Today, human rights, environment and legal advocates published an open letter calling for Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews to immediately withdraw a proposed law which would punish peaceful protesters.
The Sustainable Forests Timber Amendment (Timber Harvesting Safety Zones) Bill 2022, introduced by the Victorian government last month, would impose harsh and disproportionate penalties against concerned citizens who act to prevent native forest logging in Victoria with fines of up to $21,000 or 12 months in jail.
The open letter to Mr Andrews, Workplace Safety Minister Ingrid Stitt and Agriculture Minister Mary-Anne Thomas, raises deep concerns that the unjustified proposed penalties will dramatically infringe on the rights of all Victorians to peacefully protest.
Environmental Justice Australia Senior Specialist Lawyer, Ellen Maybery said:
“The proposed law is unnecessary, undemocratic and unjustified,”
“The Victorian government’s own logger, VicForests, is embroiled in nine court cases brought by the community for illegally logging our forests, but rather than moving promptly to ensure loggers act within the law, the Andrews government is trying to vilify concerned citizens while vital ecosystems collapse before our eyes.
“Criminalising protest like this is a politically motivated crackdown on legitimate political expression.”
Human Rights Law Centre’s Acting Legal Director, Alice Drury said:
“This draft law infringes on Victorians’ right to protest. The Andrews government is sacrificing our democratic freedoms to protect commercial profits.”
“This draft law marks the continuation of an alarming Australia-wide trend. In recent months we have seen undemocratic infringements on the right to protest enacted in New South Wales. A similar law is currently before parliament in Tasmania. Victoria must not follow this path. The right to protest is a core democratic value that must be protected.”
Victorian Forest Alliance spokesperson, Chris Schuringa said:
“Peaceful protests are critical where the government has breached environment laws and allow time for legal action to be taken.”
“Premier Andrews knows there is overwhelming public support for protecting native forests and their essential role in mitigating the devastating effects of climate change. Instead of taking urgent action to bring forward the delayed transition out of logging, they’re introducing these draconian laws to demonise concerned citizens taking peaceful action to protect the forests.
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