The outrage that led to Mark Vaile today declaring he will not accept the role of Chancellor at the University of Newcastle demonstrates that the company he chairs - Whitehaven Coal - is too toxic to be associated with public leadership, according to Lock the Gate Alliance.
The decision to appoint Mr Vaile as Chancellor triggered a backlash against the university, with many criticising the appointment of the coal boss as out of step with the university’s commitment to forward thinking and innovation.
Current chancellor Paul Jeans today confirmed in an email to staff that Mr Vaile “believes that the best course of action is not to proceed with the appointment”.
Lock the Gate Alliance NSW spokesperson Georgina Woods said the backlash was particularly severe because Whitehaven Coal was a notorious company that regularly broke the law, had failed to respond to the challenge of climate change, and only recently pleaded guilty to stealing one billion litres of water for its Maules Creek mine during one of the worst droughts on record.
“Appointing the boss of Whitehaven Coal really would have hampered the University in playing a meaningful part in leading us through structural change facing Newcastle and the Hunter region as the world shifts away from coal,” she said.
“The appointment was also a slap in the face for farmers, Gomeroi Traditional Custodians and communities in the north west who have suffered as a result of Whitehaven’s crimes and the damage they have wrought on the region.
“Whitehaven is among the worst of the worst when it comes to dubious mining practices, and has a rap sheet a mile long.
“Whitehaven’s business model is based on assuming the world is going to plummet into catastrophic climate change. That’s not the kind of company with which any forward thinking institution should be associated.
"Mr Vaile’s role as Chair of Whitehaven meant his appointment as Chancellor was always going to be untenable. We commend him for taking this decision and look forward to hearing the University’s decision on a replacement."