Forest protest ban an ‘abuse of the law’
THE Bob Brown Foundation is celebrating a legal victory meaning it can continue protesting against logging in Tasmania's old-growth forests.
Last week, WorkSafe banned the foundation from forest protest activity throughout the state until the environmental group was able to satisfy the regulator it was managing safety risks.
The prohibition notice from WorkSafe said failure to abide by the notice could result in fines of up to $500,000, claiming the foundation's protests were putting people at risk of death or serious injury.
But yesterday, the Hobart Magistrates Court heard both parties had agreed the prohibition notice should be set aside, meaning the foundation would no longer need to proceed by way of appeal.
Two days prior, the veteran environmentalist personally lodged the appeal at court, alongside his lawyer Roland Browne, after describing the prohibition notice as an act that would do "President Putin's Moscow proud".
Mr Browne said the prohibition notice ran contrary to the Australian Constitution and that the regulator didn't have the power to issue a broad-ranging edict that effectively meant no one could stage forest protests in Tasmania.
Tasmanian Greens Leader Cassy O'Connor said while the legal win was "very welcome news", it was a "damning indictment" on the State Government that citizens were forced to use the court system to defend their democratic rights.
She also criticised WorkSafe for being prepared to "misuse their power and the law", questioning the state government's "interference in the work of what should be impartial agencies".
Mr Brown slammed the ban as a "Gutwein own goal".
"We did not cave in to it because we knew it was an abuse of Tasmanian law," he said.
"Surely the Premier should have known it was an abuse of the law too. It appears he put politics before the law.
"Tasmanians deserve the Premier's commitment to never again go down this ill-judged road of bending the law selectively against environmentalists."
A Government spokesman said no organisation was above the law:
"The Government strongly supports free speech and the right to protest, but threats, trespassing and endangering workers is completely unacceptable.
"All protest action should be conducted lawfully and without jeopardising worker safety."