'SILENCING ACT' targets Tunnel Protestors: PEN Melbourne Quarterly
Residents and their supporters did all this because we believe there are numerous irrefutable reasons to bury the East-West Link project once and for all.
Enthusiasts for these delaying tactics, which were centred around picketing, have included a cross-section of the community: students, retirees, part-time and self-employed workers and many others who have taken time off from work or used their annual leave to attend. They linked arms every morning through what turned out to be one of the hottest summers on record, often meeting at 5am or even earlier - depending on when our ‘scouts’ identified that the drilling rigs were in the area.
The coverage was not all favourable. The Herald Sun was frequently scathing, dubbing us ‘Serial Pests’. But as the saying goes ‘any publicity is good publicity’; and as our exposure increased so too did the Government’s apprehension.
Despite the thousands of workers and others expressing their opposition at that rally, the Anti-Protesting bill still passed into law. Although the Labor Party has promised to rescind it should they be elected to govern, at the moment of writing, the Silencing Act still stands.
It seems obvious that they are doing their best to avoid any further negative publicity in the run up to this year’s election. The increasing mainstream opposition to the Tunnel is growing. This was obvious at the rally held in Melbourne on an icy day in June, where over 3000 people from numerous diverse community groups from Melbourne and regional Victoria marched in protest. It is no wonder the Government is now keeping a low profile on the project.
To my knowledge, the Silencing Act has not yet been invoked against other Victorian protestors or picketers either, but its existence on our Statute books poses an ongoing threat to all Victorians' rights to peacefully picket and protest and exercise their freedom of speech.