View Comments
Colin Barnett. Picture: The West Australian/Bill Hatto

Protesters opposed to killing sharks "compromised" the democratic rights of West Australians when a campaign against the Barnett Government overwhelmed a key email system during the Perth Hills blaze.

The Government reacted angrily this week as it confirmed an online campaign orchestrated by Greenpeace had temporarily brought the Department of Premier and Cabinet's email system to its knees. The environmental group launched the campaign to protest against the Government's shark catch-and-kill policy and 16,000 emails were sent to the DPC within hours on Sunday and Monday.

A spokeswoman for Premier Colin Barnett said the influx caused the department's email system to freeze and hampered efforts of staff to communicate with firefighting agencies as the Hills bushfire raged.

"For a few hours at the weekend and on Monday this volume of email traffic did compromise the DPC email system and it did have an adverse impact on the department's ability to communicate during the recent bushfires," she said.

Emails received had risen to more than 24,000 and the spokeswoman said the department was now "trashing" them in a bid to stop the system becoming overloaded.

"Unfortunately, this campaign by people - many of whom appear to have no connection to Western Australia - has meant that people's democratic right to communicate with the State Government will be compromised," she said.

"Greenpeace Australia has misrepresented the State Government's . . . strategy on its website, calling it a 'brutal and misguided mass cull of sharks'."

Greenpeace rejected the criticism, saying it was "appalling" to conflate the rights of people to protest against the Government's policy with its ability to respond to a bushfire.

"It is totally unacceptable from a government department to play politics in this manner," Greenpeace spokeswoman Sue Milthorpe said.

"We reject the suggestions that Greenpeace should be held responsible for the capacity of the department to cope with an influx of comment from members of the public.

"What Greenpeace has done is to provide an avenue for members of the public to express their opposition to the proposed plan, and the public has responded overwhelmingly."