THINGS descended on WA’s parliament house en masse Tuesday February 23 to protest new ”anti-protest” laws.
The proposed laws make it an offence to suspiciously carry a “thing” that could be used to impede lawful activity, unless you have a good excuse. It’s intended to stop protestors carrying “things” like chains or locks to logging sites and then using them to stop work from going ahead.
But the vague wording has everyone from Labor and the Greens to farmers and the United Nations concerned about how broadly it could be applied.
There were disputes about the numbers present at the protest, with corporate media placing it in the low hundreds but activists reckoning north of a thousand.
Voice photographer Matthew Dwyer was there and saw “things” as diverse as a stuffed dragon and whacky hats to umbrellas and a pony plushy.
For two protestors he spoke to—disability activist Rayna Lamb and vice-president of people with disabilities Australia Samantha Connor—their “things” were their wheelchairs.
WA opposition leader Mark McGowan fronted the rally to reiterate that Labor would strike down the laws if he’s elected next year — assuming they get through the upper house.
WA attorney-general Michael Mischin denies the laws are “anti-protest”, saying they’ll simply prevent people locking themselves to vehicles and machinery to interfere “with the owner’s lawful activity”. The forestry industry reckons they’re important for safety reasons.
The Ed says: We remember when a former Labor state government introduced “move-on” powers for police, claiming they’d be used judiciously. These days those powers are exercised at the drop of a hat. If the power is given, it will be taken.
• WA Labor leader Mark McGowan
by DAVID BELL