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SA Parliament introduces harsh laws against protest

Written by: Nick G. on 18 May 2023


South Australia is the latest state to massively ramp up penalties for protests that cause public disruption. 

The state that regularly closes CBD roads in the east of the city for a fortnight for the fossil fuel extravaganza Adelaide 500 race, will join NSW, Victoria, and Queensland in attacking people who cause temporary inconvenience in order to make their protest more effective.

The changes to the law were introduced into State parliament by the Liberal Opposition, but quickly endorsed and applauded by the Labor government.
If passed by the Legislative Council, where the Greens will try and oppose it, the laws will increase the fines for obstruction from $750 to $50,000 or three month in jail.

That’s the sort of increase that the Reserve Bank could well say was inflationary!

The proposed changes to the law were a knee-jerk reaction to a member of Extinction Rebellion (ER) lowering herself in abseiling gear from the Morphett Street Bridge near the venue of the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA) conference being held at the Adelaide Convention Centre.

Ironically, it was the same day as the latest warning from scientists in the World Meteorological Organisation that the word is on track to surpass the 1.5 degrees tipping point for climate disaster. 

Their report said there will be a 66 per cent likelihood that between 2023 and 2027 the annual average near-surface global temperature will be more than 1.5C above pre-industrial levels for at least one year. Global temperatures are set to break records in the next five years, they said, with a 98 per cent chance one will be the warmest ever recorded. 

Despite this warning, SA minister Energy and Mining, Tom Koutsantonis told the Conference on Wednesday: “We are thankful you are here. We are happy to a be recipient of APPEA’s largesse in the form of coming here more often. The South Australian government is at your disposal, we are here to help and we are here to offer you a pathway to the future.”

Extinction Rebellion’s protests against the APPEA Conference began on Sunday when about 60 people, in two shifts, lined the road opposite the exit from the airport to “welcome” APPEA delegates. I was one of them and can testify to the appreciative waves, thumbs up, and beeping of car horns from the traffic passing by. 

The ER people were joined by other groups including the anti-AUKUS Nonuclearsubssa, the Wilderness Society and the Port Adelaide Resident's Environment Protection Group.

This was repeated, by a smaller group, on Monday morning.

Also on Monday morning, a group of ER activists entered the foyer of the South Australian Drill Core Reference Library at Tonsley, with plans to protest the gas and oil industry.

Two protesters were arrested for entering and then refusing to leave the building, including Violet Coco who had been jailed for disrupting traffic in Sydney last year. When asked for her name, Violet replied “Gina Rinehart”. Her presence was a great display of a refusal to be cowed by the sort of laws now being resorted to by the two main parties in SA.

On Wednesday morning, Nonuclearsubssa organised a “Don’t dice with nuclear war” protest outside the Adelaide Casino where the American Chamber of Commerce was hosting a panel with Federal Defence Minister Richard Marles and former Liberal Defence Minister and military industry consultant Christopher Pyne as speakers. The anti-AUKUS group was joined by ER, Wage Peace – Disrupt War, and Independent and Peaceful Australia Network (IPAN). Protesters entered the venue and held a banner reading “Climate collapse is the only security threat” in front of the speakers’ platform before being dragged away.

Thursday’s protest against the APPEA Conference saw one lane of traffic closed while the firies removed abseiling 69-year-old Meme Thorne. It also saw white paint thrown over the ground floor windows of fossil fuel giant SANTOS’s Adelaide premises, and a rally outside Parliament House.

No matter what the state throws at us, we won’t be stopped.

Our cause is just.



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