Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Outlawing dissent

Last year, Brazilian oil company Petrobras abandoned its plans for deep-sea drilling off East Cape. While the official reason was financial, their initial exploration had been disrupted by protesters, and its hard to believe that the local opposition didn't play a role. Now, in order to prevent such protests in future, the government is planning to criminalise them:

The Government is planning to crack down on anti-mining protesters with a late amendment to oil and gas legislation.


It will introduce changes to the Crown Minerals (Permitting and Crown Land) Bill, with a new offence of intentional damage to and interference with mining structures and vessels, and interference with their activities, carrying a penalty of up to 12 months in prison or a fine of up to $50,000 for individuals or up to $100,000 for a body corporate.

A second crime of contravening a notified minimum non-interference distance of up to 500 metres will carry a fine of up to $10,000.

Police and Defence Force personnel will also get additional powers to board vessels and detain or arrest protesters.

The government laughably claims that this is not about stopping people from protesting. Bullshit. That's exactly what its about. And they are doing it precisely because such protests are effective at getting miners to back off and leave our precious natural heritage alone. Under National, only ineffective protests will be allowed.

And to add insult to injury, the government is slipping these draconian new powers in via an SOP at the committee stage - meaning they avoid not just select committee scrutiny, but also the usual vetting process for consistency with the Bill of Rights Act.

Finally, this criminalisation of protest shows us exactly who "our" government works for. And it isn't us. The sooner they're out of office, the safer our human rights will be.