Both leaders of the two major parties in NSW have restated their support for the draconian anti-protest laws they jointly put in place over a year ago. Over 240 civil society, trade unions and religious groups have all joined to condemn these laws which over the last 12 months have resulted in previously unheard of custodial sentences for peaceful, non-violent protest action.
In response to the court decision this week to overturn the custodial sentence against activist Violet Coco both the Liberal Premier Dominic Perrottet and Labor Leader Chris Minns have doubled-down on their support for these harsh and unnecessary laws.
Minns has restated his support saying he would keep these laws in place if Labor wins government after the 25 March election and restated the lie that Coco’s actions blocked emergency services vehicles. Perrottet’s Metropolitan Roads Minister Natalie Ward has said that a re-elected Liberal-National Government would consider hardening the laws.
These short-sighted, draconian regulations have made it a crime in NSW punishable by up to 2 years in jail and a $22,000 fine, to block entrances to train stations, ports and public and private infrastructure.
The implications of criminalising protest at iconic sites like Town Hall and Oxford Street is unimaginable to ordinary Australians who have watched and actively participated in protests across countless human rights issues. These new regulations restrict peaceful protest rights that have always been the lawful right of trade unions, climate campaigners and other activists to convey their message.
Josh Pallas, President of NSW Council for Civil Liberties said, “This disgraceful populist political point scoring has to stop. It is race to the bottom by both of the major political parties in New South Wales. They are threatening the basic tenets of our democracy. Freedom of assembly, political participation and freedom of expression should be core values and beliefs of our political leaders, instead we have leaders who are determined to shut down peaceful protest.”
“Instead of restating what we now know to be false facts, Minns and his shadow ministry should be calling for answers from the Premier and Police Minister as to why false facts were initially alleged against Coco and the other activists involved in the Sydney Harbour Bridge action. This should be a widely reported scandal, and the police should be held to account.”
“We know that activism changes history and the right to stand together and peacefully protest must be protected and defended for every citizen not pared back. Peaceful protestors should never face incarceration. We will continue the fight to protect the right to freedom of speech and to ensure we live in a healthy democracy.”