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Right to Peaceful Protest

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Thursday, 18 March 2021

Tags: Anti-Protest Laws, Protest, Climate Change, Native Forest Logging

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Madam Deputy Speaker, where do I begin?

First of all, I know now that Mr Tuker did not write that speech; it was Orwellian. The bill he refers to was called the Workplaces (Protection from Protesters) Bill 2019, or, as we called it, the workplace (protection from democracy) bill 2019. Every member in this House knows debate on that bill was gagged in December 2019. We were told it was an urgent bill. It had the support of every government member and it had the support of Ms Ogilvie.

Ms Ogilvie - That's right, because I don't think you should go into people's offices. I don't understand why you would want to do that.

Ms O'CONNOR - Put your seasoned lawyer's hat on, Ms Ogilvie, and tell us about the constitutional implications of this amendment bill.

We know who the real radicals are and who the extremists are. They are people who want to trash forests and they are people who are driving the climate emergency. To see the confected schism between the Liberal and Labor parties on this issue is quite something. This is the same Dr Broad and Mr Barnett who set up the Parliamentary Friends of Forestry. They are besties on this issue and on native forest logging, on biodiversity decline and species extinction. They are besties on the depletion of quality water supplies. They come from another century, the twentieth century. We are now in the twenty-first century where we are facing a climate emergency. We are entering a mass species extinction event, where young people, quite rightly, are standing up and saying, 'Enough'.

Because Dr Broad does not really understand anything about the Bob Brown Foundation, I will tell him about some of the young people who have the guts to stand up to defend our forests and to stand up for climate. These are young people who are terrified about the future and they are not prepared to stand by and just let it happen. Dr Woodruff and I are deeply grateful to them, as are many other Tasmanians.

When Mr Tucker gets up here and says he stands shoulder to shoulder with Tasmanians, no, he stands shoulder to shoulder with a small section of Tasmanian industry figures. I would like to hear where Mr Skillern from the TFGA is getting all this confected concern about protests on agricultural lands from. I genuinely cannot remember the last one in Tasmania.

The workplace protection from protesters legislation was written for political reasons. It was written to wedge Labor - let us see if Labor lets itself be wedged - but it is unconstitutional. It is an attack on the right to peaceful protest. All over the world we are seeing this. We have seen it in Hong Kong, in Belarus, in the US capitol and in Myanmar where authoritarian forces try to suppress people's free will. These forces are attacking democracy, and Tasmania is not immune. These protection from protesters laws which Ms Ogilvie supported are an attack on democracy.

The one thing I will agree with Dr Broad about is that they turn every part of Tasmania into a prohibited zone - every footpath, every street. They are odious laws designed to stifle dissent. They are designed to frighten people and they would criminalise those young people who took part in the Strike for Climate if it happened to impede some business that those young people were walking past.

There is a long, proud history on this island of people standing up to defend the place and those decades of action to defend this place by the conservation movement underpins our brand. Where would the west coast and Strahan be now if people had not stood up and protested against the Franklin River dam? Where would the north-west coast and our brand be now if we had a pulp mill at Wesley Vale pumping dioxins into Bass Strait? The same goes for the Tamar Valley pulp mill that would have polluted that airshed and poisoned the people of Launceston. It is the same as Ralphs Bay. We stood up, exercised our right to peaceful protest and saved that internationally significant bird habitat from a 500-home canal estate. The right to peaceful protest is intrinsic to who we are as Tasmanians.

I have heard a fair bit about the PESRAC report in the last couple of days and I hear a bit of selective reading from it. This is a very good report and it is a message to government and to Labor that Tasmanians recognise that environmental protection is essential for our recovery from COVID. You have a Liberal and Labor party in this place that relentlessly attack conservationists, and yet this report tells us that it is a mainstream view in Tasmania that we need to look after nature. They are so out-of-touch, so hostile to the environment, that they are deaf to what Tasmanians love about this place. Tasmanians love their forests and they deeply love their wilderness, which is under attack from the Liberals in government.