Activists or outlaws: Industry tells courts to get tough but protestors dig in

The mining industry has called for the courts to crack down on activists after Adani’s subsidiary released damaging video last week of activist behaviour near the mine site.

Dec 20, 2021, updated Dec 20, 2021
Activist Kyle Magee shovelling coal from an Adani train (courtesy Frontline Action on Coal)

Activist Kyle Magee shovelling coal from an Adani train (courtesy Frontline Action on Coal)

The ongoing abuse, harassment and intimidation of female and male employees by activists trespassing on or around mine sites must be taken more seriously by the courts, QRC chief executive Ian Macfarlane said.

Macfarlane said courts need to impose appropriate penalties that reflect the seriousness of the offences being committed by a small group of activists, such as locking onto rail lines and physically and verbally intimidating resources workers.

“In some cases, women are being subjected to disgraceful sexual slurs, which are completely unacceptable and should not be tolerated in any workplace,” he said.

But the court’s response has, in some cases, been severe.

Prominent activist Ben Pennings is facing potentially significant court costs relating to the case brought against him by Adani.  Kyle Magee was recently denied bail by the Bowen Magistrates Court and remanded in custody after he was arrested yesterday when he stopped Adani’s coal train for over 20 hours and shoveled coal out of a car.

He was refused bail after being charged with fraud (Criminal Code 408C) and has been remanded until his next court date on February 8. He also spent a week on remand earlier in the year and on the Frontline Action On Coal website, Magee said his conscience demanded he stand up for the climate.

“Climate action of the kind we are calling for is completely reasonable and should not be controversial in any way. Non-violent direct action is a necessity when other political processes have failed us,” he said.

A Blockade Australia activist in NSW was given a 12-month sentence for blockading trains in the Hunter region.

Macfarlane said people were entitled to protest lawfully but they were not entitled to break the law and threaten the health and wellbeing and jobs of our workers, which has been going on for far too long.

“The penalties being imposed are lenient and are not acting as a deterrent.

“In some cases, activists are not even having a conviction recorded against them, so there are no consequences for verbally and physically harassing our employees.”

Frontline Action on Coal spokesperson Andy Paine said it was an indictment of the legal system that it protects and enables those who wilfully destroy the climate for their profits, but locks up those who try to defend our planet.

“Civil disobedience actions like this are always done in full knowledge of the risks and consequences, and it is testimony to Kyle’s courage and dedication that he took the action anyway. But we should still hold to account legal processes when they are unjust or used incorrectly,” he said.

“That includes charging Kyle with the serious charge of fraud despite the fact he was completely open in taking the action that he did, and overriding his presumption for bail even though he is not a flight risk or a danger to the community.”

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