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Byron Shire
March 25, 2023

Greens will see anti-protest laws repealed

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With just a few days until we head to the polls, The Echo asked the candidates for the seat of Lismore one last bunch of questions.

Violet Coco, Adam Guise and Sue Higginson MLC in Lismore for Friday’s announcement. Photo supplied.

If there is one thing that binds the people from all parts of the Northern Rivers community together, it is their great and successful ability to protest – yet the current government would see many of the folk who protested at Terania and Bentley, behind bars if those actions happened today.

On Friday the Greens unveiled plans for legislative changes that will unravel the state’s anti-protest regime and protect the important right to protest in NSW. The announcement comes as environment, climate, and social activists are being targeted by NSW Police and copping harsh, unfair and excessive penalties.

Recent examples of this penalty include: climate activist Deanna ‘Violet’ Coco sentenced to 15 months prison time for protesting on the Sydney Harbour Bridge; Cherish Kuehlmann arrested in the middle of the night by NSW police for protesting rising costs of living, and; long time forest protester Susie Russell singled out, charged and placed on restrictive bail conditions for being in a public forest area last month.

Greens MP, environmental lawyer, and long-time forest activist Sue Higginson and Lismore Seat candidate met in Lismore on Friday with Violet Coco to talk about the Green’s commitment to repealing anti-protest laws brought in by the Liberal National Coalition since 2014. 

Laws create new offences

The trio joined together to highlight the issues that anti-protest laws have created new offences such as aggravated trespass on a business property, dramatically increased police powers and resulted in unprecedented sentencing that is aimed at quashing the democratic right to protest and silencing dissent. 

They say the Government in lockstep with the Labor opposition brought in the most recent tranche of anti-protest laws last year as climate group Blockade Australia ramped up protest activity in Sydney to raise awareness about the climate crisis. 

Under those laws non-violent protesters could be sentenced to imprisonment for up to two years and or fined $22,000 simply for blocking a road.

Vow to amend sentencing laws

Deanna ‘Violet’ Coco.

The Greens have also vowed to amend sentencing laws to create a defence of genuine protest that means anyone found guilty of an offence while engaging in genuine non-violent protest or civil disobedience will not receive a custodial sentence.

Sue Higginson said that in the early 1990s she locked on to a bulldozer to stop the destruction of an old-growth forest. ‘That forest is now protected under the law. Back then I didn’t face the risk of serving prison time. In fact, I went on to become a lawyer and worked with communities to prevent the destruction of

our environment and hold governments and corporations to account under the law. The deliberate erosion of our fundamental democratic right to protest that we have seen over the last decade is frankly alarming. I am here to reverse these laws as an MP.’

Long and proud history of protesting against unjust laws

Adam Guise. Photo Tree Faerie.

Greens candidate for Lismore, Adam Guise, said we have a long and proud history of protesting against unjust laws. ‘We have protested to protect our ancient Gondwana rainforests, to give First Nations people and women the right to vote, uphold workplace rights, and change harsh drug prohibition laws.

‘Thousands of us engaged in non-violent civil disobedience in the Bentley Blockade and Gasfield Free campaign to stop the toxic coal seam gas invasion of our beautiful region. We know too well the important part disruption plays when engaging in civil disobedience. That is how social change is created.’

Mr Guise said that the corrupting influence of political donations on our democracy was starkly apparent when both Labor and the Liberals-Nationals voted together to impose these anti-democratic protest laws which are aimed to intimidate and silence anyone who threatens the profits of the climate-wrecking fossil fuel industries.

‘Our politicians are so captured by the fossil fuel industry that they refuse to acknowledge that the world is on fire. They most certainly do not hold the hose to put it out.

‘Our right to engage in civil disobedience is the bedrock of a healthy democracy and a bulwark against a police state.’

A critical mechanism to drive progress or prevent destruction

Ms Higginson said that protest is a critical mechanism to drive progress or prevent destructive policies from occurring in our environment and communities. ‘There are so many important reforms throughout history that have only been possible because people have taken to the streets and the forests to draw attention to issues.

‘Non-violent direct action and protest has led to the protection of our world heritage forests and national parks, equal rights for women, some rights for First Nations people, minimum pay and conditions and has stopped the destruction of many places from development.

‘Protest is crucial to the function of our democracy. Civic participation through protest is an accountability mechanism and a key driver of social and environmental change. The impacts of sustained protest are cumulative – maybe this government won’t listen, but the next may, protest has a vital role to play in our democracy.

Ms Higginson said that in a mature democracy, protest is recognised as an important and legitimate way of engaging in the democratic process. ‘A person’s right to engage in democracy does not end at the ballot box.

‘People should be able to seek to influence political outcomes through all manner of peaceful activity, including civil disobedience. It is time NSW ends the persecution and harsh treatment of peaceful protesters.’

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  1. You should certainly be allowed to protest your heart out. However, If you completely block traffic at a choke point, completely prevent someone’s business from being able to function, damage/destroy/take possession of others property, so on and so forth, that stops being a mere demonstration. Adjacent to that, if the Police launch an attack you and/or you have to block them from injuring you, they should not be able to claim violence on your part.

  2. Oh Christian, you certainly nailed that one !
    Poison the Murray/Darling, boil the “Great Barrier Reef”, clear-fell the last of the countries forest, melt the ice-caps, drown the Pacific Islands, contaminate everyone on the Planet with PFAS, lead, and radio-active nuclear waste, invade countries and murder at will, but………..
    for GOD’S sake don’t block the traffic, especially at a ‘choke point’ !! ?
    Get a GRIP ! G”)

    • The Great Barrier Reef is doing better than ever, the number of trees in Australia is growing, the ice-caps still haven’t flooded us as prophesied, the Pacific Islands are actually growing, the lead is now under control, Fukashima and Marshall islands won’t even raise background radiation in the Pacific, It is highly unfortunate that some Russians and Ukrainians have to die to prevent WWIII not to mention the Taiwanese that are about to follow if the west continues to corner the BRICS+ but WWIII would be worse.

      Now I do counter signal fracking every time it comes up as it is a financial scam to inflate share value. As for PFASs, you’re the first person besides myself I have ever seen mention them on this platform. Congratulations, you care about one real problem that you never talk about. That’s progress, and I consider it as your first clue, so now you have A clue. Good job!

      But I said completely block traffic or choke off a choke point cause ambulances and stuff. It’s best you get a permit for you protest anyway.

      • You’re deluded.
        How is blocking ONE of EIGHT lanes “completely blocking traffic” or “choking off a choke point”. What is choke point anyway? or did it sound good echoing around your thought bubble?

        • …and breaking news, Deanna Violet Coco wins her court case!
          Democracy and Justice is served.
          The Judge got it right about the Harbour Bridge traffic conditions looking like a normal day.
          The Police are now having the spotlight put on them for ‘makings up’ about the phantom ambulance and siren businesst.
          The silence is deafening from Perrottet, Tool and Minus. Perhaps they’ll have something to say when Deanna Violet Coco takes court action against the ‘makings up Police’, perhaps Perrottet be there on hand, ‘throwing the book’ at them.

          • Well good. She was only being used to obfuscate the reason they introduced the legislation that had been in the works for several months to target a different group. Coco simply had bad timing. Nats/Libs aren’t actually against climate non-sense. That’s why they only give some token resistance to keep their image with their voters. They actually oppose the voice. But they don’t really care what Coco & co does. They were just using her.

    • Exactly Ken. The unjust anti-protest laws certainly need to be ditched.

      But talking about justice. When an upgrade in train services on the North Coast were needed in a region that’s experiencing huge growth and is one of the busiest tourist regions in the country, the one and only train service was closed. In response to the outrage in the community almost every politician and their dog promised to ‘get the trains’ running again.

      Now taxpayers’ are paying untold millions for the destruction of the $billion train line for an expensive bike track and ‘cycling tourism’. This is bringing more people to the region by road-surprise surprise- filling small towns with gas guzzling 4wds and huge utes with their bikes on the back. As if our towns don’t have enough problems with traffic gridlock and parking.

      Wonderful. Certainly not very green or sustainable.

      Contrary to what they were told would occur, businesses are reporting the cyclists are not spending much. Cyclists arrive, ride the track, buy a few drinks and snacks, then leave.

      After the catastrophic flood, when many roads have not been repaired, and so many people are still living rough, most North Coast people think there are more pressing needs in our communities than ‘cycling tourism’ right now.

      • That’s usually how green policies go. One half of their policies are in physical opposition to the other half.
        Stop cutting down trees and reduce CO2 emissions, while building infinite new houses for migrants.
        Won’t somebody think of the children while we drive EVs that need cobalt from child slave labour.
        Remember ‘rip rip wood chip’ and all us kids at school were propagandised about paper recycling even though recycling paper creates masses of toxic waste compared to simply farming trees for paper production, but when it comes time to harvest the greenies will block you and try to get your tree farm turned into a national park. On and on.
        Yet when I try to refer to them as ‘eco-nuts’ the moderator spanks me.

  3. Remember the Constitution of Australia is there for a reason. And if the states (Colonies) are governing ‘unreasonably’ especially against the people and their freedoms and ‘rights to free speech’ then the states can be ignored. And any Fines that are issued under State Legislation that is in contradiction with the Constitution are automatically Null and Void before conviction. Read the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia 1901(UK) the one on the Parliament website has been changed. But if you actually take time to search for it you will find it.
    Common Law Earth has a free copy.

    • I agree that rehypothecating the Constitution as a legislative instrument was most likely unlawful, but most of the Commonwealth Constitution doesn’t apply to the states anyway. I would contend the real problem in this case was the ‘Australia Act 1986’ that nullified British law in the States thus removing the effects of the Magna Carta and the Bill of Rights, otherwise you could justify protest by pointing at the redress of grievances in the Bill of Rights and claim they have violated it. Of course that implies they actually honored any of it in the first place.


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