Push to freeze welfare of ‘professional protesters’
POLICE have slammed "professional protesters" for diverting them from real policing, while there are calls to freeze the welfare of serial activists.
With police and court resources wasted on a merry-go-round of arresting and charging activists, The Sunday Mail today unmasks the constant anti-coal protesters targeting Adani.
Up to 150 activists - some who have protest histories dating back to the 2000s - are living at "Camp Nudja" on the Bogie River near Collinsville, where they receive training on how to properly chain themselves to infrastructure and what their legal rights are.
Supporters of Scott Daines, 52, celebrated his constant coal protests and set up a fundraising page so he could fix his car to drive from NSW to Abbot Point, which he is understood to visit regularly.
Victorian Greg Rolles, 37, recently faced Bowen Magistrates Court for allegedly blocking an Aurizon railway track.
He has been detained several times, including for storming the Defence Force base at Swan Island in 2014. He has pleaded not guilty to blocking the train track.
Queensland Police Union president Ian Leavers said professional protesters were wasting resources.
"Police in these regional and rural areas are short-staffed at the best of times and these professional protesters and their complete disregard for economic loss are tying up valuable police time, which means real police work to keep the community safe and tackle crime is not able to be done," he said.
"Police just wish they'd move on to their next professional protest in some other state and let us get back to real policing duties instead of babysitting people who should know better."
The state's federal MPs have called for serial activists who receive the Newstart allowance to have their welfare quarantined, as well as a tax reform to stop foreign companies propping up professional activism.
"Newstart is funded by taxpayers, who would expect recipients to use it for its intended purpose of supporting them while they look for work, not supporting them in a lifestyle of being a full-time protester,'' Social Services Minister Paul Fletcher said.
The Sunday Mail does not suggest any of the protesters named or pictured in this story are living on Newstart.
When Parliament resumes, Prime Minister Scott Morrison will introduce new laws to see activists jailed for up to a year if they use a carriage service to publish the addresses of farms for the purpose of protests.
Member for Leichhardt Warren Entsch said he wanted welfare-dependent activists to have their Newstart given as a cashless debit card.
Member for Dawson George Christensen, who has the Abbot Point coal terminal in his electorate, said there needed to be change.
"If they're unemployed, these people have deliberately chosen to move to Bowen, where jobs are scarce, and protest against the creation of jobs while collecting unemployment benefits," he said.
"That is a deadset abuse of the system and it needs to stop."
Resources Minister Matt Canavan said anyone on the dole who could travel to protest could travel for a job.
"I want to make sure that any of these cases are reported to Centrelink so appropriate action can be taken. Under our laws, if you can work, you must work, or you don't get the dole," he said.
Member for Hinkler Keith Pitt said it was clear there were professional protesters pretending to be locals.
Member for Brisbane Trevor Evans said he witnessed the rise of the "professional protester" during the recent election campaign.
"(They are) activists who are clearly trained and often paid," he said.
Member for Fairfax Ted O'Brien said he wanted organisations behind political activists put under a blowtorch.
Scott Daines, 52, NSW: Protested at Camp Nudja. Believed to have demonstrated against Adani for a long time. Has been part of green crusades in three states over 15 years. In 2016, was convicted and fined $300 for entering Port Kembla coal terminal and suspending himself from machines to protest climate change.
Freya Harvey, 28, Vic: Occupation: Unknown but was a cook on the Greenpeace Rainbow Warrior. Believed to be protesting against Adani from Camp Nudja for long periods of time.
Greg Rolles, 37, Vic: Occuption: Former school teacher, described as a full-time activist. Faced Bowen Magistrates Court on May 16 after blocking an Aurizon rail line last November. Has pleaded not guilty. Convicted and fined $600 in 2015 for protesting at Shoalwater Bay. Was part of the Swan Island Peace Convergence in 2014 and detained for entering the military intelligence base and unfurling anti-war banners. No charges were laid.
Max Curmi, 23, Vic: Occupation: Unknown. Sources say he is at the majority of activists' gatherings in the Bowen area and the primary driver of reconnaissance trips to the Carmichael Mine. Facebook post: "Yes the election result is sh*t, but that's what happens when you 'engage respectively' with a system designed at its core to repress you. Soft politics doesn't and will not work. Strike and Blockade. Do it for as long as it takes."
Clancey Maher, 20s, ACT: Occupation: Unknown but has put her life on hold to protest Adani. Pleaded guilty in Bowen in December last year for protesting against Adani.
Tom Howell, 29, Vic: Protested in Bowen last year and has asked for people to chip in to pay his $1500 in fines. Bragged about abseiling down a railway bridge to block coal trains. "The cost incurred for taking a stand against one of the world's worst carbon emitting industries. It's worth it!"