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New legislation brands peaceful protesters as ‘eco-fascists’

More than 5000 people rallied against CSG in the northern rivers. Photo Darren Coyne

Peaceful protests such as this one in Lismore in 2014 could be outlawed under new state government legislation. Photo Darren Coyne

Chris Dobney

New legislation to be tabled in NSW Parliament today that would brand peaceful protesters as ‘eco-fascists’ and hand police sweeping new powers has been described as an attack on democracy.

Author, academic and activist Aidan Ricketts told Echonetdaily the planned state legislation was part of ‘a concerted attempt by conservative states to outlaw protest; giving business the right to continue unhindered by the democratic process.’

‘You kind of get the feeling that police get to write their own legislation with this government,’ Mr Ricketts said.

He added that while the detail of the bill had yet to be released ‘it looks like they might give themselves the power to seize anything that might be used for lock-ons, such as bike locks, chains and even farming equipment.’

The move has come as the Sydney Morning Herald revealed today the government has simultaneously ushered in smaller alternative penalties to court prosecution for a range of offences by CSG and mining companies.

For example, mining without authority – currently a $1.1 million fine plus $110,000 per day for a company if successfully prosecuted in court – can now be punished with a $5000 penalty notice.

Mr Ricketts said the government seemed to be ‘asserting that businesses have some special right yet we’re only talking about peaceful protest.’

‘They’re talking about what looks like giving police the power to arbitrarily move on protests on public or private land – moving the Knitting Nannas from outside the electoral office, even protests on land owned by supportive farmers.

‘We don’t have violent protests and we don’t have people damaging machinery because our social movement has strong ethics around that. But if they remove the right to all forms of peaceful protest it could see a dangerous escalation.

He said the government’s planned 10-fold increase in penalties for trespassing on mining or petroleum land created ‘an outrageous situation.’

‘It’s interesting to link it to [the status of] Santos as a donor. I’m sure some Metgasco shareholders would be going – “oh well, they’re doing that for Santos”,’ Mr Ricketts said.

Farmers not ‘fascists’

Greens MP and mining spokesperson Jeremy Buckingham was equally scathing of the proposed new legislation.

He said that many of those taking direct action against coal seam gas projects ‘are farmers who feel they must act to protect the land and water from being poisoned or destroyed. They are Australian patriots, not “eco-fascists”.

‘I’ve sat next to a 64-year-old farmer with a lock around his neck and the gates of Santos’ project out of concern for water resources and his family’s farming future,’ Mr Buckingham said.

‘To label these patriots ‘eco-fascists’ is wrong and offensive, and premier Mike Baird should distance himself from the ill-informed and shameful comments of resources minister Anthony Roberts.

‘The Baird Government is showing its true colours by siding big mining interests against patriotic Australians seeking to protect land, water and communities.

‘Does Mike Baird care more about paying back his political donors in the mining industry, and doing the bidding of his former chief of staff, Stephen Galilee, who now runs the Minerals Council of NSW, than he does about farmers and communities in regional NSW?’ Mr Buckingham asked.

Greens police Spokesperson David Shoebridge described the legislation as ‘part of a pattern from the Coalition of ever-more aggressive policing and constantly expanding police powers to crack down on protest and attack our civil liberties.

‘These expanded police powers go well beyond coal seam gas protests and will extend across the state to clamp down on protests as diverse as WestConnex, recreational hunting and Forestry.

‘I wonder if Baird even notices the irony when his right-wing government proposes massive increases in police powers and then describes democratic protestors as ‘fascists’?

Labor ‘worried’

The future of the legislation will depend whether the ALP can be persuaded to support it in the lower house but the party has stopped short of stating its position.

Instead, NSW Labor resources spokesman Adam Searle said he was he was ‘worried about the language and direction’ of the bill.

‘As a responsible opposition we will look carefully at any proposal but we will not attack genuine community protestors who are standing up for their families and communities,’ he said.

‘After comprehensively losing the community debate on CSG and unconventional gas in NSW, particularly the north coast, the Baird government is now seeking a new way to thwart the community’s view on this matter,’ Mr Searle added.’

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16 responses to “New legislation brands peaceful protesters as ‘eco-fascists’”

  1. max igan says:

    This type of corrupt legislation signals the end of free australia and the rise of a corporate run police state.

    Labeling peaceful protesters as ‘eco-fascists’ is the action of a government that has itself, slipped into fascism and is populated by corrupt, self serving politicians who harbor extremist ideologies. Every single politician who supports or signed off on this travesty of justice should be dismissed and charged with human rights abuses as each one is a criminal under their own law. The government of Malcolm Turdfull is perhaps the most corrupt this country has ever seen.

  2. Phillip Glanville says:

    I am very pleased that the NSW (& soon all other states), have passed this legislation, of which I had some input.
    Now the Police can prosecute these knitting nanas, etc!!!

    • Paul Harris says:

      Phillipe Glanville, at least you had the decency to admit that you supported an attack on our democracy and freedom of speech.

    • Nicole Hunter says:

      I ask you Phillip, how would you feel if a company decided to drill a hole in your back yard, pump it full of chemicals and leave it for you to clean up? In what capacity are you tied to a mining company because no body believes it is safe unless they are on the payroll. Be mindful, if this legislation is passed, it will be the beggining of the end of democracy in this country and it will turn ugly

    • Lucy Ashley says:

      Congratulations Phillip Glanville in your role, real or imagined, in undermining the people of NSW’s civil liberties and our right to peaceful protest.

  3. Gareth Smith says:

    This proposed legislation is an outrageous attack on freedom of expression which lies at the heart of democracy and we must oppose it with everything we’ve got. The police, big business and a government on financial drip feed from chequebook lobbyists conspire to drive protesters off the streets and from anywhere they designate. What would our environment look like now if it weren’t for all those brave souls who blocked bulldozers in Whian Whian or around the Franklin River? And would the Vietnam War have continued longer without all those heroes who endured police brutality? Under this legislation people of conscience will cop it if they, unlike Commsuper or George Pell, actually do something. Mike Baird must be relieved that his legislation will not snare Christ himself who overturned the money lenders’ tables in the Temple of Jerusalem!

  4. shamana marshall says:

    I am sure Phillip Glanville is being facetious Paul Harris. No Max this is not the end. Its the beginning of greater activity amongst environmental defenders. Australians are ‘she’ll be right mate’ easy going laid back but wait till things come to their own back paddock When things impact on people and their backs are to the wall they will come out fighting. Look at history. Humans are capable of innovative creative solutions to achieve their goals when under pressure. The polluters are in the death throes and are trying to suck as much out of the country while they have breathe. The people are many. Coming together we are strong. Strength in numbers. This legislation will be thrown out. But we know Mr Turncoat’s true colours now that he would attempt the dastardly which makes every Anzac turn in their graves. What was it all for but the freedom of Australians and love of the wide brown land!! In the list of countries based on the most ethical at the top which has been Denmark for a few years straight and Iraq and always Somalia at the bottom Australia is half way down the list and slipping a rung downwards every year the last three years!! Shame. Please God give us ethical leaders who care about people and the land and not the big boys who rape pillage and plunder for short term gains.

  5. dd says:

    Welcome to the US of A and the TPP.
    We are about to have Clinton pushed on us and these things will worsen I fear.
    sad.

  6. Martin says:

    It always seemed to me that if a trend continued where big business was let off the hook while individuals are treated in an increasingly heavy-handed and punitive way, eventually the two would have to meet in the middle, as fines against low-income protestors start to exceed those levied against multi-billion dollar corporations.

    Now, we are told that the fine for mining without authority will be reduced by at least 99.5%, from $1,100,000 plus $110,000 a day, to $5,000, while fines for direct action protest will increase by up to 1000%, from $550 to up to $5,500. See:

    https://newmatilda.com/2016/03/07/mike-bairds-anti-protest-laws-explainer

    Regardless of whether the NSW Government is successful with these outrageous plans, there is currently no law against divesting from fossil fuels.

  7. Tracey Stride says:

    How ridiculous this is. Why do we always have to fight to firstly get what is best for us/the environment/the future, then secondly to keep it once we prevail? We’ve all worked so hard to get where we are.

  8. Jeff johnson says:

    The people need to push back against a government ruled by corporate donations and lobbyists. Our democracy and future is on the line (and that’s not being dramatic)

  9. Martin says:

    Peabody Energy, is planning an expansion of the Wilpinjong coal mine, which if it went ahead would make life intolerable for the people of Wollar in the Upper Hunter. The link for making a submission is:

    http://www.lockthegate.org.au/save_wollar_from_wilpinjong_coal_mine

    The deadline is tomorrow (Thursday 10th), and there is a cut and paste of the key points.

    A key point is that Peabody is right now so close to collapse that a tiny amount of divestment could save the people of Wollar. Divestment is a verb and not a noun – in other words it involves a small amount of positive action. Bases to cover are:

    Bank account – switch to a credit union
    Super – Future Super, Australian Ethical Super, UniSuper (for university employees and their partners only)
    Investment fund – Hunter Hall, Australian Ethical Investment
    Home loan – Future Home Loans (brokerage)
    Electricity – switch to 100% GreenPower, switch to Powershop or Diamond Energy (highest ranked in the Green Electricity Guide.)
    Insurance – a lack of transparency means that lobbying your insurer is the best strategy

  10. Michael says:

    The removial of any meaningful penalties for illegal activities by csg companies in this legislation gives a
    foretaste of how wishy-washy any governmental controls would be if these projects got to the production
    stage in NSW. Plenty of grandfather clauses and Get Out of Jail Free cards for the Industry but not the public.

  11. Scott Roberts says:

    I’m 65 and reading this has just radicalised me. I am registered to vote in a Sydney electorate, and I voted Liberal in the last state election. Our sitting local Liberal MP seems like a decent bloke, while the opposition last time seemed lacklustre. Not only will I change my vote next time to whatever party genuinely opposes such outrageous measures as these, but I guess I’ll be spending a proportion of my remaining years in jail for the grievous sin of protesting misguided, let alone insane governance. Better that than the sort of anti-Democratic country these power-crazed, money-grubbing freaks envision for us. I grew up in a free country. Like so many people, my father and grandfathers, uncles etc went to wars to keep it so. They fought against totalitarian regimes that treated their people – any people – as this legislation, as described, is designed to allow. Now our politicians expect us to vote for them, and pay their wages and pensions and perks, so they can turn us into the poisoned slaves of these rapacious ecocidal cowboy companies without protest, and on pain of criminalization? No wonder Donald Trump is stampeding towards the White House. As deranged an egomaniac as he is, his popularity is obviously based on his fearless political incorrectness in a country where Democracy many years ago became a flagrant fraud. Democracy is deeply flawed, but it’s far better than the alternatives. If it’s true that Mike Baird has described peaceful protest as ‘fascist’, then it is time that he had a good hard look at himself and died of shame. Alternatively, he could move his family from their salubrious residence in prime seaside Sydney to a GSG industrial gasfield, and they could all die of any one of a number of hideous diseases.

  12. Duncan says:

    Phillip Glandville, could be any Fascits sympathiser or mindless sycophant, at least their views are voiced.

    It is the psychopathy of our time where they dont even know the meaning of the word, which I believe was latin for a bundle sticks.Metaphor for state and institutional control of citizens. Protesters??? Controlled by who??

    Economists, technocrats, accountants and lawyers too narrow to even be aware of the projection they are fabricating in pursuit of their fantasies. Illusions that sacrifice their one opportunity to be a whole live sentient human being. How incredibly sad for them.

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