Ben Pennings.
"In order to safeguard and protect our legal rights as well as those of our employees and contractors we have legally collected information through various means in support of our civil legal proceedings against Mr Pennings.
"Any surveillance activity related to the relatives of Mr Ben Pennings, was an effort to determine the time of day to carry out a search order that would see the least disruption to residents, if it was granted by the courts.
"Our court proceedings relate to Mr Pennings alone, and we were proactively trying to avoid disrupting his family where possible. These activities were legally undertaken.
"We are unapologetic for exercising our legal rights and we will continue to use all legal means available to us to protect ourselves, our employees and contractors from individuals or groups who act unlawfully."
Originally published as 'Creepy': Covert pictures of 9yo girl