The NSW Opposition has taken the rare and unusual step to formally register a formal protest with the NSW State Governor over the Liberal-National State Government’s passage of unfair laws to restrict peaceful and lawful protests.
In a final move, NSW Labor Leader in the Legislative Council and Shadow Industry, Resources and Energy Minister Adam Searle has used a rare colonial mechanism available to the NSW Legislative Council – the oldest chamber in Australia – to formally protest to the Governor.
Mr Searle – along with all Labor MLCs – this morning wrote to the Clerk of the NSW Legislative Council, Mr David Blunt using Standing Order Number 161 – Protest against the passing of a Bill.
The Clerk will now formally convey the protest to the Governor, His Excellency General, The Honourable David Hurley.
In NSW Parliament yesterday (March 16), the Liberals and Nationals passed theInclosed Lands, Crimes and Law Enforcement Legislation Amendment (Interference) Bill 2016.
Yesterday, Mr Searle also took the unusual step of opposing the third reading vote of the bill 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.
The new laws – strongly opposed by NSW Labor – are aimed at preventing legitimate, peaceful protest by law-abiding members of the community. 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.
Labor Leader in the Legislative Council and Shadow Minister for Industry, Resources and Energy Adam Searle today said:
“I recognize that this is a rare and unusual move, but it is important to convey to the community that the Baird Government is taking away a fundamental right of all citizens: the right to protest the decisions of a government without fear of being arrested.”
“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.”