By Graham Matthews
On October 5, 250 people marched along the Cardwell foreshore to protest the destruction caused by the Port Hinchinbrook development in north Queensland. At a similar protest on September 14, protesters were assaulted by employees of Keith Williams' Cardwell Developments.
"The aim of the latest rally was to prove that the protesters did have the right to be there, that we did have the right to peacefully express our views about protecting the environment in that region, and that we have a right to be on public space to do it", Margaret Moorehouse, convener of Friends of Hinchinbrook, told Green Left Weekly.
The rally was without incident. Support for the protests has grown in the region after the assaults.
"In the past, people looked at the protests and said, 'Well, that's the greenies'. What happened on September 14 changed the issue to one of civil rights and democracy. People are beginning to realise that this isn't an issue that applies only to conservation", Moorehouse said.
"The way that governments have unpicked the welfare system is the same way that they've unpicked the environment protection departments and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority."
Prior to the October 5 demonstration the developer made public a lease from the Queensland government for private use of the foreshore. "This is the first time since Joh Bjelke-Petersen that such a lease has been granted", Moorehouse said.
While the lease runs for three months, there is little to stop the government extending it. The lease had not been gazetted before the September 14 demonstration and so cannot legally justify developer's employees' attack. The Queensland Criminal Justice Commission is investigating a complaint brought by Friends of Hinchinbrook against police inaction on September 14.
New scientific studies may further reveal the uniqueness of the Hinchinbrook area, Moorehouse told Green Left Weekly. "It may be that dugongs are seeking refuge in the Hinchinbrook region from other areas where they've been disturbed. It's absolutely vital that this area is protected", she said.