NSW – losing our right to public protest

This morning I sat through one of the most foreign experiences of my life.

The odd thing is, it should be a very familiar one.

Stepping into the Parliament of NSW on Macquarie Street with its gilded walls and beautifully furnished rooms, you would think that this is the place where respected leaders are making decisions that reflect the best interests of the nation it represents.

Well, it’s not.

It was the first time I had ever been there. And I only wound up on the red leather seats in the public gallery of the Legislative Chambers because I fortunately road past at 9am when The Greens, Stop Adani, Knitting Nannas and more were protesting and defending our #right2vote.

Tasmania has successfully introduced anti-protest laws, but I didn’t realise that this was now being pushed through the back doors of NSW Parliament.

But yes, for those of you equally unaware as I was, as of the 1st July 2018 there has been a new protest regulation restricting public gatherings on Crown Land in NSW.

Basically, this means that gatherings of groups larger than 3 people on Crown Land in NSW, which represents 40% of the state, can be broken up by representatives of the government (aka the police) with no official reason, simply based on their own discretion.

It’s not only a breach of our constitutional right to protest, but ignores the UN Human Rights Commission ICCPR Article 21, “The right of peaceful assembly shall be recognized” and Article 22, “Everyone shall have the right to freedom of association with others”.

Just a reminder; Crown Land is the land of the people and it is the role of the Government to manage it for the people. Not Government land that they kindly grant us permission to use.

But today, having witnessed the outdated processes of the Legislative Council and the stream of politicians disconnected with their public, it is clear that this has been forgotten.

Greens MP, Hon. David Shoebridge, put up a solid argument to defend our right to protest, which was backed by ALP representative Hon. Mick Veitch. He vouched that if a Labor Government is elected next year this regulation will be back on the table for discussion, so let’s hold him to it.

To Richard Coless and Paul Green and the rest of the Liberal, Nationals and Christian Democratic representatives in the room who were glued to their phones through the entire debate and when asked to vote sat on the right side of the chamber in favor of the regulation, whose interests are you representing?

Your argument is that this regulation enforces “safe and equal access to crown land”. Well, how safe and equal is the Adani coal mine in Queensland, the deforestation coups in Tasmania’s Tarkine Old Growth Forests, or the Pilliaga’s Coal Seam Gas mines in NSW for the pubic?

Due to their lack of support, the vote was lost 20:16.

Needless to say the disappointment in the public gallery (who all sat on the left alongside Shoebridge and Veitch against the regulation) was overwhelming.

If the votes of these people were taken into consideration, the vote would have swung dramatically in the other direction, and we would now be seeing a revision of this regulation.

But unfortunately, this wasn’t to be the outcome.

Disheartened by the blatant weakened state of democracy, we all left the chambers in silent protest.

So, speak up NSW because you might not be able to for much longer.

Seaside Scavenge as an organisation and in principle is in support of people's rights and, as expressed these general freedoms are being threatened, so we are voicing our opinion.



 

Anna Jane Linke