20 years in jail
This isn’t just a dramatic headline. We wish it was. No, in actual fact it is referring to penalties that citizens could be faced with for nonviolent actions of peaceful protest, under new proposed changes to the Espionage Act which would declare a wide range of peaceful activities as sabotage.
For those following this debate at a distance there was a suite of three bills introduced in recent months, ostensibly to limit foreign interference in our democratic system. They are:
Instead it has been a trojan horse of wildly over the top, and sloppy legislation that had civil society up in arms about the impacts.
Large non-government organisations have focused much of their energy on the Electoral Amendment Act and Foreign Interference Bill. The third bill, the Espionate and Foreign Influence legislation which had a report on it tabled last week, is the one that has been left out of the mix on most of the public debate.
And it is a horror show.
You can read about it in detail here, and there is a very detailed overview here. The issue is that the Labor party are terrified of being seen to be weak on national security – which now means a whole bunch of new stuff.
The short version…
The devil is in the detail. The re-defining of some terms has massive ramifications for peaceful protest, particularly in an era of corporate dominance in the political realm.
Sabotage has been taken to mean ….
National security does not currently have a clear definition in current legislation but for the purpose…
So does that mean, if some peaceful religious leaders block a road in protest to stop the Adani coal mine, a foreign owned company – that instead of a simple obstruction of traffic charge – which they would cop on the chin as a reasonable consequence for an act of principle… that they could be charged with sabotage and risk a jail sentence of 15 years to life?
What about the peace activists who swam onto Swan Island naval barracks in an act of nonviolent resistance to Australia’s involvment in the ongoing war “on” (of) terror. Its commonwealth land.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
Sign this petition. They need to know there is wide ranging dissent on this bill. As other organisations are focused on the other legislation, we are specifically focused on this one.
And SHARE it. If you are involved in grassroots activism, talk to your friends about this. Most people have no idea what is about to hit us!
Get on the phone – tell your MP to pull the bill. People are using the by-elections as an excuse to push this legislation through quickly that will do permanent damage to our democracy and ability ato advocate for a safe climate, and for social justice.