January 24, 2016
By: Calla Walhquist
Bob Brown has been arrested at a forestry protest in Tasmania, making him the third person charged under Tasmania’s tough new anti-protest laws.
The former Australian Greens leader and founder of the party was arrested at an area of state forest marked for logging at Lapoinya in north-west Tasmania on Monday. The arrest was announced on his Twitter account.
Brown was processed at Burnie police station and released.
The area is designated forestry land and has been selectively logged before but last year Forestry Tasmania announced a plan to clear-fell 49 hectares.
Work was to begin this month but has been dogged by protests organised by the local community, who say the forest is home to the endangered Tasmanian giant freshwater lobster and a disease-free population of Tasmanian Devils.
Tasmania’s Workplaces (Protection from Protesters) Act 2014, introduced as part of pro-forestry legislation by the Hodgman government, has been criticised by the UN as having a “chilling effect” on the freedom of expression and opinion.
“I didn’t go with the intention of being arrested, but when I saw the destruction, I had to take a stand,” Brown said after his release.
He was charged with failing to comply with a direction to leave a business access area, and has been banned from going back to the Lapoinya logging area under the terms of his bail conditions.
Brown said the area, including a bridle trial, was used by nature lovers before loggers moved in.
“It’s now a bulldozed highway, a logging road with tree ferns, trees and shrubbery flattened, and bare earth. And they’re getting ready to log the forest next door.”
The former senator has urged federal environment minister Greg Hunt to protect Lapoinya’s rare and endangered wildlife. Brown was arrested just before midday after police arrived at the protest and asked him to leave. He refused.
The protest in Lapoinya began last week as Forestry Tasmania prepared to start logging the area’s regrowth forest.
Retired anesthetist John Henshaw, 66, and registered nurse Jessica Hoyt, 35, were arrested on Monday and Tuesday last week when nine people walked into the logging area in an effort to get Forestry Tasmania workers to stop until the police arrived.
The arrests drew criticism from both the Greens and the Labor party because they affected so-called “mum and dad” protesters, which the forestry minister, Paul Harriss, had said would not be the targeted group.
Henshaw and Hoyt face fines of $10,000.
Steven Chaffer from the Bob Brown Foundation said Brown’s arrest reflected the “draconian” laws.
But Harriss accused Brown of being a hypocrite, saying in a statement the former senator “didn’t raise even a squeak” about Lapoinya when he approved the area’s logging project while he was leader of the Greens.
The state government supported freedom of speech but “no protester is entitled to interfere with the right of other Tasmanians to earn a living”, Harriss said...
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