OPINION PIECE 3rd August 2018: Our right to assembly and protest is fundamental to the health of our community. Democracy and good governance rests upon a foundation of civil and political rights. Here in our own region our world heritage forests have survived because of past protests actions. They now provide substantial value to the community, the economy and future generations. I am very proud to have been part of those forest protests. So much of what we take for granted today is the result of the work of past protest movements, the end of slavery, fair working conditions, even the right to vote itself.
Governments don’t always get it right. As a public interest lawyer, I have acted for community groups and farmers across NSW. I have taken on both governments and mining giants like Rio Tinto, and won. But there are times when the law doesn’t provide communities with an opportunity to challenge a government decision. This was the case when the Government approved coal seam gas development across our region…. and we all know what happened next.
The NSW Government is dismantling the community’s right to peaceful assembly. It started with the 2016 anti-protests laws that enacted excessive penalties for mining protests. Recently, a regulation, was enacted to allow any police officer or other authorised official to disperse any assembly on public land anywhere in NSW including parks, beaches, forests or roadsides and people who disobey can be fined up to $1100.
I am a farmer, a mother and a grandmother, and i care deeply about this region, its communities and its natural environment. I have committed so much of my life working for these things and I am now running for parliament because I know i have my heart in the right place as well as the specialist knowledge to represent the region as a local member and as a legislator in parliament. I know the difference between good laws and bad laws, and we need to really improve the way government is run in this state, for the benefit of our region and for all future generations.