NSW Independent MP Justin Field has called on the Berejiklian Government to protect the right of the people of NSW to engage in peaceful assembly and protest. The call comes ahead of parliamentary debate on the Government's so called “Right to Farm” laws.
Justin Field said, “These laws are wide reaching and go well beyond safety on farms and biosecurity. They risk criminalising peaceful protest and assembly. I’m calling on the NSW Premier to ensure that NSW law unequivocally protects the right to peaceful protest and assembly.
“This new bill massively increases penalties and introduces jail time for peaceful assembly and protest activities that have nothing to do with farming or actions that are a risk to safety on farms. These laws conflate illegal shooting on private land with peaceful protest which is clearly absurd. The new penalties don't just apply to farms, they can apply to state forests and any road declared by the authorities. Some of the amendments under this new bill relate to laws introduced under the Baird Government that were deliberately targeted at mining and coal seam gas protesters.
"Similar laws have been used against legitimate peaceful protests against old growth logging in Tasmania that resulted in a successful high court challenge by Bob Brown. Is the Government really wanting to throw the book at the Knitting Nannas against Gas, student climate protests or those wonderful people trying to preserve Koala habitat from logging?
“It’s a terrible look for the NSW Government to be trying to push this bill through the Parliament following the huge climate rallies across NSW and the globe last week. The reality is that under NSW laws peaceful climate protests can be prohibited from certain public and private land and could even attract jail time as a result of this new bill. The campaign to stop old-growth logging which is currently building in NSW could face the full consequences of this bill and there is the potential that a Member of Parliament could fall foul of these laws by encouraging peaceful protests at some sites," Mr Field said.