The Baird Government’s new anti-protest laws are clearly directed to preventing legitimate, peaceful action by our community.
Activities that were completely legal will, in future, expose farmers, groups such as the “Knitting Nannas” and the wider community to gaol penalties of up to seven years for acting to protect their land, water and food security. New provisions will extend the definition of a “mine” to coal seam and other unconventional gas operations for the first time, criminalising peaceful protest activity now occurring around the State.
The pervasive and sinister provisions of the laws are not limited to coal seam gas, to mining or even to trespass – although it certainly covers those matters.
The legislation contains new police powers to disperse peaceful assemblies, unless authorised under the Summary Offences Act. This will, in effect, give police the power to shut down peaceful protest activities. It also contains new powers to stop and search persons and vehicles without a warrant on the basis of mere suspicion, and allows the seizure of property without due process or protection by the courts. The legislation also elevates the legal rights of business over those of the general community.
At the same time, the Baird Government has, by regulation, allowed mining companies to receive fines of up to $5,000 for offences that in court actions would carry a maximum penalty of $1.1 million. This is clearly a government that sides with corporate interests and not the community.
The legislation strikes at the heart of a fundamental aspect of our democracy – the right to peaceful protest. It strikes at people’s right to signify community feeling and opposition to government and corporate policies and actions with which they disagree and by such means to hold them to account.
The Hon. Adam Searle MLC Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Council. Shadow Minister for Industry, Resources and Energy. Shadow Minister for Industrial Relations