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Byron Shire
April 12, 2024

Anti-protest laws under the spotlight at pub

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The government's anti-protest laws will be discussed at a Mullumbimby pub next week. /Joel Carrett
The government’s anti-protest laws will be discussed at a Mullumbimby pub next week. /Joel Carrett

Hans Lovejoy

NSW Council for Civil Liberties (CCL) president will be guest speaker at New Politics in the Pub on Wednesday July 27 from 6.30pm at the Court House Hotel in Mullumbimby.

The topic of discussion by president Stephen Blanks will be the recently introduced anti-protest laws by the Baird Liberal/Nationals government that radically extends police powers against opponents of mining projects and heavily fines those who ‘lock on’ to mining equipment.

It’s called Inclosed Lands, Crimes and Law Enforcement Legislation Amendment (Interference) Act 2016 and only passed with votes from two crossbench parties: the Shooters and Fishers Party and Fred Nile’s Christian Democratic Party.

The law immediately sparked protests in front of parliament house, and has reverberated throughout the state.

It is also considered the result of the close relationship that exists between Liberal and National Party politicans, their staff and the mining industry.

If this law existed at the Bentley Blockade near Lismore in 2014, neighbouring farmers and residents could have been arrested as they ‘locked on’ to the equipment.

This was owing to the government’s inaction to intervene over the known toxicity that accompanies CSG mining, and its potential to poison aquifers. Land values are also known to plummet.

The laws have been described by lawyers and as an assault on democracy and a civil society.

According to The Law Society, the law would, ‘seriously interfere with the liberties of NSW residents.’

Law Society president Gary Ulman said such a law would, ‘again expand police powers without the safeguard of warrants, and interfere with the right against arbitrary deprivation of property.’

Mr Ulman also wrote on www.lawsociety.com.au that such a law appears to limit protest and assembly rights, based only on an assessment of an individual police officer that interference is necessary on ‘reasonable grounds’ to deal with a ‘serious risk’ to safety.

‘However, there is little guidance for police officers as to what constitutes a “serious risk”’, Mr Ulman said.

‘The [law] also provides for police officers to be given significantly extended powers to search and seize certain “things” from people, without a warrant.

‘Of added concern is that judges are specifically excluded from ordering that people can reclaim these “things”,’ he said.

Why have these unpopular laws been introduced, and what do they mean for those seeking to oppose mining developments in NSW and beyond?

Come along Wednesday July 27 to find out.

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