Freedom to protest
Congratulations to the Sydney Al-Nakba Planning Committee for successfully defying police and winning its case in the Supreme Court to be allowed to protest on Al-Nakba Day. The Supreme Court decision on May 14 sets an important precedent for future protest groups in Sydney when they come up against police opposition. The police will not be in a hurry to take a protest group to court again.
As a lawyer assisting the committee on the day, I was struck by how extreme police representations can be. NSW police told the court that the march route would take over an hour to complete (it took 25 minutes). One police officer said in an affidavit that he was fearful of drivers jumping out of cars and assaulting protesters. Another said that if the march went ahead, there was a real risk of “serious injury, even death”.
The Supreme Court emphasised the importance of free speech and public assembly, even if that comes at the cost of some commuters being inconvenienced “by minutes, if not hours”. It was a great example of how activists can take on the police and win.
A copy of the full judgment can be found at http://www.caselaw.nsw.gov.au/action/PJUDG?jgmtid=158562
In Australia there is a dangerously huge gulf between the perception of reality by scientists and that of the public. Scientists are typically conservative, constrained by institutional codes of conduct, fearful of losing their crucial research grants if they speak out, and often ignored if they do.
A five-decade career scientist, I have been repeatedly censored and finally blocked from commenting on the taxpayer-funded ABC Late Night Live website and on the universities-backed and academic–based web magazine The Conversation.
The German Advisory Council on Climate Change estimated in 2009 that the world must emit no more than 600 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) before 2050 if it is to have a 75% chance of avoiding a catastrophic 2°C temperature rise.
Australia’s annual per capita domestic plus exported greenhouse gas pollution is so high (over 70 times that of Bangladesh) that it exceeded its “fair share” of this terminal greenhouse gas pollution budget by mid-2011.
Worse still, Australia’s commitment to unlimited gas, coal and iron ore exports means that, given Australia’s huge resources of these materials, it is committed to polluting the atmosphere with more than three times the world’s total terminal greenhouse gas pollution budget.
Dr Gideon Polya,