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Friday analysis: Greens senator willing to break the law to protest and lose her position

Lidia Thorpe

So, Victorian Greens Senator Lidia Thorpe says she is willing to risk losing her parliamentary position to continue protesting native logging.

She is, apparently, prepared to break the law to make her point. Source: Timberbiz

The laws she is prepared to break are contained in a Bill before State Parliament in Victoria which would make protestors who illegally enter coupes in Victoria and dangerously interfere with workers or their machinery subject to stronger penalties including maximum fines of more than $21,000 or 12-months imprisonment.

The Bill also seeks to make it illegal to carry PVC and metal pipes, which can be used in dangerous protest activities, if used to hinder or obstruct timber harvesting operations.

But should the good Senator make good on her threat, or promise, depending on which way it is read, then her career as a senator may indeed be over.

The Australian Constitution (section 44) says a person awaiting sentence for a crime punishable by a year or more in prison is ineligible to enter federal parliament.

Senator Thorpe is a Djab Wurrung, Gunnai Gunditjmara woman, with a history of protesting against logging on her traditional land, which mainly lies in eastern Victoria.

She told the ABC she would continue to protest even if the amended laws were passed.

“I will challenge any fine like I have in the past,” she said.

Now, most people would think that, generally speaking, our politicians are there to make the laws, not actively break them.

To set an example for the rest of us.

Not only should they obey the law, but they should also be encouraging others to do the same.

It’s a long bow, but shouldn’t the threat of intending to break the law be enough to preclude an MP or senator from sitting?

It would probably be a bit hard to get that one to stand up in court, but…

But Senator Thorpe did make one interesting point.

She told the ABC the proposed amendments were a political stunt by the government ahead of the Victorian state election in November.

There may be some merit in that.

But once passed, if the laws are to be tested then that is ultimately up to the highest courts in the land.

It’s not up to the good senator.