Video distributed by NSW Police shows climate activists in police custody at the campsite

NEWS FROM THE FRONT DESK: Where is the property industry when we need it most? Any industry that requires a stable natural environment to profit must open its eyes and realise that climate action is directly in its economic interests. Industry must get behind the “greenies” if it wants to protect itself from compounding climate risks.

Right now there is a worldwide movement to silence climate protesters. In Australia peaceful protesting is now equated to aggravated assault. In recent weeks, protesters have been pepper sprayed, held in detention in a tiny cell without bail for 23 days with no access to daylight, fresh air, exercise or any kind of reading or writing materials.

During week-long Blockade Australia protests in the Sydney CBD from 27 June, at least 12 people were arrested, charged with multiple obstruction and disruption offences and many were denied bail. New draconian laws in NSW could see them jailed for two years.

In Newcastle last year a young man was sentenced to a year in jail for delaying a coal train. Meanwhile an unnamed 31 year old Bondi man was fined $469 after he drove his car through the crowd of climate protests in the Sydney CBD on 27 June.

In Tasmania, the Legislative Council wants to reclassify peaceful protest as an “aggravated” offence that will attract “maximum penalties”, using the argument that obstructing a public space – any public road – is equal to obstructing a business.

Unions Tasmania stated that they “do not support protest activity”… but also asked to be granted “specific exemption” for its own protest activities. No comment on that one.

Overseas, it’s worse, but in Australia we’ve got a habit of following suit, so watch out.

In the UK in April more than 200 people were arrested in climate change protests. Then PM Boris Johnson responded with a new bill to jail peaceful protesters for up to 10 years. It’s clearly the thin edge of the wedge in what authorities are planning.

Standing behind them egging them on is the most powerful cabal known in history: the fossil fuel companies that for two centuries have built huge wealth from extractive so called “economies” that tear the natural wealth from our world, pay nothing or next to nothing for the privilege and leave a vast legacy of externalities that kill or maim We the People, who must also pick up the bill for the mess.

But here’s the thing, it’s the property industry that needs to glue themselves to the roads, blocking access to offices, chaining themselves to trees and mining equipment. Not these young people.

It’s the property industry that relies almost entirely on our natural resources to do its job.

It’s the property industry that has got just a taste of the damage that a minor disruption to the supply chain can do to its business model. Just one pandemic and a war in Ukraine has caused inflation, which has spilled over to building company crashes, and now threatens the stability of the whole economy thanks to the huge chunk of the GDP that comes from property and development.

No wonder each state that we know well, at least along the east coast of Australia – and let’s face it, probably elsewhere –  tugs its forelock to the property industry and bends and scrapes to do its bidding.

Check out the urgings from the Urban Taskforce on the Four Corners report on flooding the other night: for goodness sake, they said, don’t make a rash decision on planning and halting development on flood plains might be emotionally driven just now when thousands of people have lost their homes in flooding, some for the fourth time. (Nope. Wait until the dust settles and human nature erases our pain and we can all go back there again, in sweet ignorance.)

Property industry, wake up: your future depends on a viable environment, it depends on a viable stable supply chain of natural resources.

Harry Triguboff, if you want to keep your squillions and keep making them, you should be out with the kids gluing your hands to the road, disrupting the innocent folk going about their business. You should be calling up Lang Walker and all the mates and protesting inside the premier’s office (well, you have access; the kids don’t).

You should organise summits with the Urban Taskfoce and the UDIA and the Property Council and demand that their organisers represent your true interests with the government: to protect your resources, your stock in trade, your future income stream.

Tell the state governments what side you are on. They’ll listen to you; they won’t listen to the kids.

In the UK things are so bad 400 alarmed scientists halted their scientific advocacy to mitigate climate change and supported the environmental activists instead.

The Policing Bill criminalised acts of protests, Global Witness said among a bevvy of other environmental supporters, and anyone who cares about genuine free speech and democracy.

This was “an alarmingly authoritarian attack on democracy and civil space at a time when action to avert the climate crisis is urgently needed,” the group said in a statement.

It goes deeper.

Around the globe at least 227 environmental activists were killed in 2020, an average of four people a week – the deadliest year on record for land and environmental activists, Global Witness said. Between 2002 and 2018, 1738 people described as environmental defenders were killed, it said.

This included Brazilian Indigenous advocate Bruno Pereira and British journalist Dom Phillips who were murdered last month, while far-right anti-environmental president in that country Jair Bolsonaro oversaw the destruction of at least 10,000 square miles of the Amazon rainforest.

Brazilian Indigenous advocate Bruno Pereira and British journalist Dom Phillips were killed in June

This might seem a long way from home but remember that the world’s largest rainforest is vital to preventing catastrophic climate change. Until July 2021, the rainforest was a vast carbon sink. Now “the lungs of the world” emits more carbon than it absorbs.

In our own backyard we showed in last week’s editorial that at least on cost climate change is handing us big bills. Even if you’re not directly in its path, you’re still likely to foot the bill.

The response in NSW to people appalled by the floods and before that the fires that will undoubtedly come again was new laws to jail activists for two years and fines of $22,000. Remember the guy who drove a car through protesters was almost patted on the back.

Parliament speaks in big boy patriarchal language; it wants to prevent “economic chaos” and business disruption with these laws. Ummm it needs to go for a drive up to Lismore or Western Sydney or the South Coast.

It’s classic misdirection or gaslighting.

It’s pulling the wool over our eyes.

And you can guess who’s egging them on – the same cabal that gave us entrenched pollution from dependence on fossil fuels.

Peaceful protests are now equated to aggravated assault

Greens founder Bob Brown got it right with his opinion piece recently where he called out the move to equating peaceful action with “aggravated assault”. Imagine if all the greenies who protested against the flooding of the Franklin River in Tasmania were treated that way. Or the Builders Labourers Federation when it fought to protect The Rocks. The government might have won. (And We the People would have lost.)  

Brown’s opinion piece was spurred by the raid of a camp near Sydney by around 100 armed NSW Police who arrested unarmed environmentalists, including Indigenous elder Aunty Caroline Kirk, who lived at the camp.

And by the treatment of climate activists Timothy Neville and Maxim Curmi who were denied daylight and exercise since their arrest during the Colo Valley raids targeting Blockade Australia on 19 June, on the grounds of “concerns about [their] leadership and training role”.

The evidence? That Neville had used a whiteboard.

In further erosion of democratic rights, free the courts refused permission for journalists to enter the court to report on proceedings around climate activists.

Maxim Curmi, a member of Blockade Australia was held without bail for 23 days

Rhetoric wilfully ignores reason

Here’s what the government said. NSW police minister Paul Toole labelled the demonstrators “professional pests” and said he was furious. In an achingly tired cliché from the  Bjelke-Petersen years of blatant oppression, Toole who is also the NSW deputy premier reportedly told climate activists to “go and get a real job”. He may as well have used the other old “dole bludger” fave.

The NSW Premier chimed in to call the activists “bloody idiots” who were causing hard-working people to be late for work in the middle of a cost of living crisis.

Now what do we do with this obfuscation of the consequences of climate change by pointing to a day late for the office?

Hannah Doole, one of the activists arrested in the Colo raid, pointed out an easy comparison.

Just days after protestors were “arrested and pepper sprayed” for blocking roads in the Sydney CBD, “Sydney’s roads were blocked by rising flood waters”.

There is a certain level of cognitive dissonance required to ignore her words.

Doole and her fellow protestors are undeterred: “The stakes are too high: the stability of the whole planet [is at stake],” she said.

Jay Larbalestier, a member another protest group Fireproof, who narrowly escaped jail time said: “I realise that no one wants to be caught up in traffic on their way to work. But these new anti-protest laws and the severe repression of protesters in recent days ought to be of great concern to anyone who cares about the health of our democracy.”

Blockade said through a spokesperson: “This is an appalling, draconian response to peaceful protest. It is symptomatic of NSW Police’s ongoing efforts to extinguish a cornerstone of democracy, the same means by which women’s suffrage, American civil rights, and innumerable victories for human rights were won.”

Brave folk with gentle words, when you think about it. Not at all matched by the overreaching and overreach of the growing authoritarianism and shutting down of democracy when it comes to green groups worldwide. Again look not to the poor, underfunded, under-resourced, badly advised pollies (!), look to the most powerful, richest cabal in history who can afford the world’s most brilliant spin merchants and can place anyone they like in their back pocket.

It gets worse – secret meetings

At the Tasmanian anti-protest laws briefing session in June, an independent Tasmanian MP told the ABC that forestry and mineral resources groups were given an “unusual” opportunity – to hold “confidential” meetings with the Legislative Council ahead of the debate.

The briefings were not required to be publicly declared or formally recorded.

“Democracy is a fragile thing,” Ray Yoshida from the Australian Democracy Movement told The Fifth Estate. “It’s never one new law that will make or break democracy. We’re seeing across the country our right to protest being slowly eroded, and ultimately it’s the health of our democracy that is compromised, because it is only those with great political and corporate power and access to politics that will determine public policy.”

Larissa Baldwin, chief campaigns officer at GetUp told The Fifth Estate: “There’s only so far you can go with excessive policing before the impacts start having significant consequences.”

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  1. Scary article, protesters jailed but…I have little hope the Property industry will wake up: their profits dictate otherwise

    1. oh one of the links were not working, the one on the image was working but pls go to the website if you like. it’s freely available there