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Premier condemns anti coal protestors and vows to fast track tougher penalties

Extinction Rebellion drum
Extinction Rebellion drum

Annastacia Palaszczuk denounced anti mining demonstrators who disrupted roads, businesses and commuters on October 8.

The Queensland Premier condemned Extinction Rebellion activists for putting themselves and others at risk by shutting down major thoroughfares and performing publicity stunts that unnecessarily wasted police and emergency service resources.

Dozens arrested

Queensland Police officers arrested and charged at least 29 protesters including Paul Jukes, who suspended himself in a hammock from Brisbane’s Story Bridge.

Many of them gathered outside of Santos’ Brisbane headquarters to demand that the proponent cancels its $3 billion Narrabri Gas Project, 500km northwest of Sydney.

“We will swarm against the climate damaging gas industry that hides under the lie of being a ‘bridging fuel’ that lessens global emissions,” protest organisers said on Facebook. “We demand the industry tell the truth about the fact that gas is dirtier than coal and that it drives emissions higher than it admits.”

Some also chained themselves to fences, and locked themselves to drums filled with cement, in a bid to force the government to declare a “climate emergency” and reduce carbon emissions to zero by the year 2025.

Jail terms fast tracked

Palaszczuk is now trying to accelerate the introduction of a new offence that makes it illegal to possess “dangerous devices” to shut down public thoroughfares and infrastructure.

If approved by State Parliament, police officers will have the authority to search a person participating in a protest or a vehicle suspected of carrying a dangerous device. Anyone found in possession will be charged and could face up to two years in jail.

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‘Booby trapping’ devices

State Police Minister Mark Ryan welcomed the move, saying is a lot of anecdotal proof to support the government’s claim that protesters are “booby trapping” devices with wire, metal and glass.

“We’ve received advice from police that they have found evidence of materials in these devices that could cause harm,” Ryan said in a broadcast interview according to the Australian Associated Press (AAP). “What we’re seeing is an escalation in some activities and, of course, the laws have to be nimble to respond to these escalating tactics.”

Show more evidence

The Human Rights Law Centre (HRLC) is concerned such an offence would go too far because not enough evidence has been shown to justify resorting to harsher penalties.

“This proposed law could impose harsh prison sentences for their use in very broad circumstances, even if it’s just blocking a footpath,” HRLC Lawyer Alice Drury told AAP. “Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has reportedly refused to produce evidence to support her claims that in recent protests, people have deliberately created lock-on devices that could harm police and emergency services attempting to remove them.”

Extinction Rebellion is holding an entire week of CBD protests in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and other major cities. Motorists are advised to consider other travel options to avoid being stuck in traffic.

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