Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 10 Hansard (6 December) . . Page.. 2703 ..
MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):
The argument against Shell has been that it plays a pivotal important role within the economy of Nigeria, which is certainly true; that it is the major producer of oil in Nigeria, and oil makes up about 80 per cent of the revenue of the Nigerian Government; and that, in turn, its position is of such influence and importance that it could have been able to influence the Nigerian Government to take a different course of action with respect to these hangings. I have no doubt that Shell does hold a position of some importance within Nigeria and I have no doubt that it might have been able to exercise some influence. I have seen Shell's statement that it was deeply regretful about the hangings in Nigeria, that it deplored the human cost of violence, even government-initiated violence, in Nigeria, and that Shell itself had made a plea for clemency for Ken Saro-Wiwa and his colleagues before the executions were carried out.
Ms Horodny is shaking her head. We come down to a point where we have to work out on what basis we proceed to make decisions of this kind and on what knowledge we base our decisions. I have seen Shell's statement that it pleaded for clemency for Mr Ken Saro-Wiwa and his colleagues. Ms Horodny shakes her head and presumably says that she has information that they did not make that plea or that the plea was disingenuous, or something of that kind. I frankly do not know what influence Shell exercised in this matter. It could be said that Shell had no particular reason to spare the lives of Ken Saro-Wiwa and his colleagues. It could also be said that the reaction the world is now experiencing to these executions was fairly predictable and understandable and that Shell would have had little interest in having that kind of reaction ensue. I therefore have no basis on which to assume that Shell did not, as they said internationally that they did, issue a plea for clemency for these activists.
I am aware that there has been a problem in recent days with getting accurate information about some of these issues, which have been of major international, political and environmental importance. I particularly refer members to the incident a few weeks ago where, as a result of considerable international pressure, particularly from Greenpeace, Shell was required to abandon its decision to sink the Brent Spar oil rig in the North Sea on the ground that this would cause major environmental damage. Shell had always argued that this particular decision was the cleanest and, certainly from their point of view, the cheapest way of disposing of a no longer required oil rig. Greenpeace conducted a very effective major campaign against Shell, arguing that this would cause major environmental damage and, in particular, that there was still something like 5,000 tonnes of oil in the rig which would spill into the North Sea if the rig were sunk into the sea. The fact is that Greenpeace got it wrong. Ultimately, they acknowledged that there was a flaw in the equipment they had used to measure the amount of oil in the oil rig. It turned out that there was no oil in the oil rig, that Shell was right to say that it had removed all the oil from the oil rig, and in due course Greenpeace was required to write to Shell and apologise for having misrepresented the situation - mind you, not before Shell had abandoned its decision to sink the Brent Spar. These things can happen, and in these circumstances we had a fairly demonstrable public action which could be measured in fairly empirical terms. It was possible to prove how much oil was on this particular oil rig.