Victorian Government attacks right to peaceful protest

After the highly successful peaceful community protest at the Hazelwood coal fired power station last month, Victorian Minister for Energy and Resources, Peter Batchelor, has signalled that he intends to come down hard on the communities right to protest at power infrastructure such as Hazelwood.

Friends of the Earth Climate Campaigner Louise Morris said  “Last month we saw over 500 community members take action, calling for a transition to renewable energy. This included 22 people who managed to climb the many fences around the Hazelwood plant to put a Community Decommission Order on the station, knowing they would face arrest through such a peaceful undertaking. The police numbers and resources employed was far beyond what was required. Protest organisers had liaised closely with Victoria Police about expected numbers at the protest, but clearly the state government and owners of the power plant decided to use a massive force of police and private security.

"We are now seeing the Victorian ALP Government continue it’s heavy handed approach to dealing with the many people in our community who care enough to take public action about climate change. Threatening peaceful community campaigners who may use protest tactics that put them at the chance of a planned, considered, and careful arrest is over the top, and completely inappropriate in a democracy” said Ms Morris.

“Premier Brumby and Minister Batchelor have been lobbied for years on climate change, with petitions, letters, personal visits and rallies, and yet we have only seen them continue to support the coal industry, while large scale solar power enterprises like the Solar Systems plant in Abbortsford go under. It is for these reasons people are increasingly prepared to take actions of the type we saw at the Hazelwood community protest on September 13, 2009. Threatening draconian financial penalties or jail terms is not the way to engage with a community campaign on climate change.”

“Clearly we will be talking with legal professionals to see what this could mean for our ability to hold peaceful community protests at the many polluting coal fired power stations in our state,” concluded Louise Morris.

Further comment: Louise Morris 0408 906 310