Back in August last year, Extinction Rebellion protesters graffitied the front of Parliament House and lit a pram on fire.
Eight protesters were arrested and charged in the ACT Magistrates Court. They were ultimately fined just $20 each. You’d probably cop more for failing to check in with a QR code.
So we should not be surprised that this week some other protesters disgracefully set Old Parliament House alight. When we hand out fines less than a parking ticket, people are going to continue to flout the rules.
It is time for much tougher penalties for protesters that seek to deface, disrupt and delay people going about their lives.
Our laws should protect the right to protest as a key democratic right. But that does not give someone the right to superglue themself to a street, or to unsafely lock themselves on to dangerous equipment.
Some protesters have become used to thinking they can get away with anything.
Ahead of the last state election, the Palaszczuk Labor Government promised to introduce tougher penalties for protesters. But these were limited to targeting the use of “lock-on” devices that make it hard and unsafe for police to remove protesters from equipment or infrastructure.
The LNP proposed increasing fines and jail terms for repeat offenders and it is now clear that the Labor Government’s weak response has not worked.
Protesters continue to disrupt the coal industry in Central Queensland. Adani’s exports have been delayed including by the continuing use of lock-on devices.
Two activists last November used steel pipes to chain themselves to Adani’s rail line, and further down the line a mother and her daughter were arrested by police for locking themselves onto train locomotives.
One Queensland protester, Eric Serge Herbert, who superglued himself to busy Brisbane streets never faced jail in Queensland despite multiple offences.
Finally he made the mistake of committing an offence in NSW and their tougher laws have seen him sentenced to at least 6 months jail.
The coal industry ironically provided $6 billion in royalties to the Labor Government last year yet Labor does little to protect the industry because of their cosy relationship with the Greens.
In early 2019 there was a spate of radical vegan activists invading family farms. The footage was shocking, as hundreds of black-clad, radical vegans surrounded a family’s home on a farm in western Queensland.
One activist group released an online map of farms for the ostensible purpose of targeting them.
In response, David Littleproud, the Federal Agriculture Minister, announced that activists could face fines of up to $400,000 if they breached the privacy of farmers. The tough response has worked with farm invasions no longer a threat.
The Queensland Government has failed to protect our jobs and industry, and the ACT Government has failed to impose proper fines on those defacing our democratic institutions. So it is perhaps time for the Federal Government to consider tougher penalties just as it did with the farm-invading vegans.
In the case of the ACT, the Federal Government has a clear power to do this, and the Federal Government also has power of our nation’s exports, so anything targeting these industries probably comes under our purview. We have to send a strong signal that those who flout the law will pay a price for doing so.
The men and women who work hard in Queensland’s export industries do not deserve their safety put at risk by these idiots that seem to have the ear of the Queensland Government.
We must re-establish the rule of law by imposing tougher penalties on those that do not obey the law.