As the world economy slides inexorably, governments around the world are punishing the workers, the poor and marginalised, while shoring up the fortunes of the rich and powerful. In Queensland the state government, fearful of losing its AAA credit rating, is desperately trying to appeal to big business, particularly mining interests to reassure them that their profits are guaranteed if they invest here. Their new anti-protest laws are aimed at demonstrating just that. Unions, environmental groups and social activists are not going to take this attack on democratic rights lying down. #UnionProud
The Queensland Parliament has passed the Summary Offences and Other Legislation Amendment Bill which limits the right to protest. This is the Qld parliament’s response to ‘Extinction Rebellion‘ and ‘Frontline Action on Coal‘ attempting to slow export of coal from Queensland because of the current Climate Emergency.
These groups and other environmental organisations are using street protests to make people more aware of the issues that concern society at large including regional centres.
The parliament is attacking a symptom and not the root cause that being, Queensland is one of the biggest polluters in the world and contributes greatly to the burning of fossil fuels both here and offshore.
I have listened to much of testimony given to the parliament through the Legal Affairs and Community Safety Committee.
This committee listened to police, the Resources Council of Qld, Pork farmers’ and Frackers’ reps. The committee prioritised so called ‘lawful carriage of business’ over democratic rights.
Police see recent protest as people ‘taking matters into their own hands’. Senior police went overboard about so called ‘dragons dens’ – whatever they are. Police complained of not knowing about the protests beforehand and that this limited their response to marches and claimed caused considerable disruption to traffic. Anyone who has travelled out West or along the Pacific Highway knows that road works on fossil fuel highways disrupts traffic more than anything.
The Legal Affairs and Community Safety Committee did not listen to the Member for Maiwar, the Conservation Council (Rockhampton), Civil Liberties lawyers, political activists, Animal Liberationists and, importantly, the Queensland Council of Unions (QCU) represented by Michael Clifford.
While opposing the legislation Clifford identified the slippy slope that the parliament is taking us down. It is now time for the Qld Council of Unions to adopt an independent climate change policy for workers and their unions to transition away from fossil fuels. Workers throughout Brisbane and regional Queensland & Northern Territory are already hurting, it will be worse if the parliament is allowed to go further. Union campaigns depend on workers rights to protest and to stand outside businesses and block them if necessary. The recent Chemist Warehouse EBA would not have been won without the picket lines.
The Premier’s reply was that the government has taken the middle road between National Party and Greens. Can the Centre hold in a state where underemployment is so high and the destruction of regional Queensland so evident? Is it rational to support an economy based on extractive industries? Our second largest export after coal is education. Why can’t the parliament learn to switch away from fossil fuels?
One thing is clear, any potential for real opposition lies outside the parliament (apologies to the Member for Maiwar, Michael Berkman, who put up a good defence that fell on deaf ears). Green’s MP, Berkman, received no briefing from police about their submissions to parliament but the Law Council did. Shows what contempt police have for elected representatives.
For what it is worth, I received no response to my submission to the Legal Affairs and Community Safety Committee:
“We have a proud history of fighting for democratic rights in Queensland. A number of members owe their election to the Queensland Parliament to these democratic rights activists who struggled for over 40 years to bring about change.
Now the parliament is seeking to turn back the clock, and introduce draconian anti-democratic laws, something it has been reluctant to do since the days of the Bjelke-Petersen government.”
Over two thousand people were arrested by a corrupt police force, we are not going to just to lay down before this legislative assault by a parliament out of touch.