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Byron Shire
April 17, 2024

Mandy Nolan’s Soapbox: Lock On

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We need to protest the anti-protest laws. I’ll put in the application. Lock On.

Today I was asked who my heroes are. My heroes aren’t academics or famous people. They’re ordinary people. They are people who found a way to give their issues a voice. My heroes are people like climate change activist Mali Cooper, the 22-year-old Lismore woman who was among 12 people charged for blocking the entry to the Sydney Harbour Tunnel. Mali and her friends brought Sydney to a standstill and they did it knowing the consequences under the new NSW protest laws. It’s no longer a $400 fine. Protesters now face up to two years jailtime and/or a fine of $22k. 

Mali and her crew made an impact, they stopped a city going to work and made them talk about climate. And it might have cost them jailtime, but they say, even so, it was worth it. To me, that’s a hero. 

They faced people at their angriest – and in their cars. Bloody hell, if you take two seconds longer than they think you should to accelerate on a green light people go nuts. I can’t imagine the heat that Mali and the team took in the tunnel. That takes guts. They knew that it was going to create a media frenzy and that the conservative opinions would be against them. 

Most of the media pushback was around the disruption and the inconvenience caused to people going about their daily grind. Democracy isn’t always convenient. Maybe someone needs to tell capitalism. And in case you haven’t noticed, climate change doesn’t care about convenience.

Yep, protest is inconvenient. But then so is having government after government who haven’t protected your future. It’s inconvenient having your house burnt to the ground or flooded from climate change effects. Just ask anyone in our area living in a tent in their flood-damaged home. Being on the phone to an insurance company day after day is inconvenient. So is being homeless. Stopping traffic is a minor issue when it comes to the bigger conversation. And maybe we do need to be made uncomfortable. Maybe we do need to be temporarily inconvenienced. This is the idea of protest – it’s to push important conversations to the forefront. 

This is non-violent protest. The legal basis of the right to protest in NSW is the common law right to peaceful assembly, which can be traced back to the Magna Carta. The right is further protected by the Australian Constitution under the implied freedom of political communication. Except in NSW. It seems our State government is keen on taking us back to the good old Bjelke days of Queensland when the then premier made it illegal to have a public gathering of more than five people. It didn’t discourage activists. It just fueled violent clashes between the public and police.

These new laws, passed in April this year are meant to deter activists. The fines aren’t really designed to impact on public protest related to industrial grievances. Generally those public assemblies will be done with police permission. The issue is around protesting the effects of forestry, mining, and climate change or animal welfare; the big environmental issues of our era. Basically, if you lock on – then you will be locked up.

So, I have an idea. I’m in my 50s. Maybe instead of leaving it to the young, we oldies need to get out there. It’s time we clocked off and locked on. On the upside, when they take us away to enjoy two years of incarceration, that will be the closest we’ve come in a long time to accessing affordable accommodation. 

The future needs us to be radical. Our kids need us to be dangerous. It’s good to remember; in a compliance- obsessed world, no one ever subverted the dominant paradigm with permission. 

We need to protest the anti-protest laws. I’ll put in the application. Lock On.

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14 COMMENTS

  1. Protest achieved what?
    Just pissed of tens of thousands of people and made them think global warming a.k.a. acolytes are pests.
    Some heroes. Mali ,get a job.

    • “Just pissed of tens of thousands of people”.

      I’m guessing in their times, the same would have been said about the Suffragettes in the UK and the Black Civil Rights protestors in the USA.
      Without them and their bravery nothing would have changed.
      The climate protestors of these recent times will in the future be similarly acknowledged for their bravery in making change happen.

      • Many of those inconvenienced, possibly a large majority, would be very supportive of greater action on climate change as the recent federal election demonstrated. So the protestors weren’t highlighting any issues that weren’t already being widely discussed and acted upon. Obviously not acted upon as much as the protesters would like but their actions are likely to do their cause more harm than good. I support the right to protest but I believe this protest was counterproductive, particularly given people from “out of town” were involved. Did they not learn anything from Bob Brown’s caravan visiting Queensland coal mining areas before the 2019 election?

  2. Yep – those were the days of idiotic control, Mandy.I got my first ride in a Paddy Wagon then. Bjelke was the freaking Premier at large who supposedhe would ‘control’ the entire Nation once he gotto Canberra. The South woke up & that was that.What we have as ‘a conning Government’ slideswith the time now showing ScoMo over & over.At least Albo’s a more than reasonable PM.

  3. [Repeat from the original]
    Yep – those were the days of idiot control, Mandy. I got
    my first ride in a Paddy Wagon then. Bjelke was the
    freaking Premier at large who supposed he would
    ‘control’ the entire Nation once he got into Canberra.
    The South woke up & that was that. What we have is
    a ‘conning Government’ swift with time now showing
    ScoMo over & over. At least Albo’s a more reasonable
    PM.

  4. Mandy wrote, “My heroes aren’t academics or famous people they’re ordinary people.” Reflecting on this it brought to my mind the concepts of wealth and poverty. There are many forms of wealth but only one of these is fiscal wealth. People with fiscal wealth are described as rich. The other forms of wealth i.e personal attributes and and associated behaviours include altruism, social conscience, selflessness, generosity of spirit, self sacrifice etc. to name but a few. Fiscal wealth alone without these attributes is therefore a form of poverty. For the most part the wealthiest people I know are “ordinary people”, people who do not have fiscal wealth but by their actions enhance the quality of life of others and provide a legacy for humanity long after they have gone. At a local level we need look no further, for some of the wealthiest people in the Northern Rivers, than the communities who recently lost everything in the floods but still reached out to others by giving of themselves. So yes Mandy these ordinary wealthy people are my heroes not those with fiscal wealth alone who assume some sense of inverted superiority over others. Thank you Mandy for the reflections

    • Most financially wealthy people I know are just ordinary people who are very good at doing something they like doing that happens to be worth a lot to others. So they end up with a lot of money, but it never really registers with them. They don’t really self identify as ‘wealth elites’, but they get blamed for the worlds problem, that they have nothing to do with.

  5. Some of us “oldies” have been hard at it since the seventies, remember Terania ? This girl Marli is a hero , but all Mandy’s assertion that “the right to protest in NSW is the common law” is nonsense , as it is now punishable by two years in gaol and or $22,000 fines holding up traffic .
    This is NOT Australia this is the new fascist regime of the “coalition of the willing “, and “the Awful Truth Which you can’t reveal to the Ears of Youth ” (Cohen) is, tragically it is now too late.
    Cheers, G”)

    • Mandy is confused about what Common Law. Our right to protest was in the English Bill of Rights that was in force here until 1986. The Australia Act (1986) removed all effect of British Law in the States eg Magna Carta and the Bill of Rights. Some QCs tried in the 90s to try and get some rights back, in this case, Lange vs ABC Corporation(1999) would be the closest precedent, but it really doesn’t cover physical protest, only political communication (like what I do). You have no Constitutionally recognised right to protest, anti-British/pro-Aboriginal/anti-monarchy activists got your rights removed from her when you was a kid.

  6. Live and let live…..the right to protest is a noble idea until it interferes with another person’s right to go about their daily life.
    There was probably a number of researches stuck in that traffic jam in Sydney that day working on less polluting forms of energy . Who are we to say our right to protest is greater than another’s right to do their own good.
    Who are we to judge others as lowly ignorant capitalists …. as we are all consumers who burn coal every night watching netflicks on our giant screens.
    All we can do is our bit…but when we interfer with others freedoms we are saying my way is better.
    A more useful form of protest would be to design better batteries.

  7. So when you don’t stand up for the rights of the vaccine mandate protestors to protest, this is what you get.
    First they came for the Christians, but I was not a Christian, so I did nothing…. you know the poem.
    I have no sympathy for you. Reap what you sow comrades.

  8. “The right is further protected by the Australian Constitution under the implied freedom of political communication.”
    Hmmm…might be getting us confused with the good ol’ USA, Mandy.

  9. Thanks to these morons I lost spending precious time with my ill mother … you lot must think of your actions and the impact on individuals …a colleague of mine missed a job opportunity to you lot … don’t be so self righteous Mandy and for once think of others !!!

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