NEWS THAT MATTERS

Draconian overreach of police

What has Australia come to when Mick Fuller and his ‘bully boys’ metaphorically crack innocent heads in the name of ‘so-called’ democracy? We now live in a state where our government re write the law to pander to the whims of the coal industry and other corporate giants.

22 November 2021

ALAN HAYES

 

EARLY last month climate activists exercised, what they believed to be their democratic rights, to protest against the burning of coal and the impact it has on accelerating climate change. They shut down the Newcastle coal port, abseiling off a huge piece of machinery and disrupting operations.

 

Newcastle's coal port was repeatedly targeted by climate protesters last month, including activists lying on rail tracks to block coal-carrying trains heading to the facility.

 

Police said that coal activists disrupting train movements in the NSW Hunter Valley could face up to 25 years behind bars, with 19 arrests made since protests began early last month.

 

Blockade Australia, who organised the protest, said the threat was an "overreach of police power" and committed to continue disrupting coal exports.

 

"Blockade Australia uses nonviolent blockading tactics to disrupt a system that is causing a climate and ecological crisis that threatens all life on Earth,” a spokesperson said.

 

"Threatening protesters with 25-year prison sentences for blocking coal trains without causing physical harm to anyone is a draconian overreach of police power.

 

"Blockade Australia will continue to take sustained and disruptive action in response to Australia's leading role in the climate and ecological crisis for as long as necessary."

 

The draconian and Gestapo-like tactics of the police are a result of laws introduced by the Baird-Liberal-Government, making it illegal for people to exercise their democratic rights and protest against what they believe is wrong. Baird’s new laws imposed a prison sentence if you dared to speak out, even in a peaceful protest.

 

Imagine what would have happened on the Central Coast had these laws been in force when the community stood and fought against the Liberal Government’s decision to allow the South Korean Government to build a coal mine beneath the Central Coast’s major water supply. It was people power that protected the Coast’s precious water resource from the machinations of foreign interests.

 

Australian’s have seen the result of more and more freedoms being stripped away and democratic rights being abused by too much police power. This was evident when Scott Morrison sent in his ruffians to raid an ABC journalist because she dared to expose the truth about Australian military over alleged war crimes in Afghanistan.

 

And closer to home, we’ve seen it hear on the Central Coast when the community went to court over the proposed Wyong Coal Project.

 

Prior to the Barry O’Farrell Liberal Government winning the 2011 election the community had the right to challenge in the court the decision to approve a coal mine on its merit. This democratic right was taken away when the Bulga community twice won in court Rio Tinto’s push to mine the Warkworth Forest Sands. This environmentally sensitive and important area protected by an agreement between the mining company, the community and the NSW State Government acted as a buffer zone between the Warkworth mine and the town of Bulga.

 

The mining company weren’t happy with the decision and quickly knocked on Barry O’Farrell’s door. O’Farrell’s sidekick, Energy Minister Chris Hartcher, with the speed of the ‘Flash’ from the 1940s DC comic, acquiesced to the miner’s demands and the law was rewritten, denying the right to challenge the merit of a coal mine proposal.

 

So, when the Central Coast community challenged the Wyong Coal Project it was on points of law only.

 

This is not democracy, it’s the seed of an authoritian regime. It is normalising  police raids on a government whim and stealing computers and other documents, because alleged guilt, deemed by association, is acceptable if you voice opposition to corporate environmental destruction or support protestors.

 

And this is what happened last week to the Hunter Community Environment Centre (HCEC) when police raided the centre last week because of the Blockade Australia protest activities.

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Police raid HCEC premises Newcastle

HCEC have emphatically denied any involvement with Blockade Australia.

 

Georgina Woods from HCEC said “Our little environment centre was raided by, even though it's not involved in the recent coal protests.

 

“The police assumed that the coal protests were associated HCEC.

 

“HCEC was not an organising body for those individual protests disrupting the coal chain.”

 

Georgina Woods has pleaded with the police to return computers and phones to HCEC.

 

HCEC is a local environment group in Newcastle, who do incredible work protecting the lake, squirrel gliders and the broader community.

 

While everyone is distracted by right wing extremists the police crack-down on anything that actually threatens the status quo. It’s an appalling abuse of power – police commissioner Mick Fuller must be proud!

 

The separation of power between the state government and the police should be at arms-length, but the police raid on HCEC suggests otherwise. Where there was no crime the police acted politically, confiscating HCEC’s corflutes, documents, phones and computers, to prevent future displays of yet unknown public dissent.

 

The police raid on Hunter Community Environment Centre was in response to two weeks of anti-coal protests by Blockade Australia causing disruptions to coal supply chain.