NSW protesters fight for right to fight

Sydney [AAP]

Debate over the NSW government’s controversial anti-protest laws continued late into the night after hundreds of people shut down part of Sydney’s CBD to rally against the draconian changes.

The state government wants to give police greater powers to search, seize and move on protesters under the proposed legislation.

The new laws would also increase fines for illegal entry to mining and coal seam gas sites from $550 to $5,500 and could see anti-CSG protesters jailed for up to seven years.

In a vote following debate late into Tuesday night, Labor and Green MPs voted against the bill, but the legislation cleared the hurdle with support from the Liberals, Nationals, and Shooters and Fishers parties, and will now be sent through to committee.

Earlier, about 500 farmers and protesters from environmental, anti-CSG and union groups braved the rain with Greens, Labor and Independent MPs on Tuesday to rally against the proposed changes, brandishing placards that said: ‘You gotta fight for your right to fight.’

Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham argued that the laws were a ‘draconian crackdown’ designed to intimidate protesters and benefit the mining and gas industries, while Labor MP Ryan Park labelled the legislation disgraceful.

‘It’s a community’s right to collectively band together and protest,’ Mr Park told NSW parliament on Tuesday.

But Nationals MP Kevin Anderson defended the government’s intentions, saying the aim of the legislation was to stop unlawful and dangerous protesters.

‘When you get people who chain themselves to dangerous pieces of equipment they are putting their lives at risk and those around them,’ he said.

See also: ‘Knitting Nannas’ arrest laws pass parliament

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