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Continuing a disturbing trend of state governments in Australia pushing anti-protest legislation into law; the Daniel Andrews-led Labor government has introduced legislation to target anti-forestry protesters.

Supported by both the government and the opposition, the legislation today passed the Legislative Council and into law. People attempting to prevent native forest logging in Victoria will face fines of up to $21,000 or 12 months in jail.

This is similar to legislation recently passed in New South Wales, which sees people obstructing roadways facing up to 2 years in jail and $22,000 fines. Tasmania also recently introduced similar anti-protest laws.

The main thing these laws all have in common is that they’re geared towards targeting climate and environment protesters; and have been introduced in response to protest groups successfully halting economic activity – whether it be logging, mining or otherwise – that are driving the climate crisis.

A small group of activists, as debate on the legislation was taking place, took their opposition to the front steps of the Victorian Parliament. They were joined by Victorian Greens MPs Sam Hibbins and Tim Read.

ANTI PROTEST LAWS: Victorian Greens MP Sam Hibbins joins the protest against the Andrews Government's anti-forestry protest laws.

Victorian Greens MP Sam Hibbins joins the protest against the Andrews Government’s anti-forestry protest laws.

Addressing the rally, Hibbins labelled the legislation as “an absolute disgrace”.

“This government, and the opposition knows that there are two things standing in the way of their plans to completely destroy our forests: one, is citizens defending our forests in the court, using our already very weak environmental laws.”

Destruction is so bad, it has already been found illegal, under these weak laws.

 

— Sam Hibbins, Victorian Greens MP for Prahran

“The second thing that they know is standing in the way is citizens defending our forests on the ground.”

Several candidates from the Victorian Socialists also joined the rally.

Drawing parallels between environmental campaigns and other social movements; Victorian Socialists candidate for the Northern Metropolitan region, Jerome Small, said:

“What happens today to forest protesters will happen tomorrow to union picket lines.”

“[Vested interests] are pretty hard for a government like our state Labor government to take on.”

“It’s a whole lot easier for them to target  the people waging campaigns of civil disobedience in defence of people, in defence of country [and] in defence of the planet.”

Greg [surname withheld] who is active with Blockade Australia described “150 police descending” on a property he and other activists were staying at as “one of the more traumatic experiences” of his life.

“We had things like police threatening to arrest people, police in front of a 14 year old girl deciding that’s an OK place to urinate […] all sorts of horrible things and just not recognising our humanity.”

Matt Hrkac is an award-winning photographer and photojournalist based in Geelong and works across Melbourne and throughout Victoria, covering predominantly the social justice beat.

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