Updated: June 23, 2010
The Franklin River Campaign - Part 3 - The Franklin River campaign goes national
Celebrating the 25th Anniversary of this landmark High Court decision, writes William J. Lines.
On July 1, 2008 we celebrate 25 years since the High Court decision
that 'Let the Franklin run free'. In this Four Part series on the
Franklin river campaign, Author William J. Lines charts the rise of
Australia's conservation movement - and a famous win for the environment.
Part 3 - The Franklin River campaign goes national
The No Dams campaign expanded. Brown toured the mainland states, showing films and slides, lecturing, and talking to newspaper editors and politicians. As the beauty of the river became more widely known and as the exuberance of the campaign became more widely felt more people signed up to help. Dozens devoted their full-time energies to saving the river. Volunteers established new TWS branches. The river’s defenders made and distributed films, wrote literature, designed posters and devised stunts, costumes and floats, including a 30-metre platypus called Franklin aiming to attract attention. They signed up over 600 conservation groups around the country ‘to save the last wild river in Tasmania/Let the Franklin run free’. Supporters held large rallies in Sydney and Melbourne and elsewhere.
‘Let the Franklin run free’ – Campaign slogan
Conservationists hoped to build a constituency for the preservation of Tasmania’s South West wilderness to pressure Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser’s government to intervene in the Franklin dispute and stop the dam. Earlier, in 1981 the federal government, on the recommendation of the Lowe state government, had nominated the South West for World Heritage listing. Fraser now offered the Grey government $500 million to stop the dam. Grey refused the offer and Fraser declined any further action, claiming the dam was a state matter.
Legal experts, newspaper editors and opinion leaders disagreed with Fraser’s stance. They called on the federal government to protect South West, as did many scientists, columnists and writers of letters to the newspaper. Still, Fraser demurred even as the pressure to do something about the dam increased.
Some of that pressure came from a Canberra-based lobbying, media and advice bureau established by ACF Tasmanian Project Officer, Roger Green and ACF national Liaison Officer, Penny Figgis. With advice from the TWS and ACF backed National Southwest Coalition they helped devise an election strategy identifying marginal seats where conservation voters might make a difference in any future federal election.
The Franklin blockade gathers pace
Back in Tasmania, TWS volunteers Pam Waud, Cathie Plowman, and Ian Skinner had began planning for a peaceful, direct action blockade of the dam site. They compiled a handbook for blockaders and initiated training in non-violent tactics in Tasmania, Sydney, and Melbourne - and undertook an Australia-wide recruitment drive. Other volunteers built and assembled communication equipment while still others scouted Franklin locations and established food dumps.
‘The direct defence of wilderness will take courage and restraint by a great number of people. Most of all, we must be peaceful’’.
Bob Brown – Franklin Campaigner
In endorsing direct action, Bob Brown advised that ‘The direct defence of wilderness will take courage and restraint by a great number of people. Most of all, we must be peaceful’. In November 1982 he announced the Franklin blockade would begin the following month and predicted the largest conservation sit-in in Australian history. The TWS, he said, was prepared to block HEC bulldozers ‘for as long as necessary’ to hinder construction and, ultimately, to halt it. He later added: ‘We’ll fight to the last bucket of cement’.
Premier Gray said TWS volunteers trained in non-violent direct action would not be allowed in Tasmania. The government, he warned, would take a no-nonsense approach to ‘professional troublemakers’.
Bob Brown traveled to Canberra and met Fraser who told him that people with lost causes in Tasmania, should not come to Canberra expecting rescue. The meeting was over in minutes.
For more information, please contact:
The Wilderness Society Tasmania Inc
130 Davey Street, TAS, 7000 Australia
Phone: (03) 6224 1550 | Fax: (03) 6223 5112