Business

Veiled threat as activists take over Aurizon AGM

ARMED with a handful of newly-bought shares, anti-coal activists infiltrated the annual general meeting of freight giant Aurizon with one group appearing to make veiled threats of sabotage to company executives.

When shareholders at the meeting were asked for questions, environmental advocates including Greenpeace, Generation Alpha asked board chairman John Prescott how Aurizon - formerly QR National - would handle the financial challenges that could come with protests actions that affect its operations.

Greenpeace campaigner Erland Howden asked how Aurizon could justify its consideration of the 500km rail link between Galilee Basin coal mines being developed and the coal port of Abbot Point.

Mr Prescott said Aurizon's involvement with the rail line was still being considered.

An activist named Donna Smith asked Mr Prescott, "How do you secure what seems to be insecurable - thousands of kilometres of rail lines?"

"How will you secure that from direct action by activists".

Later, another activist asked, "Is there a cost (to Aurizon) when a train is stopped?"

In each case, Mr Prescott said he would not discuss anything related to security.

In response, another shareholder said she was "appalled" by activist questions that seemed to condone putting the safety of Aurizon staff at risk.

"I am absolutely appalled at the suggestions lives would be put at risk for ideological beliefs," she said.

Through its huge rail networks, Aurizon employs 9000 people across four states.

In a press conference after the Wednesday morning AGM, chief executive Lance Hockridge was furious that threats were being levelled by activists.

"It is completely beyond the pale that (staff) be threatened either directly or indirectly and that safety is compromised," Mr Hockridge said.

"There are legitimate ways of going about asking questions and making a point without getting into that space."
Greenpeace backed away from the implications made by its fellow activists, Mr Howden saying it would never condone anything but a peaceful protest.

Topics:  aurizon business environment protests



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