Protests – is peaceful sufficient?

Bob brown miranda devine40 “green activists” entered and brought work to a halt at Ta Anns veneer mill in Smithton (Tas) today. These Green activists (Still Wild Still Threatened) cannot even be trusted to act in their own best interests – it is petulant and infantile to be protesting now, while the “Tasmanian forestry peace process” is actually draft legislation in the Upper House, having passed the Lower.

What makes this protest contemptible is the explanation for it, activist Miranda Gibson (449 day tree sitter) says the protesters are worried about Ta Ann’s use of Malaysian timber. “In Sarawak, Ta Ann are involved in a timber industry that’s fraught with corruption”. “There are human rights abuses related with the displacement of indigenous people out of their homelands for logging on those lands.” “There’s also large-scale destruction of areas that are orangutan habitat and these operations are completely unacceptable.”

Christine Milne’s comment “I think they have a right to peaceful protest” “It is very clear that people are making a strong point about Tasmania’s brand and our engagement with a company such as Ta Ann with such a poor human rights record in Sarawak”. “That will come back to reflect on Tasmania in the longer term.”

What a complete load of rubbish – protesting in Tasmania about Malaysian operations.

It seems difficult to argue with a “right to peaceful protest”, however let me try to do just that. There is a right to operate a lawful business, and a right to a job, and a right as a community to have your legal and governance processes respected, a right to… …you get the idea.

So is “peaceful” the only qualification for a legally protected protest? Let me say emphatically no, “peaceful” is a requirement, but it is not by itself sufficient. To be a legally protected right it should be lawful -surely? Trespass, break and enter, spring to mind. I think to be “community licenced” (a phrase Green groups like to abuse) it should also be legal, proportionate, rational, and reasonable.

These “peaceful protests” are not lawful. I would argue nor are they proportionate, rational, or reasonable.

I think whatever right of protest is (and it is more qualified the Milne or Gibson imply), it is a right that exists alongside many others. And it is not a right which simply over writes all others.

Still Wild Still Threatened are ridiculous which they are within their rights to be. Crippling Ta Anns Tasmanian business which is one of the best managed forestry industries globally, in a gesture about poorly managed Malaysian forestry defies any logic.

However Christine Milne lets herself and her party down badly, as well as the majority of Tasmanians – not for the first time. Tasmanian’s want the right to an economic future – being sacrificed to make a Malaysian point seems excessively unfair. I hope we get some good laws that allow proportionate, lawful protest but shut out groups like Still Wild Still Threatened.

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