Mr PERRETT (Gympie—LNP) (12.17 pm): I rise to speak on the Summary Offences and Other Legislation Amendment Bill. The increasing trend of militant and aggressive activism is the ugly side of the right to protest. Commentators may praise schoolchildren who miss school but say very little about activists targeting commuters, businesses, workers, our primary industries and regional businesses.
Activists divert valuable police resources, waste emergency services resources, cause chaos on our roads, affect business operations, disrupt workers and make a mockery of our legal system. They cause gridlock, prevent ambulances getting to where they need to go and stop Queenslanders going about their daily activities. Only two weeks ago during International Rebellion Week it took 11 police officers and four firefighters to deal with just three protesters on one CBD corner. A specialist police task force was created and 150 officers were deployed to deal with the week-long protests.
The policy objective of this bill is to crack down on unlawful protesters who use dangerous attachment devices. This will be achieved by creating a new offence to apply to those who use dangerous attachment devices and by enhancing police powers to authorise the search of protesters or vehicles in situations where police suspect there is a dangerous attachment device. The bill is narrow and limited in its application as it only applies to lock-on devices. Activists are brazen and emboldened.
They do not fear authorities. They do it because they know they can. These are dangerous developments.
The government says that it wants to crack down on extremist protesters such as Extinction Rebellion. They are anarchists who want to shut down our political system. Climate and the environment are just excuses to alarm the young to join the revolt. A co-founder of Extinction Rebellion, Gail Bradbrook, says that fighting global warming means ending ‘systemic racism, white supremacy and the wounds of the patriarchy’. Another, Roger Hallam, wants to end the representative parliamentary system because it is ‘irremediably corruptible in the context of the dominance of a global capitalist system’. These are not climate warriors; they are a front. That is why we need to take strong and decisive action. The consequences must be proportionate to the damage they inflict on our communities.
Despite the rhetoric, these laws are not a strong response; they are limited and they do not go far enough. The legislation introduced to target Extinction Rebellion will only catch those who use lock-on devices, which are only a small part of activists’ tactics. It will not fix the issue. It is hard not to be cynical when you look at the government’s track record in pandering to inner-city activists. The government is again trying to deflect its inaction on bringing these extreme activists to task. It is split between trying to be seen to be doing something and pandering to its inner-city green zealots.
These laws do not stop public disruption, events that stop the traffic, people hanging from bridges, blocking streets or occupying parks, holding people captive to hard left demands. They only stop these activists when a protester is using a lock-on device. That is very specific, and we all know that these protesters will just find another ingenious way to circumvent the laws. They do not care. It is a badge of honour to be caught because they want to claim that they are repressed.
The laws only apply if a protester uses a lock-on device to anchor themselves onto something at a place to resist being removed or to interfere with transport infrastructure. The legislation defines an attachment device as ‘a device that reasonably appears to be constructed or modified to enable a person using the device to resist being safely removed from a place or safely separated from a thing’.
It defines a dangerous attachment device to be if it ‘appears to be constructed or modified to cause injury to a person who attempts to interfere with the device’ or it ‘incorporates a dangerous substance’.
We are talking about anything that is likely to explode, cut someone’s skin or require someone to wear protective clothing to break it up, such as a pipe or casing made of asbestos.
Against all common sense, glue, bike locks, padlocks, ropes and chains are not considered an attachment device. Apparently they are not. That means that this legislation would not have applied to Extinction Rebellion protesters who chained themselves and sat on the railway. Activists love to chain themselves to equipment and sites. In April, animal activists chained themselves to equipment at the Yangan abattoir near Warwick. The government’s bill looks more like a slap on the wrist with a wet lettuce leaf.
The LNP does not condone protesters using any device that could cause injury to innocent Queenslanders or emergency services workers, including police. These measures are unlikely to stop the protests. Extinction Rebellion claims the legislation as a win. A spokeswoman said— These proposed laws are really indicative of the fact that civil disobedience and Extinction Rebellion South East Queensland tactics are really powerful and effective.
The LNP’s amendments will make these laws stronger. We aim to ensure mandatory jail and tougher bail laws. Our amendments will ensure that anyone convicted of multiple breaches of the new unlawful assembly offence will face mandatory jail time of one week. They also will apply tougher bail law changes to reverse the presumption of bail for offenders charged with unlawful assembly who commit an offence of a similar nature while on bail—that is, unlawful assembly again, trespass or public nuisance. The Queensland Police Service has expressed frustration that extremist protesters are back on the streets within hours of being arrested. Queensland Ambulance Service Medical Director Dr Stephen Rashford tweeted—
Honestly, enjoying our rights in Australia to safely protest does not give you the right to act like a moron and tie up valuable emergency services …
Protesters have a right to free speech, but no-one has the right to break the law. Anyone who serially breaks the law, who thumbs their nose at the law, should face commensurate consequences for their actions. Supporting a cause through civil disobedience does not justify creating mass public disorder.
The government’s laws are all talk and no action. The Premier has overstated the impact of Labor’s laws, and they do not go far enough. Paying lip-service, being dragged to act or implementing only minimum measures shows either incompetence or fear of these activists—or, worse still, support for their agenda. Governments that are reluctant to act because they would rather do nothing abrogate their responsibility to allow Queenslanders to conduct their business, go about their daily lives and be protected. In the minister’s introductory speech he said—
On 20 August … I addressed the House, as did the Premier and the member for Ferny Grove, about the increasing frequency of dangerous activities occurring in our state.
Governments must be judged on what they do, not what they say. Weak and ineffective laws cannot be washed away with spin. No-one should be free to trespass on another’s business or someone’s home. Many activists are driven by ideological fantasies and simplistic solutions. These fanatical zealots want to shut our cities, disrupt commerce, prevent commuters travelling, shut feedlots, close farms, ban any and all animal products, close mining, turn off reliable electricity, and shut down our ports and freight lines. In effect, they want to put people out of work.
Activists do not care about how they achieve their agenda. They disrespect business owners, workers, farmers, machinery drivers, labourers, miners and train drivers. They are not interested in animal welfare, the environment or people’s livelihoods. They are militant fanatics and hooligans.
Whether it is animal activists invading farms and businesses or, specifically, the anarchist organisation Extinction Rebellion, they are testing the patience and goodwill of Queenslanders. The public has had enough. I urge the government to see common sense and support the LNP’s amendments. I do not oppose the bill.