Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

Australian government helps business lobbies, while punishing charities

Business lobbies get free rein, while govt delivers charities a legal body-slam https://www.crikey.com.au/2017/11/15/business-lobbies-get-free-rein-while-govt-delivers-charities-a-legal-body-slam/  Michael West, 15 Nov 17 

The government is crunching charities for foreign donations and tax breaks. Why, then, are the Minerals Council and other corporate lobby groups allowed tax breaks on their foreign funding?

SLAPP: a strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP) is a lawsuit that is intended to censor, intimidate, and silence critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defence until they abandon their criticism or opposition. Such lawsuits have been made illegal in many jurisdictions on the grounds that they impede freedom of speech. 

— Wiktionary

It’s all happening to charities: Australian Tax Office (ATO) audits, investigations by the charity regulator and the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC), and new laws slated for early next month to stymie tax deductibility, contain advocacy and ban or restrict foreign donations. Many in the not-for-profit sector are scared to speak out for fear of reprisal.

Left-wing activist group GetUp went before the Senate inquiry into political donations last week and pulled out a report detailing the vast amount of money that is spent buying influence in Australian politics.

I should declare an interest here: yours truly did the research, which found 18 corporate lobby groups had raised $1.9 billion over the past three years.

These are vast sums, yet they only represent a few of the most powerful advocacy groups in a handful of sectors: banking, mining, property and big pharma. There must be 100 more. And, together with an estimated $1 billion in corporate political donations since 1998, the “revolving doors” between industry and government, and the hundreds of millions spent by individual companies on “in-house” government relations and external consultants, the real numbers involved in swaying politicians must be well north of $1 billion a year, or more than $4 million per federal politician, per year.

There is already a dangerous imbalance between corporate political power and people’s political power in this country.

In her new autobiography, Christine Milne: An Activist Life, the former Greens leader warns of the shift from democracy to plutocracy. “The takeover is almost complete … The rush toward the revolving door between business and politics has become a stampede. Of the 538 lobbyists registered by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet in 2016, 191 were former government representatives,” wrote Milne.

The farmer, and veteran of death threats, jail time and arrests as an activist, describes the hegemony of corporate influence as a “major factor in the disillusionment with politicians and democracy”.

Meanwhile, the government is slapping down its ideological adversaries with Tax Office audits and investigations by the AEC and charities regulator, the Australian Charities & Not-for-Profits Commission (ACNC).

Draft legislation is prepared and a bill is tipped to come before parliament in the final sitting week of this year. There are serious implications for democracy and free speech.

One one of the main planks of this “reform” is expected to be a ban on foreign donations. It is mostly designed to hit environmental groups such as Greenpeace, 350.org, Lock the Gate and the Australian Conservation Foundation but will also affect those charities working with Indigenous people, poor people, sick people and medical research.

If the bill gets up — and this may depend on what deal is dangled in front of Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, given the government is no longer in majority in parliament — it may see off foreign donations and tax deductibility.

Such would leave an unlevel playing field. Membership to corporate peak bodies such as the Business Council of Australia and the Minerals Council of Australia is tax deductible. Like the charities and NFPs, they pay no tax, but their funding is enormous.

Keen to contain the influence of environmental groups whose message flourishes on social media, the Minerals Council has been the chief urger in lobbying for the government crackdown on NFP advocacy.

More pertinently, while the government moves against foreign donations for environmental and other civil society groups, the corporate lobby remains untouched. The question should be asked, is this fair? The Minerals Council, its state affiliates and the oil and gas peak body, Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA), have raised more than half a billion dollars for advocacy over the past 11 years …

*Read the rest of this article at michaelwest.com.au

Advertisements

November 17, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties | Leave a comment

Aid Charities Call on Government to Protect Charities’ Right to Advocate

 Lina Caneva  |  Editor |  @ProBonoNews 2 Nov 17, Australia’s international development charities have passed a resolution at the sector’s annual conference in Melbourne calling on the federal government to halt “disturbing developments” which are set to restrict Australian charities’ funding and advocacy.

The Australian Council for International Development (ACFID), the peak-body for Australian non-government organisations involved in international development and humanitarian action, also called on the federal government to “use its position on the UN Human Rights Council to become an international champion for civil society”.

In a preamble, the resolution expressed concern at a “number of disturbing developments in Australia (which) may constrain the role of charities in undertaking advocacy”.

ACFID’s members voted to call on the government not to impose proposals on expenditure-caps advocacy by charities and a ban on international philanthropy to charities who undertake advocacy……..

“Increasingly, fear and division are being used around the world as a precursor for draconian laws and regulations which are crippling democratic freedoms and stifling citizen-led groups. ACFID’s members are all too aware of this trend as they are forced to adjust to severely constrained operating environments, instituted by governments overseas.

“A free and vibrant civil society is crucial in maintaining peace; keeping governments accountable; and protecting people’s rights.

“Backed by Australia’s democratic values and with our membership of the Human Rights Council, the Australian government is well-placed to defend civil society space on the international stage. We are calling on the government to embrace this opportunity.”

ACFID said it was continuing to work with its members and a consortium of charities to support and protect space for civil society overseas and in Australia.

Earlier this year ACFID released a position paper outlining concerns about the ban on foreign donations to political parties which it said may result in charities who advocate being prevented from accepting international philanthropy.

The paper was prepared by a consortium of charities, led by ACFID, Philanthropy Australia and the Community Council for Australia. https://probonoaustralia.com.au/news/2017/11/aid-charities-call-government-protect-charities-right-advocate/

November 3, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties | Leave a comment

Bob Brown: High Court decision ensures free speech against environmentally polluting companies, like Adani

High court proves we have free speech against environmental wreckers https://www.theguardian.com/environment/commentisfree/2017/oct/22/high-court-proves-we-have-free-speech-against-environmental-wreckers, Bob Brown

Adani and the loggers should watch out – we have a right to peaceful protest to protect our environment, The high court has drawn a line in the sand against laws which burden the right of Australians to peaceful protest.

The court made no judgement on Tasmanian premier Will Hodgman’s decision to flatten the Lapoinya state forest in northwest Tasmania against the wishes of the local community. But it struck down his Workplaces (Protection from Protesters) Act 2014 aimed at stopping people from protesting effectively against such forests being logged.

Lapoinya is a huddle of farms southwest of the Bass Strait city of Burnie. Its rolling hills have a patchwork of lush pastures, ploughed fields and copses of trees. At the heart of the district was the Lapoinya forest, a couple of hundred hectares of wildlife-filled rainforest, eucalypts and ferneries with the crystal-clear Maynes Creek, a key nursery for the world’s largest freshwater crayfish, running through it.

When Forestry Tasmania revealed plans for the forest to be clearfelled for the distant wood-processing factory owned by Malaysian logging company Ta Ann, the people of Lapoinya remained confident that common sense would prevail. They called on the state government to intervene and ran a colourful but respectful public campaign to prevent the logging.

Neither the premier nor his minister for forests visited or intervened. Instead, draconian anti-protest laws were enacted and by early 2016 the logging was imminent.

 I was invited to a dinner by the community and afterwards treated to a concert by talented local youngsters, with songs devoted to forests. The Lapoinyan dilemma was excruciating: these good people would never be violent or attack logging machinery, but would not be silenced as a distant and indifferent administration in Hobart destroyed their iconic forest.

The locals prepared for a peaceful stand. If the public could see how beautiful the Lapoinya forest was then surely, even at this eleventh hour, the resulting political pressure would cause the government to back off.

The bulldozers and chainsaws arrived in January 2016, with a cavalcade of police.

While premier Hodgman assured Tasmanians his new laws were aimed at “radical” environmentalists and not “mums and dads”, the first two people arrested were a grandfather and a mother of two. That mother, also a neurosurgery nurse, was Jessica Hoyt. Her parents, Stewart and Barbara, have a farm adjoining the forest. In her teenage years Jessica, along with her siblings, had enjoyed riding along the forest’s bridle trail. The two were charged and faced first-offence fines of $10,000.

The next day, reeling from the destruction, Jessica took friends back into the doomed forest. She was arrested again while walking through the trees and ferns. This second arrest put her in danger of being jailed for four years.

A few days later, along with several others, I was also arrested after going back to Lapoinya to make video clips, intended for public distribution, about the sheer bloody-mindedness of the government’s operation. I was standing in an adjacent forest reserve. A bulldozer had backed off and the screech of the chainsaws and roaring thud of the trees coming down was close and confronting.

The incongruity of laws stifling such a reasonable protest against the destruction of the public commons, in a democracy with a long history of advancement through peaceful protest, was compelling. This was underscored when, after our arrests, I received a number of messages from experienced legal experts from around Australia suggesting the laws breached the constitution’s implied right to freedom of political expression.

Guided by Hobart solicitor Roland Browne and joined as co-plaintiff by Jessica, I engaged Melbourne barrister Ron Merkel QC to challenge the constitutional validity of the Hodgman laws in the high court. A public appeal by my foundation raised more than $100,000 to affray the costs, especially in case we lost.

On Wednesday the high court ruled that those laws do infringe the freedom to peaceful protest inherent in the Australian constitution.

“It is necessary to keep firmly in mind that the implied freedom is essential to the maintenance of the system of representative and responsible government for which the Constitution provides. The implied freedom protects the free expression of political opinion, including peaceful protest, which is indispensable to the exercise of political sovereignty,” they said. by the people of the commonwealth. It operates as a limit on the exercise of legislative power to impede that freedom of expression.”

The Hodgman government had breached the limit of legislative power. Tasmania already had the usual array of laws to prevent dangerous or damaging behaviour. It also had a Forest Management Act which, besides guaranteeing the public its time-honoured access to the forests, empowers the police to arrest people who interfere with logging operations. The draconian new laws were not necessary for that purpose. They were designed to stymie effective environmental protests, like that at Lapoinya, which could draw public support and be politically embarrassing. The high court found the laws out, noting the deterrent effect on peaceful protest of their provisions: “The combined effect … can bring the protest of an entire group of persons to a halt and its effect will extend over time. Protesters will be deterred from returning to areas around forest operations for days and even months. During this time the operations about which they seek to protest will continue but their voices will not be heard.” It is for premier Hodgman, a lawyer, to say; but just as he did not see the unconstitutionality of these laws, so I doubt he was their origin.

It should be a warning to the other environmental wreckers.

We are in a world of gross, rapid and escalating environmental damage. Corporations profiting from exploiting non-renewable resources face growing public scrutiny and antipathy.

They cannot win the argument for wrecking ecosystems, so their alternative is to wreck environmentalists. Elsewhere in the world, scores of environmentalists are being killed each year by rampaging profiteers. But Australia is a peaceful democracy and the effective option is to lobby weak governments to clamp down on protests.

The high court’s decision does not directly affect laws in states or territories other than Tasmania. But it draws that line in the sand and will be a benchmark for more challenges if other governments pass laws to protect environmental destruction from peaceful public reaction. More widely, it bolsters that right for people standing up for any good cause.

There are growing calls for governments, already falling over themselves to grant concessions to the coral-killing Adani coalmine proposal in Queensland, to enact more draconian anti-protest laws than those already in place. The extreme right voices making those calls had better go read this judgment for democracy.

The Lapoinya forest was razed, but it has proved to be a pyrrhic victory for the destroyers. Out of the peaceful but heartfelt stand of the handful of people in Lapoinya has come a high court ruling upholding the right to peaceful protest for every Australian

October 23, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, climate change - global warming, politics | Leave a comment

Digging into Adani:  The dubious dealings of India’s corporate colossus.

28 Sept 17, ‘When Four Corners travelled to India to investigate the activities of the giant Adani group, they soon discovered the power of the company.

‘While attempting to film and gather information about Adani’s operations, the Four Corners team had their cameras shut down,  their footage deleted and were questioned for hours by police.

‘The team were left in no doubt that their investigations into the Indian company triggered the police action.

‘For months, Four Corners has been digging into the business practices of the Adani Group.
This is the corporate colossus that plans to build Australia’s biggest mine site. … ‘
http://www.abc.net.au/4corners/digging-into-adani/8997202

October 2, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties | Leave a comment

Australian public servants face disciplinary action if they criticise govt, or “like” such criticisms on social media

US Government department tells staff to not use term ‘climate change, A PUBLIC sector department has told employees to cease using the term ‘climate change’ and opt for other more benign words insteadBenedict Brook@BenedictBrook, news.com.au , 8 Aug 17, ….

While Australian public sector staff have not been told what to say, they have been warned what they’re allowed to like or say on social media.

On Monday, it emerged that public servants who criticised the government on Facebook or Twitter could face disciplinary action.

If they “like” or share a Facebook post critical of the government, they could find themselves in hot water — even if they select the “angry face” reaction.

Government employees could also be in breach of the public service code of conduct for material they send in a private email, or for failing to remove “nasty comments” posted by other people to their social media pages.

The new social media guidelines, published on Monday by the Australian Public Service Commission, reinforce that while APS employees “have the right to participate in public and political debate”, it is “not an unlimited right”.

“If you ‘like’ something on a social media platform, it will generally be taken to be an endorsement of that material as though you’d created that material yourself,” the guidelines read.

Nadine Flood, national secretary of the Community and Public Sector Union, described the new policy as “overreach”, saying it “clearly does not strike the right balance between giving our community faith in the Commonwealth public service and allowing people who work in public services to undertake normal, everyday activity in a democracy”.http://www.news.com.au/technology/environment/climate-change/us-government-department-tells-staff-to-not-use-term-climate-change/news-story/27acd486093634ad3db49ab5ebcb0b9d

August 9, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties | Leave a comment

Who will guard Peter Dutton’s guardians?

Peter Dutton’s home affairs ministry will investigate itself for corruption, The Age,  Nick McKenzie, Richard Baker 22 July 17  In his almost four years as Justice Minister, Michael Keenan has not once requested that the commission hold public hearings to examine corruption – a move guaranteeing the agency’s virtually non-existent public profile.

Fairfax Media is aware of several major investigations under way into the integrity of people or operations within agencies set to form part of Mr Dutton’s new super-ministry. These investigations are being conducted behind closed doors by the integrity commission and the federal police.

The creation of Home Affairs means that the Australian Federal Police will now come under the same departmental umbrella as the people and agencies they are investigating in partnership with the integrity commission.

 Experts warn the arrangement risks putting such integrity probes even further out of the public eye.

“Institutionally it is a weakness. The arrangements should be such that this is not an option,” says Australian National University security expert John Blaxland.  Professor Blaxland has been critical of the proposed Home Affairs ministry because it may reduce the “high degree of healthy contestability” between agencies, which sees the AFP eager to scrutinise Border Force, and vice versa, when necessary. This is disputed by senior officials.

What is incontestable is that since its inception in 2006, the integrity commission has not held a single public hearing into any of the agencies it oversees: the AFP, the Criminal Intelligence Commission, Border Force and the Immigration Department.

Due to a lack of resources, Australia’s least-known corruption fighting body relies on one of the agencies it oversees, the AFP, to actually carry out its major investigations.  …….http://www.theage.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/peter-duttons-home-affairs-ministry-will-investigate-itself-for-corruption-20170721-gxfwov.html

July 22, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties | Leave a comment

Militarisation of Australia’s police?

If Turnbull’s plan becomes law – and the prospects of the Opposition stopping anything to do with ‘fighting terrorism’ are remote – we can expect a terrorist attack to trigger an emergency response from the Special Operations Command, whose officers will have to be trained to shoot to kill other Australians.  

As Australia becomes increasingly militarised, it is possible that the Tactical Assault Group could be called out for an anti-war demonstration, anti-mining protest, or industrial strike, and may be told that the people it confronts are enemies of the state and therefore terrorists. It makes me think of those signs you see on American suburban lawns: ‘Beware, Armed Response.’

ALISON BROINOWSKI. Beware, armed response. http://johnmenadue.com/alison-broinowski-beware-armed-response/ 19 July 2017  

 

Now that we have concrete bollards in Martin Place and Swanston Street and on Capital Hill, as well as fences to stop citizens strolling or rolling over the Parliament House grass, you’d think that in exchange for the aesthetic damage inflicted on us we must be safe. After all, Australia has had only five fatal terrorist attacks since the mysterious Hilton Hotel bombing in 1978. The risks we face from lightning strikes, sharks and crocodiles, or indeed bee-stings and falling furniture, are incomparably greater.

But terrorism is serious political business and once the threat of an attack is officially listed as ‘probable’, no government is brave enough to reduce it. Politicians have to be seen to be responding robustly to the danger. Continue reading

July 21, 2017 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, safety | Leave a comment

Maralinga nuclear compensation cases blocked by Bob Hawke when PM

text-from-the-archivesHawke government schemed to stymie Maralinga nuclear test compensation, cabinet documents reveal  http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/news/south-australia/hawke-government-schemed-to-stymie-maralinga-nuclear-test-compensation-cabinet-documents-reveal/story-fni6uo1m-1227171284110  PETER JEAN POLITICAL REPORTER THE ADVERTISER JAN 1, 2015  THE statute of limitations was invoked by the Hawke Government to prevent hundreds of compensation actions being pursued in court by veterans of British nuclear tests in Australia.

Government documents from 1988 and 1989 released by the National Archives of Australia reveal that cabinet decided to try and invoke time-limit rules to fight court compensation actions launched after 1988. Continue reading

December 9, 2016 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, history, weapons and war | Leave a comment

UN human rights expert finds that Australian government has lost trust of civil society

flag-UN.highly-recommendedAustralian Government must re-build trust of civil society – UN human rights expert, CANBERRA / GENEVA (18 October 2016) – United Nations independent expert Michel Forst today called on the Government of Australia to urgently dispel civil society’s growing concerns about the combined ‘chilling effect’ of its recent laws, policies and actions constraining the rights of  human rights defenders.

“I was astonished to observe mounting evidence of a range of cumulative measures that have concurrently levied enormous pressure on Australian civil society,” said the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders at the end of his first fact-finding visit* to the country.

Recognizing Australia’s traditional safeguards of constitutional democracy, rule of law and free media, Mr Forst noted that his initial expectation from his official visit was to “encounter only laudable implementation of the State’s obligations under international human rights laws, aimed at ensuring a safe and enabling environment for human rights defenders.”

Instead, the expert found a number of detrimental measures which include a growing body of statutory laws, both at the federal and state levels, constraining the rights of defenders. “They have ranged from intensifying secrecy laws to proliferating anti-protest laws, from the stifling Border Force Act to the ‘Standing’ bill shrinking environmental access to courts,” Mr. Forst specified.

“Those laws have not only accentuated the disparity between Government’s declared commitments at the international forums and their implementation within the country,” he noted. “They have also aggravated the situation following the drastic defunding of peak bodies by the Government, following their advocacy or litigation on such topical issues as immigration, security, environment and land rights protection.” Continue reading

October 19, 2016 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties | Leave a comment

Government MPs push for stifling environmental protests

civil-liberty-2smMinisters push for laws to make it harder for greenies to mount environmental challenges on major developments,  June 6, 2016  Steven Scott The Courier-Mail SENIOR Government ministers are planning to ramp up pressure on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to make it harder for green groups to challenge major developments.

The Courier-Mail can reveal several senior MPs have already canvassed options to discourage legal challenges to projects such as mines and dams, including by imposing time limits on appeals.

Mr Turnbull will face increased pressure from his own MPs should he win the July 2 election. Ministers have discussed ways to make it easier for courts to impose costs orders against funders of court cases, to prevent green groups using shelf organisations to limit their financial risk.

The move would revive ­former prime minister Tony ­Abbott’s controversial plans to restrict environmental ­challenges.

Mr Abbott wanted to change the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act to limit green groups’ challenges after the Mackay Conservation Group last year used the law to hold up the approval of Adani’s ­central Queensland mine.

The plan is still Coalition policy but it has been quietly shelved because there was not enough support to pass the changes through the Senate and some ministers held concerns about the proposed changes……http://www.couriermail.com.au/news/queensland/ministers-push-for-laws-to-make-it-harder-for-greenies-to-mount-environmental-challenges-on-major-developments/news-story/9cf9f552fb112db47058f3f72d24cb9d

June 6, 2016 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties | Leave a comment

Australian environment groups unite to oppose govt plans to cut their charitable status

election Australia 2016Federal election 2016: climate survey fires up green council of war Graham Lloyd THE AUSTRALIAN MAY 17, 2016  Peak environment groups have prepared a co-ordinated election blueprint on climate change, the Great Barrier Reef and fossil fuels, staring down threats to cut the charitable status of organisations that play politics.

The groups, including Greenpeace, WWF, the Australian Conservation Foundation and the Wilderness Society, have spent the past fortnight planning a strategy against the background of a parliamentary report that set out a road map to punish critics of the government and resource industry.

Established by ­Environment Minister Greg Hunt, it recommended groups be ­required to spend 25 per cent of fundraising on tree planting and land repair or lose tax-deductible status. It also said organisations should be made ­liable for illegal ­actions of members, supporters or volunteers.

The lower house committee recommendations were not supported by Labor members and the report included a dissenting statement from Liberal member Jason Wood. Mr Wood listed potential cas­ualties, including Beyond Zero Emissions, Great Barrier Reef Foundation, Environment Vic­to­ria, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace Australia, Australian Youth Climate Coalition, The Wilderness Society, EDOs of Australia, Australian Orangutan Project and Environmental Justice Australia.

Wilderness Society national campaign manager Lyndon Schneiders said: “They are also saying to a bunch of rednecks that they will deal with environment groups’ campaigns against controversial oil and gas projects.”

Former Greens leader Bob Brown said making groups res­ponsible for the actions of members and volunteers “would be right at home in Vladimir Putin’s Russia”. Climate Change organisation 350.org said the recommendations were anti-democratic and “an unnecessary witch-hunt”.

The Wilderness Society said it made more sense to spend money lobbying to stop trees being cut down that to replant them……http://www.theaustralian.com.au/federal-election-2016/federal-election-2016-climate-survey-fires-up-green-council-of-war/news-story/b8af615de95a65ca71c609ae8990700b

May 18, 2016 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, climate change - global warming, election 2016 | Leave a comment

High Court challenge to Tasmania’s controversial anti-protester laws

here are environment ministers Groom and Hunt backing the arrest and punishment of Australians who make a modest stand for threatened species that they, the ministers, should be protecting.

In an age of the accelerating and irreversible destruction of our Earth’s biosphere, the untoward and often unseen influence of its exploiters is eroding Australia’s time-honoured rights to peaceful protest.

It was inevitable that somewhere, some time, some citizens would face the repressive Tasmanian laws. That stand has now been made among the stately ferns of Lapoinya and will move to the High Court of Australia where the consequences are enormous for every environmental, social, cultural and Indigenous issue in Australia’s future

Bob Brown’s arrest in Lapoinya under new anti-protestor laws, The Saturday Paper, BOB BROWN, 19 Mar 16  A Brown,Bob follows their use to arrest conservationists in the Lapoinya forest. “…….The logging at Lapoinya torpedoed any hope Forestry Tasmania had of winning Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification, the internationally recognised green accreditation increasingly sought by global markets. FSC depends on respectful relationships with local communities………

Through all of this, the nation’s most powerful potential guardians of Australia’s forests and threatened species, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and the federal minister for the environment, Greg Hunt, failed to lift a finger.

The right to protest under threat

In Australia, the option of choice for setting back conservation is the strangling of environmental protest. As the resource-extraction industries come under fire for increasing encroachments on farmland and places of high natural or cultural heritage value, a key strategy is to have governments outlaw effective political protest…….. Continue reading

March 19, 2016 Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties, Tasmania | Leave a comment

New South Wales Parliament passes anti-protest laws

civil-liberty-2smAnti-protest laws giving police greater powers pass NSW parliament http://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2016/mar/16/anti-protest-laws-giving-police-greater-powers-pass-nsw-parliament

Anti-coal seam gas protesters could be jailed for seven years under laws described as a ‘crackdown on democratic rights’ Trespassing anti-coal seam gas advocates face heavier fines and greater jail sentences with tough new anti-protest laws passing through NSW parliament.

With the support of the Shooters and Fishers party and Christian Democrat Fred Nile, the controversial legislation was passed 20-16 in the upper house on Wednesday after minor amendments to the original proposal.

The bill gives police greater powers to search without a warrant, seize items and move protesters on, while fines for illegal entry to mining and CSG sites have increased tenfold from $550 to $5500.

Anti-CSG protesters who interfere with gas sites – including those who chain themselves to machinery – will also be exposed to a maximum jail sentence of seven years.

The Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham, who along with Labor voted against the legislation, condemned the changes as a “jackboot police crackdown on democratic rights”.

The Labor MP Adam Searle also spoke out against the bill’s “sinister” provisions.

“This legislation strikes at the heart of a fundamental aspect of our society – the right to peacefully protest,” he told parliament during hours of fierce debate.

But the premier, Mike Baird, defended the legislation, saying he didn’t believe it was too harsh.

“It’s quite simple, peaceful protests are fine,” Baird said. “Anyone that wants to disrupt a business or ultimately act illegally and puts the lives of themselves and others at risk, well we’ve put these measures in and I think it’s appropriate.”

About 500 protesters shut down a part of Sydney’s CBD to rally against the proposed changes on Tuesday.

A Reachtel poll commissioned by the NSW Nature Conservation Council this week also showed 61.4% of people opposed increasing police powers and fines for protest action.

The NSW Law Society said lawyers were concerned the legislation could seriously interfere with people’s human rights liberties.

Meanwhile, the NSW Unions movement says it’s considering launching a high court challenge against the laws.

March 17, 2016 Posted by | civil liberties, New South Wales | Leave a comment

Draconian anti-protest laws for New South Wales?

The proposed protest laws would give police new powers to break up protests, to search and destroy private property. If police say just one person obstructs traffic, they can shut down an entire peaceful assembly.

This is a slippery slope that gives police discretion to silence dissent and could turn NSW into a police state. Far from being a moderate, Baird is taking NSW down the sad road of Joh Bjelke-Petersen’s Queensland.

The laws will allow police to arrest anyone carrying or operating anything the police think will be used in a protest. Police would be able to arrest you and confiscate and destroy your car, for example, if they think it will be used to disrupt business in a protest. What has happened to the presumption of innocence?

Protesters could be fined more for opposing illegal mining activity than miners could for operating illegally.

civil-liberty-2smMike Baird’s anti-protest laws risk turning NSW into Bjelke-Petersen’s Queenslanhttp://www.canberratimes.com.au/comment/mike-bairds-anti-protest-laws-risk-turning-nsw-into-bjelke-petersens-queensland-20160315-gnj4to.html  March 15 2016  Naomi Hodgson

*Poll: More than 60 per cent of voters opposed Mining protesters could face seven years’ jail

*Freedom of speech and freedom of association are cornerstones of democracy. Continue reading

March 16, 2016 Posted by | civil liberties, New South Wales | Leave a comment

High Court challenge to Tasmania’s anti protest laws – by Bob Brown

Brown,BobBob Brown challenges Tasmania’s anti-protest laws in High Court ABC News 9 Mar 16 Former Australian Greens leader Bob Brown has issued a High Court challenge to the Tasmanian Government’s anti-protest laws.

The legislation which passed Parliament in 2014 allows for on-the-spot fines and tougher penatlities for repeat offenders.

Mr Brown and a number of others were arrested and charged in January, under the new laws, for protesting against the logging of Lapoinya Forest in Tasmania’s north west.

He issued the High Court challenge on the grounds the laws were contrary to the implied freedom of speech on government and political matters under the Australian constitution.

“I know that a challenge in the High Court can be a very expensive thing but I also know that a lot of people are worried about this legislation and the spread of it in other states,” he said.

“The laws will, if not challenged, trap everybody who wants to take a stand against something that’s manifestly wrong going on in our country.” Mr Brown said the Tasmanian Government promised the laws were not aimed at “mum and dad” protesters.

But he said “first up, they trapped a young mother and nurse who grew up in the Lapoinya area and a local grandfather”.

Hobart solicitor Roland Brown said the High Court challenge was a test case.

“This case is unusual because it’s seeking to have made invalid, or declared invalid, legislation that targets people’s political belief and their opinion in relation to environmental, social, cultural and economic factors,” he said………http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-03-10/bob-brown-flags-high-court-challenge-to-workplace-protest-laws/7236124

March 11, 2016 Posted by | civil liberties, Tasmania | Leave a comment