High-profile conservationist Bob Brown was arrested in Tasmania yesterday for trespassing on an active logging site. Protestors, apparently from the Bob Brown Foundation, halted logging in Tasmania’s North Eastern Tiers. Three people locked themselves onto a log loader. Source: Timberbiz
The protestors were campaigning over what they claim is the destruction of Swift Parrot habitat.
The foundation may become the first target of the Federal Government’s proposed toughening of legislation that will strip activist organisations of their charity status if they engage in illegal activities.
“Charities hold a special place in the minds of Australians, and they do vital work across our community. As such, they also receive special status,” Assistant Minister for Finance, Charities and Electoral Matters Zed Seselja said.
Under current rules, charities are prohibited from engaging in conduct that may be dealt with either as an indictable offence under Australian law, or by way of a civil penalty of 60 penalty units. However, many other unlawful activities are not covered.
“The Morrison Government is taking the very reasonable step to strengthen the existing regulation.”
Under the new regulations, offences including trespass, unlawful entry, malicious damage or vandalism, or threatening violence will be added.
A video posted to Youtube yesterday shows a Tasmania police officer arresting Dr Brown at a protest site.
Matt Wood, an authorised officer from Sustainable Timber Tasmania (out of shot on the YouTube video) informs the protestors that in his opinion the “effective and efficient performance and functions” of STT was being prevented.
“This is because your presence here on permanent production timber zone land is preventing execution of the Forests Practices Plan and the undertaking of safe forest operations,” he says.
“I am requesting that you immediately leave all forest production zone land. If you chose not to comply with my request, you will be committing an offence.”
Dr Brown then begins to argue the point with Mr Wood.
“I just want to warn you that to be destructive…” Dr Brown says, before being stopped by the police officer.
The police officer explains he did not intend to get into the technical sides of any issue and informs Dr Brown he was liable to be arrested for trespassing if he did not leave.
“Well, you say so,” Dr Brown tells the officer.
He tells the officer that “you clearly understand that you haven’t yet told me where this land lies”.
The police officer tells Dr Brown that was a matter for the magistrates’ court.
“Are you willing to leave the permanent timber production zone land?” the officer asks.
Dr Brown then indicates to the officer he was not going to leave unless he was satisfied one of the protestors was safely looked after.
She was later identified as being Harriet O’Shea, 16, one of three Australian Climate Strike co-initiators.
It was at that point Brown was arrested and he is shown calmly leaving the scene with the officer.
“You’re under arrest old mate,” the officer is heard saying.
Tasmanian Greens Senator Peter Whish-Wilson and Tasmanian Greens leader Cassy O’Connor were also reported to have been at the protest and moved on by police.
Brown, Lucy Landon Lane and Alexandra Chernov were all charged with trespassing, with O’Shea given a warning, before all four were released later on Tuesday afternoon.
Forest & Wood Communities Australia chairman Steve Dobbyns said it was about time real action was taken to curb the illegal and damaging attacks on lawful timber harvesting.
“FWCA does not oppose freedom of speech or the right to protest, but for too long organisations such as the Bob Brown Foundation have enjoyed charity status while routinely putting lives in danger, destroying law-abiding workers’ livelihoods and causing mental anguish for timber families,” he said.
“It’s galling for people who work in the timber industry to see these activist organisations continue to effectively be funded by the government through their charity status.
“Especially galling is the flaccid response to the blockades, trespassing, vandalism and work health and safety breaches carried out by charity-funded eco-terrorists, particularly in the timber sector.
“A strengthening of the legislation is long overdue and very welcome.”
Mr Dobbyns said one of the worst offenders was the Bob Brown Foundation, which showed in its last financial report that it had managed to raise $1.4 million by exploiting its charity status.
“The BBF has a long history of illegal protest activity, which is in breach of the current charity laws and the question needs to be asked why it has not already been stripped of charity status,” Mr Dobbyns said.
“And it is not only the BBF in Tasmania. They have shown similar organisations in other timber production states how easy it is to create a charities-subsidised business model to fund their illegal protest activities.
“They make a mockery of the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission while destroying the livelihoods of regional Australians and misleading the public about sustainable, renewable, world-certified timber harvesting.”
Resources Minister Guy Barnett said it was “extremely disappointing” that protesters from the Bob Brown Foundation were once again disrupting the rights of Tasmanians to earn a lawful living.
“These dangerous protest actions cost Sustainable Timber Tasmania, private contractors and individual workers thousands of dollars every day and require police to redirect resources from important community safety activity to remove people from machinery and gates,” he said.
“During the greatest health and economic crisis in a generation, it is simply astounding – but sadly not surprising- that the Bob Brown Foundation is actively trying to destroy Tasmanian jobs.
“And if the hypocrisy wasn’t bad enough, these protests are taking place on Permanent Timber Production Zone land specifically set aside by both Houses of State Parliament,” Mr Barnett said.
“We stand by Tasmanian workers and businesses, which is why we are committed to protecting the rights of law-abiding Tasmanian workers from extremist protesters through our Workplace Protection laws, despite opposition from Labor and the Greens.”
Tasmanian Forest Products Association CEO Nick Steel said the causes of decline in swift parrot populations were complex and varied.
“As an industry we are progressive and always looking to improve,” he said.
“That’s why we support things like the Public Authority Management Agreement between DPIPWE and STT for the protection and management of swift parrot habitat on Permanent Timber Production Zone Land in the Southern Forests.
“The PAMA provides certainty for the timber industry and benefits the critically endangered Swift Parrot, which will be further protected with almost 10,000 hectares of potential nesting habitat to be excluded from wood production under the agreement.”
Watch the YouTube clip of Dr Brown’s arrest here: