Opinion: Violent protests are undermining society

June 11, 2014

This opinion piece, first appeared in The Daily Telegraph.

NSW Minerals Council CEO, Stephen Galilee

Enough is enough. What will it take before violent political activists who break the law and put others in harm’s way are made to face the same weight of justice that applies to you and me? A critical injury? A fatality?
Right now in regional NSW the safety of workers and security personnel is being put at risk by ­protesters breaking the law in pursuit of their cause.
Most of the action is ­occurring near two mining projects, one under construction and one in operation, around the Leard State Forest near Boggabri. These projects have been through extensive and rigorous planning and assessment processes and received all their necessary approvals.
These projects will create hundreds of local jobs and provide a much-needed boost to the regional economy, and generate hundreds of millions in mining royalties for the people of NSW. None of this matters to the protesters. They are desperate to see these projects disrupted, and ultimately want to close down all mining across NSW.
Most are full-time activists who swarm from protest to protest, stirring up as much trouble as possible. Their political objective is to block anything that resembles economic progress, and they are becoming increasingly militant and violent.
Until recently most of their actions, while stupid and dangerous, have not been excessively violent.
Illegally accessing construction sites and mining operations and chaining of people to equipment is risky for all involved. Soft human bodies and heavy machinery don’t mix.
But these actions have been managed responsibly by workers and emergency services personnel. But as the activists become more desperate we are seeing an escalation of violence, particularly at night.
Entry gates are regularly barricaded overnight with large fallen trees and stumps. This blocks emergency access and creates traffic hazards. Safety barriers and signs are also being consistently vandalised.
In the most alarming ­recent incident, an unidentified vehicle rammed a ­security vehicle and caused other damage to property. This endangered the lives of workers and contracted ­security personnel.
This circus must end. Protesters have a right to express their view. But workers at these projects have the right to expect their personal safety will not be compromised by people indulging in violent and militant behaviour.
Fortunately it seems the increasingly desperate eff-orts of the activists are failing to win any sympathy with the general public.
Most people in NSW support a strong mining sector. Most also understand mining is an essential part of our state economy.
The NSW Minerals Council recently commissioned a detailed research project on community attitudes to mining in NSW. The research was conducted by respected public polling firm Crosby-Textor.
The results speak for themselves. For the past three years, support for mining in NSW has held strong at 70 per cent, and opposition has fallen from 26 per cent to 24 per cent.
Fully 87 per cent of ­people surveyed believe a strong mining industry is important to regional NSW and 88 per cent believe mining is essential to the state economy as a whole.
The high level of support for mining in NSW sends a clear message to our decision makers.
The public understands that we need a strong mining sector in NSW to create jobs and keep our state economy growing.
And we need action from the NSW Government to uphold the law, protect jobs, and, most importantly, ­ensure the safety of workers and emergency personnel, as well as the activists ­themselves.

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