Tough new protesting laws could target Knitting Nannas
LOCK up your nannas. Mining Minister Anthony Roberts is in town.
The parliamentarian said only one word when asked to guarantee peaceful mining protesters the Knitting Nannas would not be "locked up" under tough new laws.
The New South Wales Government faces an angry backlash to its plan to intensify penalties against "eco-fascist" mining protesters.
Proposed reforms include creating an "aggravated unlawful entry" offence with a maximum penalty of $5500, with amendments specifically relating to illegal protests at mine sites.
The crime of interfering with a mine would be extended to include petroleum workplaces, and police would be given new search and seizure powers over protesters who chain themselves to mining equipment.
Limitations on police giving move-on orders to people obstructing traffic during demonstrations would also be removed.
Mr Roberts said it was a necessary reaction to anti-mining sentiment gone mad.
"Just (Monday) evening, a number of coal seam gas wells at Narribri were tampered with," he said.
"This is a very serious incident, and I advise the damage done potentially puts the health and safety of workers at risk and could have put the integrity of the well at risk.
"Since 2013, Santos's Narribri operations alone have been subject to over 800 instances of unlawful entry or obstruction."
Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Society chief executive Dr Malcolm Roberts has applauded the proposed reforms.
"Trespassing on private land, vandalising equipment and harassing people doing their jobs may be tactics promoted by some activist groups, but there is no justification for breaking the law," he said.
Shadow Resources Minister Adam Searle said Labor was not sold on the changes, but would delay making a decision until the legislation was tabled.
"As a responsible Opposition, we will look carefully at any proposal, but we will not attack genuine community protestors who are standing up for their families and communities," he said.
Shadow Minister for the North Coast Walt Secord feared the laws would be used "to break up community protests like the Bentley protest and groups like the Knitting Nannas".
That concern was all but confirmed during parliament's Question Time.
The real opposition is likely to come from the Greens, who labelled the laws a "draconian" attack on everyday Australians and took offence at Mr Roberts' use of the term "eco-fascists".
"They are Australian patriots, not 'eco-fascists'," NSW Greens mining spokesman Jeremy Buckingham said.
"I've sat next to a 64-year-old farmer with a lock around his neck and the gates of Santos's project out of concern for water resources and his family's farming future."
Unions NSW secretary Mark Morey warned it would consider a constitutional challenge if the bill went ahead.
"In 2012, the NSW Liberal Government sought to restrict the voice of working people through their electoral funding laws," he said.
"These laws were knocked down by a High Court challenge mounted by Unions NSW, which found the laws to be a restriction on the right to freedom of political expression.
"We will happily march back to the High Court to defend the right of any protestor to exercise their right to freedom of political communication." - ARM NEWSDESK