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Right to Peaceful Protest

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Thursday, 18 March 2021

Tags: Women, Protest, Anti-Protest Laws, Environment, Climate Change

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Madam Speaker, I move -

That the House take note of the following matter: right to peaceful protest.

I am sure I can speak for all the women in the Chamber today in saying that the March 4 Justice rally held at the beginning of this week was a powerful and historic moment. It demonstrated the tide sweeping across Australia, demanding change on sexual harassment, on abuse and on violence against women. It is demanding that we end a conversation we have had for decades, that has gone around in circles and led nowhere for women,. Instead, women every day are continuing to experience in the office, at home, in the streets and even in federal Parliament House, violence against their bodies, violence against their emotions, and a crushing of their abilities and their desire to contribute and to be part of the community, to have the job for which they have an ability, to go where they want when they want to, looking however they choose to look at whatever time of the day they choose to be in a place.

This is the change women in Australia want. Grace Tame so powerfully and so eloquently said that evil thrives in silence. What Monday represented was the power of the voice of people, women and men, coming onto the streets in peaceful community, speaking together and protesting for change.

The right to peaceful protest in Australia is deeply held by Australians. It is a core part of our constitutional rights. It is a core part of the Australian identity. Our spirit as a community of people who understand that change will only come when we listen to people and give everybody in the community a voice. What we had this week was a demonstration of a massive social movement that will not be shut down and will not be silenced.

The reason women, men and children were able to rally across the country in peaceful protest on Monday was because we have laws that affirm the right of people in Australia to assemble peacefully, that affirm the right for us to discuss in any way we choose in a public place in a peaceful way - to stand up for the things that must be protected and to stand up for the people and the animals who have no voice, and for the beautiful places that have no voice in our parliaments.

What we have is not only the March for Justice this week but in the same week we have brave, peaceful protestors, part of the Bob Brown Foundation, who have been in our forests, relentlessly putting their bodies on the line, standing up for the environment and the wild places which are being bulldozed and clear-felled at an alarming rate. Standing up for the incredible carbon banks that those native forests hold, and standing up the animals and plants that exist nowhere else on the planet and are in rapid danger of losing the habitat they need to survive.

These peaceful protestors have been putting themselves on the line in a peaceful way, doing what their constitutional right allows them to do, to stand up and give voice to everybody in Tasmania, and outside Tasmania and around Australia. We know people around Australia hold Tasmanian forests so dear, because there is nowhere else like them on the planet. We have amazing functioning ecosystems. People in Tasmania understand we must do everything we can to protect these for the carbon storage they present, and for their intrinsic beauty.

There have been in the last couple of years, the most enormous rallies on parliamentary lawns. School students striking for climate - the rallies which have been happening in Australia, in Tasmania and all around the planet as school students understand they have to get out of the schoolroom and into the streets to speak to politicians and let us know that we must do everything we can to protect the planet and to take action on climate change.

We have had Extinction Rebellion protestors being arrested. The knitting nannas outside the front of the Parliament. Those amazing women, who in their quiet and gentle way, reminded us that every part of our existence relies on a functioning climate system and on keeping our ecosystems and our wild areas intact. These are the people who are prepared to get out of their chairs and stand up for everybody.

Yet next week this Liberal Government is bringing in draconian laws, unconstitutional laws, anti-democratic laws, into the upper House, having another go, having a fight which is divisive. These are bad laws. They should be thrown out. They have to be abandoned. A tamer version of these unconstitutional laws, the anti-protest laws, went to the High Court of Australia, having been challenged by Bob Brown and Jessica Hoyt on behalf of people in Tasmania and everyone in Australia who understands we have to protect our protest laws. Those laws were thrown out and these laws will be thrown out too.