16 March 2016

The NSW Opposition is continuing its fight against moves by the Baird/Grant Government to curb peaceful and lawful protests.

The new laws – strongly opposed by NSW Labor – are aimed at preventing legitimate, peaceful protest by law-abiding members of the community.

In Parliament tonight, Labor Leader in the Legislative Council and Shadow Industry, Resources and Energy Minister Adam Searle has taken the unusual step of opposing the third reading vote of the Inclosed Lands, Crimes and Law Enforcement Legislation Amendment (Interference) Bill 2016 and dividing on that vote.

Labor also sought to refer the Bill to the Law and Justice Committee, given how quickly the Government has rushed the legislation through the Parliament, without adequate scrutiny or community debate.

NSW Labor said the flawed and oppressive piece of legislation strikes at the heart of fundamental tenets of our liberal democracy, including the right to:

· Peacefully protest;
· Signify community feeling and opposition to government policies and actions with which they disagree;
· Hold governments to account; and
· Promote progressive social change.

These changes would expose farmers, legitimate protest groups like The Knitting Nanna’s, and citizens from the wider community who are acting to protect their land, water, and food integrity, to up to seven years’ imprisonment by expanding the definition of a “mine” to include coal seam and other unconventional gas operations.

The changes will also allow police to be able to crack down on and disperse peaceful protests, and have new powers to stop and search persons and vehicles without a search warrant and to seize property without due process or supervision by the courts.

Quotes attributable to Shadow Minister for Industry, Resources and Energy Adam Searle:
“This legislation will criminalise activities that today are completely legal and see upstanding members of the community jailed for up to seven years. These changes are particularly directed to community protests against coal seam and other unconventional gas projects, especially on the North Coast of NSW.

“If our society is to remain free and allow peaceful social change then we must not restrict the right to assemble and protest.

“There are already a number of existing laws that deal with offences, ranging from obstruction and trespass to criminal damage. This legislation is both flawed and unnecessary.

“This law elevates the rights of CSG and other mining companies over the rights of land owners, it advantages business interests over those of other property rights and the general community, and significantly reduces the right to peacefully protest.”