The Queensland government sought the input of the mining lobby on new laws, introduced into state parliament, designed to stop acts of civil disobedience by protesters using “dangerous attachment devices”.
The controversial legislation introduced on Thursday proposes new penalties for activists who block transport infrastructure or business access and use locking devices to prevent their removal. Police will be given new powers to search people and vehicles suspected of carrying such devices.
In recent months, climate change activists have ramped up efforts to disrupt the coalmining sector, including by blocking machinery and freight routes. There is a dedicated campaign to disrupt the activities of businesses bidding for contracts with the Adani Carmichael project.
In explanatory notes to the new laws, the government says the peak mining lobby group, the Queensland Resources Council, was consulted on the legislation, alongside civil liberties groups and others.
The Queensland Greens MP Michael Berkman said he was “barely surprised” the government sought the mining sector’s input.
“It just makes it crystal clear that this legislation is really about protecting Labor’s fossil fuel donors and obscuring their climate hypocrisy,” he said.
The laws were announced last month largely in response to climate protests that had blocked commuter roads in Brisbane. The government has now softened much of its language initially used to justify the laws, including branding activists as “extremists” and making unsubstantiated claims about their intentions.
The state premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, said last month that climate activists were using “sinister tactics” and devices laced with booby traps that were “designed to harm”.
Police have never made any such accusation against a protester, and the government has not supplied evidence to support such claims.
In tabling the draft legislation on Thursday, the police minister, Mark Ryan, acknowledged the intent of such “locking” devices was to prevent or delay the removal of protesters.
“Some people have also made use of bespoke items that have been constructed or designed to defeat attempts to remove them,” Ryan said.
He told parliament that “it has been reported some people have claimed” to have placed glass or aerosol canisters inside devices.
The only reports of such claims were based on the premier’s initial speech to parliament in August.
“These types of [dangerous attachment devices] represent a real risk of injury or death to a person, emergency service workers and the public as the incorrect disassembly or removal of these devices may lead to serious injuries, not only for the person attached to the device but anyone in the vicinity,” Ryan told parliament.
The laws outline new fines and potential jail terms for people who use locking devices during protests – up to $6,500 or two years in prison for people who block transport infrastructure, and $2,600 and one year in prison for those who block business access.
Berkman said the laws were unfounded, unnecessary and dangerously anti-democratic.
“Minister Ryan was clearly feeding us lies recently when he said that protesters were ‘booby-trapping’ devices.
“The actions supposedly targeted by this bill are already illegal, this is obviously just about politics and vilifying peaceful protesters.”
In explanatory notes, tabled alongside the new bill, the government outlined that it believed public order and safety outweighed the right to peaceful assembly.
“The introduction of new offences … to prohibit the use of a dangerous attachment device may impact on those persons who wish to use these devices when exercising their right to peacefully assemble.
“However, this right has to be balanced against considerations about public order and safety and the rights and freedoms of others affected by the assembly. These dangerous attachment devices may cause a real risk of injury or death to a person or persons using the device, emergency service workers and the public when attempts are made to disassemble these devices.”