Greiner's law and human rights


Greiner's law and human rights

The Greiner government's anti-union Industrial Relations Act was passed by the NSW upper house on October 30, paving the way for a giant step backwards not only in industrial relations, but also in the sphere of democratic and human rights.

In an October 15 letter to right-wing independent Fred Nile, whose support was essential to pass the bill, nine of Australia's largest environmental organisations pointed out that the legislation goes well beyond the industrial arena to threaten the right to protest.

The act's sections 256-269 are taken directly from sections 45D and E of the federal Trade Practices Act, which violates United Nations conventions on the right to organise and associate.

The organisations signing the letter were Greenpeace, the Wilderness Society, the Australian Conservation Foundation, the NSW National Parks Association, the NSW Nature Conservation Council, the Total Environment Centre, the National Trust, the North East Forest Alliance and the North Coast Environment Centre.

The groups point out that secondary boycott provisions in the Greiner act "could severely restrict the rights and abilities of our organisations to campaign effectively to protect our environment". The provisions ban solidarity strikes, picketing, blockading and potentially even consumer boycotts.

A timber company has threatened 45D action against North East Forest Alliance activists John Corkill and Dailan Pugh as a result of the recent successful blockade of Chaelundi forest. The blockade was essential to prevent the destruction of the forest while NEFA pursued legal action, which eventually vindicated those opposing Forestry Commission and private interests' logging and roading activities.

Earlier, in an action which could have had huge implications for the right to protest anywhere and on any issue in this country, BHP initiated and then withdrew 45D legal action against Greenpeace over its protests against seismic testing off the Victorian coast.

The Greiner act, like its federal counterpart, could be used to ban strikes and bans against imported rainforest timber, green bans in the construction industry or union action in support of just about any environmental issue. The act prescribes penalties of up to $100,000 for organisations or $10,000 for individuals.

Not only for the sake of workers struggling to defend their rights, living standards and working conditions, but for our very right to protest and organise, this infamous law must be fought and defeated. Above all, Labor Party, independent and any other political aspirants wanting the support of environmental activists and trade unionists must be required to give unbreakable guarantees that they will actively pursue the repeal of this law. The same should apply to the federal sections 45D and E, on which the Democrats are understood to be moving hesitantly towards support for repeal.