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Forestry Protests - Legislation

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Wednesday, 24 March 2021

Tags: Protest, Anti-Protest Laws, Forests, Parks

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Mr Deputy Speaker, life is too short for me to waste too much time on Dr Broad's motion, but I want to make a brief contribution.

Outside parliament yesterday were gathered hundreds of people from all walks of life. That protest against the draconian anti-protest laws was not organised by the Bob Brown Foundation. The protest outside the front of Parliament House this morning was organised by Bob Brown Foundation and in both instances Dr Woodruff and I proudly stood with those Tasmanians who are defending their right to peaceful protest.

What we are seeing here from Dr Broad is an attempt to mitigate some of the political damage that the Liberals will make sure Labor pays for not supporting these draconian laws, just as he demonises the Bob Brown Foundation and peaceful protesters because he thinks it will work for him politically in Braddon. We can see straight through Dr Broad. His cynicism is manifest.

What he wants to do here is create two separate classes of protesters. This is Labor saying to the union movement, 'We'll make sure that the anti-protest laws, however they look, don't impact on workers' rights to peaceful protest', but what they want to do is marginalise conservationists to create a separate class of protesters who care about the planet. That includes people who are protesting to defend forests and people who are protesting to defend wilderness. What is Dr Broad's view on what is likely to be a blockade at Halls Island in Lake Malbena should that development be approved? They want to create a separate class of protesters for people who are standing up for a safe climate.

That is what is happening here. It is a hallmark of fascism to demonise and stigmatise a group. When you hear the kind of language that is coming from Dr Broad, and Michael Bailey from the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, who describe these peaceful protestors as economic terrorists - just as Mr Ellis described animal welfare activists as economic terrorists - that language is extremely dangerous. It is almost an incitement to violence against people who are prepared to stand up, whether it is for forests, climate and wilderness or for the rights of animals.

To demonise a group - as both the Liberal and Labor parties do in this place when they demonise conservationists, young people standing up for the forests and a safe climate - that is one step down the road toward authoritarianism.

I remind every member of this place - except Dr Woodruff, who knows this very well - that the reason Tasmania is looked at from the mainland and around the world for its beautiful forests and wilderness is because people, over decades, have peacefully protested to protect what makes Tasmania special. They protested against a pulp mill at Wesley Vale, which would have pumped dioxins into Bass Strait for multiple generations. They protested against the Tamar Valley pulp mill, which would have poisoned the air shed in the Tamar Valley. It would have killed people over time. We protested against a canal estate in the Ralphs Bay Conservation Area, and we saved Tasmania from having its first Gold Coast style canal housing estate in the middle of an internationally significant migratory bird habitat. People have stood up for the forests on this island - 10 000 people marching through the Styx. Thousands of young people who marched for a safe climate.

It is integral to who we are as Tasmanians, that right to peaceful protest - and that is what our colleagues in this place, from both the Liberal and Labor parties, want to see. They want to crush dissent. They want to scare people, and they want to give the big corporates a free pass.

I will tell you something for free. It does not matter what laws you enact to try to crush peaceful protest and stifle dissent, it will not stop them. It will not stop those of us who care about this place. It will not stop us, Mr Deputy Speaker.

You can have these laws that have been tossed out by the High Court and we have the 'shine on a cow pat' scenario of the amendments upstairs. You can have Labor trying to mitigate some of the damage by proposing aggravated trespass laws, which would only be targeted at conservationists. Absolutely, I have read your notice of motion here. You can have these laws, but it will not change anything, because people who care clearly will stand up - and thank goodness they do.

If we had not had peaceful protest on this island over the last 40 or 50 years, the Franklin Dam would have been built. We would have a pulp mill in the Tamar Valley, a pulp mill at Wesley Vale, a canal housing estate in the Ralphs Bay Conservation Area, and far more of our forests would have been decimated than they have been.

I told Dr Broad this before, but he just does not listen. To us, the Tasmanian Forests Agreement is dead and buried; we are not beholden to that agreement. The trade-off for that agreement was the reserves, and there are now 356 000 hectares of some of the most beautiful carbon-rich biodiverse forests in the world that are still not safe.

That second tranche of reserves never happened.

I say it to Dr Broad for the tenth or fifteenth time: we are not beholden to the Tasmanian Forests Agreement, because government did not meet its end of the bargain. The Liberals came into office and tore it up and we never got the second tranche of reserves. Dr Broad can keep lying out there in the community about this. He can keep trying -

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - Order, Ms O'Connor.

Ms O'CONNOR - Okay, Dr Broad can, for his own political purposes, keep going out into the community and misleading people about our position on forests.

I will be crystal clear with him right now: we support an end to native forest logging. We believe that has significant support in the Tasmanian community, and we know it has overwhelming support from young people who want a safe climate. We also know that position is backed up by the science, where the IPCC tells us we have to stop deforestation and we have to start reforesting or rewilding.

Our position on native forest logging is oxygen clear. Native forest logging must end. Native forest logging cannot be justified in a time of climate and biodiversity crisis. Native forest logging, the science tells us, increases bushfire risk, because it dries out once-moist forest ecosystems.

So while we have this chummy-chum-chum thing going between Dr Broad and Mr Barnett, who have set up that quaint little 'parliamentary friends of forestry', the Greens will stand in this place for an end to native forest logging, for a safe climate, and for that fundamental human right to peacefully protest to stand up for what matters.

At least there is one party in this place that stands up for what matters every single time, and that is the Greens. We stand with young people for a safe climate. We stand with the Australian Youth Climate Coalition, who were represented, for example, at yesterday's peaceful protest against the anti protest laws. We most certainly, every day of the week - and proudly so - stand with the Bob Brown Foundation.