15 March 2016
Ms TRISH DOYLE (Blue Mountains): As a member of the Labor team I oppose the Baird Government's anti-democratic agenda and the Inclosed Lands, Crimes and Law Enforcement Legislation Amendment (Interference) Bill 2016. We stand alongside activists and environmentalists in their fight to stop the spread of coal seam gas exploration and mining in New South Wales. More than this, Labor stands alongside ordinary citizens to defend the right to protest peacefully against any or all manner of government transgressions—be they by this conservative Baird Government or any future government. It is also critical that citizens be protected in their right to protest the overreach, negligence or criminality of private companies wherever or whenever circumstances call for it.
This Parliament and the privilege of governing must not be abused by conservatives and misused to produce anti-democratic legislation on behalf of big business. The legislation put forward by Premier Mike Baird on behalf of his cronies in the mining industry would see penalties for unlawful entry to inclosed lands increased from $500 to $5,000. It seeks to redefine the meaning of the word "mine" within the legislation to have the effect of criminalising protests by farmers on their own land. It gives New South Wales police extraordinary search and seizure powers without the need for a warrant, and erodes the property rights of individuals whose property or vehicle has been seized by police. This is an appalling attack on the rights of ordinary citizens of this State. Finally, the Baird legislation gives police additional powers to give directions to persons in public places and will effectively criminalise peaceful public protests.
The Blue Mountains has a long history of peaceful democratic protest. My constituents have travelled far and wide to contribute to protest action against coal seam gas mining, pollution of our waterways, and war and the internment of refugees on island prisons, and to protect their rights and conditions at work. The Blue Mountains Unions Council, the Blue Mountains Conservation Society, the Wilderness Society, the Colong Foundation, Residents Against Western Sydney Airport and the Blue Mountains Refugee Support Group are among the many local groups in my electorate that will be impacted by this attack on our collective right to democratic protest action. The Knitting Nannas travelled the State during the last election and sat in at electorate offices, including that of the former member for Blue Mountains, knitting away to draw attention to the complicity of local Liberal and National members of Parliament and the damage done to our waterways and farmland by coal seam gas [CSG].
It appears from the legislation brought forward today that it is the intention of Premier Mike Baird to create criminals of the Knitting Nannas. Why? It is because they contributed to the downfall of his former colleagues? I have stood outside this place—and will continue to when necessary—and protested against the bad decisions made by this Government and its predecessors. Recently protests have been held outside Parliament House by taxidrivers, environmentalists, nurses, teachers and trade unions, as well as local residents concerned about the Baird Government's forced council amalgamation agenda. These people's right to democratic, peaceful protest will be put in jeopardy by this legislation and that, in my view, is completely unacceptable.
For various historical and contextual reasons, we do not have a Bill of Rights in Australia. This leaves the restriction or limitation of freedoms to conduct protest action largely up to the States. With this model, rather than consistent, national benchmarks to protect basic rights to protest, we are left with a hodgepodge of proscriptive legislation that varies across borders and jurisdictions. The problem with this model is that it treats protest action as a crime, rather than starting from a point of established and protected freedoms that all citizens can confidently enjoy. Over recent years we have seen in this State and elsewhere the gradual erosion of rights of assembly and association under the guise offered by conservative governments of tackling criminality. One does not reduce criminality by expanding its definition to capture peaceful, democratic protests or the rights of individuals to collaborate and associate with like-minded people.
These changes can be traced to the ideological antipathy that exists within the heart of every Government member towards workers, environmentalists, trade unionists and now, even farmers and small business owners. Those opposite are so captured by big business, so cosy with their mates in the mining and CSG industries, that they will turn on the people they claim as their own supporter base. Premier Mike Baird is like a snake eating his own tail, but he is too busy swallowing his own dogma to notice that he is cannibalising the rural electorates upon which his Government depends. The Nationals came into this place and are generally a sad and sorry spectacle at the best of times, but today they must be filled with an even greater sense of self-loathing and dread.
For example, The Nationals failed to listen to their communities and after 27 years of incumbency the electorate of Ballina went to The Greens Tamara Smith at the last election—a huge swing to Labor and to The Greens. Likewise, voters in my electorate of the Blue Mountains turfed out a sitting member with a 14 per cent swing against the Liberals because the former member lacked the strength or principle to stand up against the environmental vandalism being carried out by the Baird Government. Regional, rural and outer metropolitan voters are beginning to see that one cannot trust the Liberals or The Nationals to protect the interests of local electorates. It is not surprising. When local members choose to elevate the commercial interest and priorities of big business over the needs of local citizens in their electorates they should expect to feel the heat at the ballot box.
This is sneaky and dangerous legislation, and this is a sneaky and dangerous government. I have said before that Mike Baird might be a nice guy but he is a bad Premier. He is a bad Premier because he is captive to the demands of the crooks, lobbyists and environmental vandals within the mining and CSG industries. He is a bad Premier because fundamentally he does not share the values or principles of the broadly progressive people throughout this State. He is a bad Premier because while we are in here debating this anti-democratic, draconian and sneaky legislation, he is elsewhere, probably practising his selfie technique upstairs. I stand with Labor, and Labor stands with the people in opposing this undemocratic legislation. We stand here today to protect the rights of all citizens to engage in peaceful, democratic protest activity on any issue or cause they see fit.