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Byron Shire
April 19, 2024

‘Knitting Nannas’ arrest laws pass parliament

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Knitting Nanna Anne Thompson shows her lock. Photo David Lowe
Knitting Nanna Anne Thompson locked on at Bentley. Ms Thompson says she is ‘knitting a jailbird outfit’ as the Coalition votes to punish such activity with seven years in prison. Photo David Lowe

Chris Dobney

Laws designed to directly target protest groups such as the Knitting Nannas and ageing farmers who lock on to mine equipment passed parliament late last night with the support of the Nationals, Fred Nile and the soon-to-be renamed Hunters, Fishers and Farmers Party.

The bill, which includes a massively increased jail term of up to seven years for activity including lock-ons, passed the upper house after midnight by 22 to 17 votes with  Labor, the Greens and smaller parties, including the Animal Justice Party opposing it.

Byron Bay resident and National Party north coast spokesperson Ben Franklin, who was seen to be leaving the chamber during one fiery exchange, was said to be ‘scurrying like a cockroach’ by shadow north coast spokesperson Walt Secord.

And members of the anti-CSG protest group the Knitting Nannas, who say they have been directly targeted by the bill, told ABC this morning that they were ‘knitting jailbird outfits’.

Meanwhile, polling commissioned by the NSW Nature Conservation Council shows only 23 per cent of people support the Baird government’s anti-protest laws.

NSW Liberal MLC Scot Macdonald. Photo supplied
NSW Liberal MLC Scot Macdonald. Photo supplied

Miners’ finances first

Extraordinarily, during his speech introducing the bill in the upper house, MLC Scot Blair (Liberal) admitted that a key government motivation was the financial welfare of the mining industry.

‘By community standards there are some actions which should clearly not be supported…and causing disruption to legal business activities [is] clearly in this camp,’ he told the house.

‘Government hears loudly and clearly concerns about mining and petroleum projects. These include loss of jobs in the mining and petroleum sector as well as concerns about environmental impacts,’ he added.

‘Unlawful disruption by protesters is also costly for business,’ Mr Blair said.

It was a point that was raised again by the opposition in their attack.

‘We are seeing the party of big business talking, because this provision… would elevate the rights of business over the rights of any other property owner. Nothing could speak more clearly to that than this provision,’ said Labor’s Adam Searle.

‘The idea of business rights taking precedence over civil or political rights or even over other private property rights is a new and retrograde development in our democracy and should be rejected by this House and by this Parliament,’ he added.

Shadow minister for north coast Walt Secord has attacked a government motion on the election results on the north coast as 'self-congratulating'. Photo AAP Image/Mark Graham
Shadow minister for north coast Walt Secord. Photo AAP Image/Mark Graham

And it was reinforced even more strongly by north coast spokesperson Walt Secord.

‘The primary effect of the bill is to jack up fines for legitimate protests tenfold. This bill targets non-violent protests and can even extend to those who attend protests as observers. The new laws being proposed by the Liberal-Nationals Government will increase fines for protesters from $550 to $5,500. That is a massive increase and, given that there has been no sudden outbreak of riots or protests in New South Wales, this is clearly a tool to silence protestors—and a tool to silence the north coast,’ he said.

Treated like terrorism suspects

‘The police will be given powers to issue move-on orders if protestors obstruct persons or traffic.

‘In addition, the police will be given additional search and seizure powers without the need for any warrant—a waiving of rights that is more apt for terrorism suspects in my view than north coast families protecting their unique quality of life.

‘Furthermore, it determines that gas exploration operations will be treated as mining under New South Wales law. Make no mistake: This bill was drafted with the Bentley blockade, the Knitting Nannas Against Gas, and the Pilliga in mind. It should be feared by north coast communities and the Pilliga.

‘I wish to formally add my voice in strong opposition to this bill. Labor will be voting against this bill. We stand in this Chamber to fight this bill; unlike the Nationals, who say one thing to the community in the country and do another in Sydney.

Nationals’ demise predicted

‘The Nationals walk into the Legislative Assembly and vote for the bill—but they tell families on the north coast that they are with them in the battle against coal seam gas [CSG] and unconventional gas,’ Mr Secord said.

‘The Nationals are liars. They lied to the North Coast at the 2015 election. Like so many things coming out of the Baird Government, this bill has an ugly underside. Peaceful Australians with an environmental conscience are in the cross-hairs of the Baird Government. This is because, given a choice between the interests of north coast communities versus the corporations which want to explore for CSG and unconventional gas, premier Baird picks and sticks,’ he added.

Jeremy Buckingham at the Bentley Blockade. (file pic)
Greens mining spokesperson Jeremy Buckingham at the Bentley Blockade. (file pic)

Greens mining spokesperson Jeremy Buckingham said the new law would ultimately spell the demise of the National Party.

‘When a farmer is dragged from a protest, put in court and jailed, the Nationals will be dead on arrival. This outrageous legislation will be the death warrant of the Nationals,’ he told the house.

‘I cannot believe that people who are against coal seam gas extraction and coalmining have been described as eco-fascists.

‘Bill Ryan, a Kokoda veteran, who stood against real fascists in the jungles of New Guinea and defended democracy and totalitarian regimes, has been called an eco-fascist.

‘It is outrageous. He is a war hero and someone who understands how damaging these proposals will be. If he acts in the interests of his community, as he did in Kokoda, through peaceful and non-violent blockades he will be condemned to seven years jail.

‘It is disgraceful that Don McKenzie, a farmer from western New South Wales, will be condemned to seven years jail if he spends two hours locked onto a gate, peacefully protesting against coal seam gas because he is terrified of the impact it will have on our water.

‘It is disgraceful that David Pocock, captain of the Wallabies, and farmer Rick Laird from Maules Creek could go to jail for seven years and face thousands of dollars of fines because they had the temerity to stand up against coalmines that are destroying their country.

‘The Knitting Nannas, the embodiment of care, nurture and consideration of our future generation, get together peacefully to protect their country. What has the Government done? It is a disgrace that it has called them Nazis and fascists and wants to throw them in jail.

‘I have never been more proud of being a member of The Greens in opposition in this Parliament. This Government embodies all that is wrong when it is captured by corporations doing the bidding of its mining and coal seam gas mates. It is a disgrace. New South Wales is not run by oligarchs and corporations like Putin’s Russia,’ Mr Buckingham said.

78ers remembered

Mark Pearson of the Animal Justice Party recalled his own experience on the wrong side of the police lines as one of the now-famous 78ers in the first Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.

‘It is rather ironic that only last month the Government was giving an apology to the 78ers who were dealt with extremely severely for peacefully protesting,’ he said.

‘At the age of 19, I was one of those 78ers. Thirty-eight years ago the government of the day gave a directive to police to deal with people who were protesting against extremely draconian laws,’ he added

‘We are in a similar situation today. This bill is one of the most draconian pieces of legislation I have seen. It is taking us back to the Joh Bjelke-Petersen era in Queensland. ‘

‘When all other avenues are pursued to finality and harm of whatever nature has not been stopped people are compelled out of utter frustration to risk their personal liberties. That has been an instrument of protest for hundreds of years.

‘Protests for the rights of women, children, workers and slaves have been referred to in this debate. We cannot strike out the fundamental principle of people’s right to protect beings and the environment from harm,’ Mr Pearson said.

Coalition voters opposed

Meanwhile, polling commissioned by the Nature Conservation Council reveals that even more Coalition voters are opposed to some of the Government’s measures than Opposition supporters.

The poll, which was conducted by Reachtel on Monday, March 14, has found 61.4 per cent of people opposed to increasing police powers and fines for protest action, while only 19.4 per cent support the measures. The other 19.2 per cent were undecided.

Nature Conservation Council of NSW CEO Kate Smolski. Photo Twitter
Nature Conservation Council of NSW CEO Kate Smolski. Photo Twitter

The polling also showed the overwhelming majority of people opposed reducing fines for mining companies (81.6 per cent), another contentious element of premier Baird’s package of pro-mining, anti-activist changes.

Surprisingly, Coalition voters (80.6 per cent) were slightly more likely than Labor voters (79.3 per cent) to oppose these changes.

Nature Conservation Council CEO Kate Smolski said, ‘the overwhelming majority of people oppose these anti-democratic measures because they place unnecessary new limits on our political freedoms.

‘Mr Baird’s decision to push these laws through parliament without community consultation reinforces the perception that he is doing the bidding of coal and gas companies rather than responding to genuine community concerns,’ she added.

‘Not even Coalition voters support these anti-democratic reforms because they recognise that they will further limit people’s ability to protect the environment and to express their opposition to damaging development,’ Ms Smolski said.

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  1. I feel sick to my stomach!

    We’re floating on a Ship of Fools with all their toxic environmentally damaging scum!

    How can these people not see that the inevitable damage cannot be undone, that our kids’ future is at stake, and that they are implicated in the ill-health and death (by suicide) of those whose pleas they ignored. This is as toxic and disgusting as the rank water of the CSG wells!

  2. I am gobsmacked!
    They call themselves a liberal government, but they are really a conservative fascist party with the growth of the economy their only goal. ‘True liberals believe in the reduction of Government, not the imposition of more and more law and order rules to protect their mates.
    They choose to ignore the tsunami of reports that show that renewable energy will create more jobs and reduce health and other community costs; and it can all be done cheaper without risking water and other agricultural resources. But it would mean dumping their dinosaur mates who can’t handle the opportunities to change.
    Come on Mike B – get with the fact that we need to stop mining fossil fuels as quickly as possible if we are to have any chance of avoiding catastrophic global warming. Oh. I forgot – your lot don’t believe in science – unless it supports big corporations profits.

  3. Our fascist regime hard at work against the interests of community and the environment. Business as usual. National voters, please question yourself if these corporate sycophants have delivered on your expectations.

  4. At least the passing of this bill finally puts pay to the myth that the Nationals stand for the bush. The Nationals and the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party have chucked their lot absolutely in with the mutli-national mining dollars against agriculture. Could you let us know if any Nationals at least abstained?

  5. Quid pro quo, the least the government could do now is impose a ten fold increase in company penalties for breaching consumer protection, competition, planning and environmental protection laws. Fair’s fair.

  6. Australia has become a #FascistFunFest for the #GreedyMalevolentOrganisms of the LNP & their Corporate Cronies

  7. Sick making neocon reaction. In the rest of society, “conflict of interest” is taken seriously. When donations by miners et al are funnelled (washed by 3rd party) into the coffers of of LNP or whatever name they use, it seems reasonable to me that LNP have a “conflict of interest”.
    We are indeed now seeing the destruction of our democracy. The Oligarchs are running our government.

    Fred Nile and his mob are (supposed) Christians siding with mammon against the flock. Hunters, fishers (& farmers?) claim that they are great environmentalists. Sadly they they also lie.

    The sad fact is that the LNP were voted in by belief in the integrity of the parties. We now know that it was all a front. They are neocons.
    A.P.P.E.A. RULZ………………… sadly. What of our Mr. George? Where is he? What is he saying?
    Enough is Enough.

  8. Ethical Earth defenders in jail. Mass solidarity outside jails. This indeed spells the demise of the Nationals and maybe the Lib-Labs too. Bring it on.

  9. Those MP’s that past this bill are not acting in the interest of democracy or the majority that voted for them. This has raised the anger of farmers and those that wish to protect the environment and will force protestors to break the law and this will lead to a distortion of our legal system.

    Dispute the fact that it is aimed at benefiting big business, in the long run nobody will benefit from this. It is just adding to the problems we already are struggling with.

  10. The Liberal and National parties are given generous donations by the mining and other big companies, and that’s who they really represent when they get into government.

    Voting for them and expecting them to govern for the people and care for the environment is asking to be sorely disappointed and let down.

    These laws are criminal, not the actions of peaceful protestors.

    One term Baird government!

  11. Makes me sick to the stomach. Who voted these idiots in in the first place. Well vote the idiots out before they destroy everything we have left.

  12. Australia is becoming worse than the U.S. for harming it’s people. TPP will only make it worse.
    You guys are going facist as fast as us.

  13. this is no longer government, it is racketeering, and if our police are too stupid, or too corrupt to arrest these criminal politicians then we should do so ourselves. … The gloves have to come off.

    • Hi Max.
      I tried to comment here. Either it takes hours for a comment to be scrutinised, or the Truth, in all its simplicity, is best witheld from the Slaves.
      Can you find my Email from when I was on Farcebook, and contact me.
      Thanks. Alf.

  14. Some time back a bunch of women chained themselves to railings to get the vote for women. They were gaoled and even force-fed. Where is all this leading people? Freedom of speech? The right to protest in a peaceful manner? I think not. Not any more anyway.

  15. The computer has turned humans into ones and zeros, that is the con.
    The pro is the computer/internet has given each person a way to easily speak.
    One person one vote on all issues.
    Not compulsory so only those interested or informed will participate =
    No manipulation via funding.
    This equals = no need for politicians as we now know them.
    Government by constant voluntary referendum.
    A true Democracy.
    This has already started with getup and other Australian online orgs,it’s also international.
    This may sound over simplified, it is but I’m sure it could be sorted.
    Everything is always changing , humans must keep up with the changes
    Or perish.

  16. Time to speak to the fossil fuel fascists in language that they can understand:

    1) Bank account – switch to a credit union
    2) Super – move to Future Super, Australian Ethical Super or UniSuper (for university employees and their partners only)
    3) Investment fund – go with Hunter Hall or Australian Ethical Investment
    4) Home loan – try Future Home Loans (brokerage)
    5) Electricity – switch to 100% GreenPower, sign up with Powershop or Diamond Energy (both highest ranked in the Green Electricity Guide.)

  17. I will keep stating the obvious until it becomes….. obvious.
    The Corporate, ‘State of New South Wales’ and such, has no Jurisdiction over anyone, other than its Members, Employee’s, Contractors, and SLAVES.
    Unless you can show me a Binding Contract, where I under Full-Disclosure, willingly agreed to Abide by A Corporations’ Internal Rules, You have no more ‘Power’, over me, a ‘Living Man’, than the Port Moresby Budgerigar Society’.
    To touch me, is Armed Assault. To Detain me is Kidnapping.
    Useless Man agrees to be a Person, Legislation/s are just useless bits of paper.
    Are YOU the Legal Name??

  18. Stop whining! Go around the side of your house and just turn off the electricity and while you are there the gas. If you feel strongly enough it is simple but oh no, you,ll just whine. And don,t go into state parks to steal firewood. Try and understand, if Solar is so good why is SunEdison nearly bankrupt, Abengoa collapsed and Ivanpah failing at power production but succeeding at frying to death 28,000 birds per annum mid flight. Before you say Tesla house batteries will overcome solar only working between 9 and 3 pm do you realise Prius ,s in America come with lithium batteries but in Aust the older non lithium type. Because there is not enough lithium in the world and it is refined in Japan using nuclear power. I wont even mention the tendency to catch fire. The first and mandatory requirement of any technology is that it has to be more reliable, as much base load at about same cost as hydrocarbon without massive subsidies. At present the only alternative is Nuclear. Oh, you do know dont you that Solar Power has caused tens of millions of dollars worth of damage to domestic equipment dont you?. Didnt think so.


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