Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced on Tuesday night that her Labor government would fast-track laws aimed at sending Extinction Rebellion protestors to jail.
“Most people do the right thing,” she told The Courier Mail. “It’s just this group who need to be brought under control.”
Extinction Rebellion is a protest movement that has sharply risen in popularity across the globe in 2019. This past week saw a worldwide week of protests organised by the group.
On Tuesday, Queensland Police were forced to negotiate with a climate change activist who had suspended himself in a hammock below Brisbane’s Story Bridge. The group also staged a mass protest to disrupt Melbourne’s CBD last month and is also planning a nude march for later this week.
Deliberately obstructionist (kind of the point of protest), Extinction Rebellion has provided plenty of content for Australia’s mainstream media as well as its conservative government. Palaszczuk succumbing to pressure to come down hard on the group will be seen as a win by conservative operatives within Australia’s right.
Initially introduced two months ago, the laws would have taken months to be enacted if they were not fast tracked and likely wouldn’t have been made a reality in 2019.
Police Minister Ryan reportedly wrote to Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee to fast-track the laws, which would see protestors face as many as two years jail if they use “dangerous devices” like drums with concrete and locks that could be used on bridges and roads.
Queensland Police will also have increased powers to search people they suspect are carrying dangerous objects.
“I say to protestors… ‘what if it was your mother or grandmother that was held up from getting to hospital because of your actions, blocking streets,?” said Palaszczuk.
Just last week, the Queensland premier was dragged over the coals by radio shock jock Ray Hadley and home affairs minister Peter Dutton. Both influential conservatives called on Palaszczuk to introduce harsher punishment for protestors.
“It’s time to get these laws passed,” she said. “We will bypass the normal submissions period and get them promulgated within days.”