For a man of 81, Reverend Fred Nile’s backflip yesterday was impressive.
Just after midday, he spoke at a protest against the Baird Government’s draconian anti-protest Bill; but by 10.40pm, he was speaking in support of that same attempt to curb dissent.
At the protest, attended by nearly a thousand people, Fred Nile said:
“God bless you, and let’s always make sure we have all our freedoms as citizens of Australia.
“We’re a free country and we don’t want to lose those freedoms. Thank you, god bless you.
“We fully support the right to peaceful protest, for farmers to protect their property, and lock their gates if they want to. Now, I met with the Lock the Gate people yesterday and I’m very pleased to support them.
Here’s a partial video of that rousing address.
— Land Water Future (@LandWaterFuture) March 15, 2016
It may be that the Reverend is trusting God will simply bless farmers, Knitting Nannas Against Gas, and other concerned citizens who protest about what’s happening in their local community and to the environment around the state.
It must be, because nothing has changed that will prevent this law impinging on people’s right to protest.
Amazingly, the Christian Democrat leader even used the #SantosLaw hashtag, which has sprung up around the anti-protest Bill, in the tweet confirming his support for those same laws. That’s Santos the coal seam gas company, which is the corporation likely to benefit most from this legislation.
In a late sitting of Parliament last night, Nile suggested “the Christian Democratic Party has been active in the campaign against coal seam gas operations and we totally oppose the use of fracking to produce gas in this state”.
That being the case, it’s hard to see why he’s now supporting the Bill. As Nile himself said:
“I was concerned about this Bill but the Shooters and Fishers Party have negotiated with the government a number of amendments to clarify sections of it, including that police powers to give directions to persons in public places are limited to persons obstructing traffic.
“The Government has also agreed that consequent on the enactment of this bill, a review be undertaken after a period of three years from the commencement of the Act.”
Neither of those amendments give farmers the right to oppose coal seam gas on their property, or to oppose fracking in this state. And it’s questionable whether they address other broad-ranging concerns expressed by legal experts, civil libertarians, environmentalists, unionists, Labor, the Greens and environmental groups.
The amendments are being debated in the New South Wales Upper House today, and both Labor and the Greens have noted that farmers and Knitting Nannas will still be exposed to seven year jail terms.
New Matilda has spoken with one of the “Lock the Gate people” who met with Nile to express their concerns, the group’s National Coordinator Phil Laird. Despite the amendments that won Nile over, Laird said, “people on their own farms who lock their gates could face seven years of imprisonment or thousands of dollars in fines”.
“What we would say is, based on the concerns raised by the Law Society and the Bar Association…the only real amendment that’s going to make any difference is taking this Bill to a committee where all the concerns can be fully aired,” he said. “Anything else is inadequate.”
It was a shock to see Fred Nile speak at that rally yesterday, but the breakneck speed with which he betrayed farmers, Nannas, and a fundamental tenet of democracy is even more shocking. Reverend Nile’s media staff have not returned calls from New Matilda today, so we’re left to ponder what it is the government promised him.
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