• 15/03/2016: Debate speech in opposition to anti-protest bill

    I oppose the Inclosed Lands, Crimes and Law Enforcement Legislation Amendment (Interference) Bill 2016. It is rather ironic that only last month the Government was giving an apology to the 78ers who were dealt with extremely severely for peacefully protesting. At the age of 19, I was one of those 78ers. Thirty-eight years ago the government of the day gave a directive to police to deal with people who were protesting against extremely draconian laws. We are in a similar situation today. This bill is one of the most draconian pieces of legislation I have seen. It is taking us back to the Joh Bjelke-Petersen era in Queensland.

    People who protested in the streets in 1978 opposed legislation under which they would be locked up purely because of their strong point of view or particular state of being and sexuality. They were treated so appallingly that 38 years later the Government has apologised to them and acknowledged respect for the changes they brought to society. It will not be very long before the same thing happens again if this bill becomes law. In Queensland in the 1970s and 1980s street marches always seemed to begin in King George Square outside Brisbane City Hall. King George Square was the crucible for the city’s social disquiet and ferment, where thousands of protesters once risked the batons of Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen’s police force over issues as diverse as the Vietnam War, the Springbok rugby tour, Aboriginal issues, nuclear disarmament and the right to protest.

    This bill strikes the same chord of oppression of people’s free will and capacity to speak up and oppose instruments of harm.

    It is true that activists have been known to go into intensive livestock industry operations or abattoirs and “lock on” when all other avenues to try to bring change for the animals have been exhausted. It is not as though that protesting is flippant or reckless conduct. When all other avenues are pursued to finality and harm of whatever nature has not been stopped people are compelled out of utter frustration to risk their personal liberties. That has been an instrument of protest for hundreds of years. Protests for the rights of women, children, workers and slaves have been referred to in this debate. We cannot strike out the fundamental principle of people’s right to protect beings and the environment from harm. A perfect example is our desire to stop sows being kept in stalls where they cannot turn around but can only step forwards or backwards for almost their entire lives.

    Another example is the protest to prevent hens living their whole lives in cages two-thirds the size of an A4 sheet of paper. In a recent protest against the gas stunning of pigs activists stopped animals being delivered to gas chambers where it took them up to one minute to die from asphyxiation because of the gassing mechanisms. Those protests are held out of frustration because harm is happening and the people who are trying to help and bring about change have exhausted all other interventions and avenues available to them.

    The Government is facing one of the most extraordinary historical situations in Australia—namely, activists are standing beside farmers and people working in towns. For those reasons the Animal Justice Party must oppose and condemn this bill.

    Read the full speech HERE

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