Last week, the Greens’ Shane Rattenbury explained why he supported civil disobedience in the wake of the protest destruction of a CSIRO genetically modified crop in Gunghalin. But Opposition Leader ZED SESELJA isn’t having a bar of it…
THE rule of law is not an optional extra for lawmakers.
As Members of the Legislative Assembly, our code of conduct states that we “agree to respect and uphold the law”.
I was deeply disappointed, though perhaps not shocked, that Green MLA and Speaker of the Assembly Shane Rattenbury endorsed the actions of protesters who destroyed a reported $300,000 worth of property at the CSIRO, not to mention the setting back the efforts of our scientists in seeking to make food production safer, more efficient through better technologies, simply because the protesters deeply believed in their cause.
It is untenable for a lawmaker to be an advocate for unlawful behaviour, but even more so for the Speaker of a parliament to do so. The Speaker holds a particular role in upholding the rule of law and maintaining the legitimacy of the Assembly.
Shane Rattenbury is not just an errant backbencher. He holds a role to maintain respect for the Assembly and the law. His decision to endorse illegal destruction is completely incompatible with that role.
Moreover, no mainstream political party can or should condone the deliberate and illegal destruction of property, no matter how strongly held the beliefs of the people who carry out these acts.
Imagine the outrage if climate-change sceptics decided to destroy the offices of the scientists at the CSIRO who conduct climate-change modelling? What would happen if extremists sought to destroy the Speaker’s office, or Mr Rattenbury’s personal property?
Would the Greens really endorse the action because it came from a sincerely held belief that the cause is just? Of course not.
Yet that is exactly what the Greens through their spokesman Shane Rattenbury did in relation to the Greenpeace action.
And this was no minor crime. This was not a “peaceful protest”. The actions of these vandals destroyed over a year of work, around $300,000 worth of property and set the cause of feeding the world back significantly. It was an act of thuggery and intimidation as much as it was an act of property destruction.
Even if their cause was just, which it isn’t, they would deserve condemnation. The alternative is that every group with a cause would be encouraged by Shane Rattenbury to take the law into their own hands. Where would it end? There are many people with causes in our society, some I agree with and many I do not.
Our role as lawmakers is to advocate for the laws we want changed, respect the verdict of the Assembly and encourage those agitating for change to use legitimate means rather than engage in destruction and intimidation.
As lawmakers, we don’t get to choose which laws should be respected. We do get the opportunity and responsibility to encourage peaceful, lawful means to create change.
The silence of the Greens leadership is also deeply concerning. Meredith Hunter has been silent on the issue, which suggests either that this endorsement of illegal behaviours is now Greens policy, or Ms Hunter has no control over her parliamentary colleagues. This is deeply worrying for a party that holds the balance of power in the Assembly.
Mr Rattenbury has claimed that he must endorse the illegal destruction of property because to do otherwise would amount to hypocrisy on his part. I contend that endorsing property destruction and illegal protests, yet continuing to sit as the Speaker of the Territory’s law-making body is equally hypocritical, equally vacuous and completely indefensible.
I agree with Shane Rattenbury on one point, I’m very happy for the Greens to be judged on this stance at the next election, but he will also have to face the precedent of parliament and the respect he deserves in the role until then.