This week Australia’s New South Wales (NSW) government proposed shocking new legislation that could severely restrict people’s right to protest. The Deputy Leader of the opposition, Walt Secord said, “..gas exploration operations will be treated as mining under New South Wales law. Make no mistake: This bill was drafted with the Bentley blockade, the Knitting Nannas Against Gas, and the Pilliga in mind. It should be feared by north coast communities and the Pilliga.”
The new laws have clearly been designed to prohibit groups like the Knitting Nannas of Australia , a group of courageous individuals committed to the fight against Coal Seam Gasification. The Knitting Nannas of Australia have been an inspiration to communities and groups fighting extreme energy globally, including our own frack-fighting Nanas  here in the UK. Australia’s Bentley Blockade  action too, sent ripples that were felt across the world and enlightened many to the cold hard facts about the extreme energy industry and its deadly practices.
Protests too costly for Australia’s Gas Industry
Evidently, the New South Walesgovernment doesn’t want the Nannas to keep making a fuss because it’s a very costly expense for their oil and gas industry friends. When introducing the new bill, MLC Scot Blair (Liberal) admitted that the financial welfare of the mining industry was a key consideration behind the bill. Mr Blair said, “Government hears loudly and clearly concerns about mining and petroleum projects. These include loss of jobs in the mining and petroleum sector as well as concerns about environmental impacts. ..Unlawful disruption by protesters is also costly for business.”
The bill, described as a “flawed and oppressive piece of legislation” by the opposition, would include the limitation of people’s rights to:
· Peacefully protest
· Signify community feeling and opposition to government policies and actions with which they disagree
· Hold governments to account
· Promote progressive social change.
Under new laws, those daring to speak out could be imprisoned for up to seven years. This new bill would categorically penalise, criminalise and demonise protest. Member of the opposition, Adam Searle (Labour) said, “We are seeing the party of big business talking, because this provision… would elevate the rights of business over the rights of any other property owner. Nothing could speak more clearly to that than this provision.” If these laws are passed, they will serve as a severe infringement of every Australian’s freedom of expression, for the benefit of the oil and gas industry.
On Wednesday, Adam Searle, Labour Leader in the Legislative Council and Shadow Minister for Industry, Resources and Energy, did something out of the ordinary, providing Australia with a glimmer of hope. He formally registered a formal protest with the NSW State Governor. He said, “I recognise that this is a rare and unusual move, but it is important to convey to the community that the Baird Government is taking away a fundamental right of all citizens: the right to protest the decisions of a government without fear of being arrested. This legislation will criminalise activities that today are completely legal and see upstanding members of the community jailed for up to seven years. These changes are particularly directed to community protests against coal seam and other unconventional gas projects, especially on the North Coast of NSW.”
In Australia, the well-documented damage done by unconventional energy companies is vast and becoming ever more evident. The stories from the people living in the gas fields  have served to alert impacted communities across the world of their own potential plight. Campaigners, residents, groups, individuals and Knitting Nannas do all they can to raise the alarm and expose the failings of this industry in order to stop it. The UK Nanas have written the following in support of Australia’s Knitting Nannas.
In solidarity with Australia’s Knitting Nannas – Bin that Bill
If you ask people whether they trust the government to put our children’s health and well being above corporate interests; sadly but predictably, the response is more often than not a resounding “no”. This bill in the NSW government’s hands makes a mockery of democracy, takes away individual rights and severely limits the ability of a Nan to safeguard her grandchildren.
It’s disgraceful that those who disobey these newly proposed laws could get up to seven years in prison; and for what? Protecting land, water, and food integrity? Looking out for their children and others in their care? There are provisions in the Bill that allow police to crack down on and disperse peaceful protests, give police new powers to stop and search persons and vehicles without a search warrant, and to seize property without due process or supervision by the courts.
You may have heard the tale of the slow-boiling frog: If you put a frog in water and very slowly bring it to the boil, the frog won’t notice the danger until it’s too late. It’s worth keeping this little tale in mind each time a new bill passes into law, another tax takes a nibble out of your income, another part of our NHS is privatised and yet another school gets into the Academy business. Our democracy is being stripped away from us, the walls are closing in and our ability to do anything about it is becoming severely curtailed.
No Nan Left Behind
We UK Nanas  would like to add our voices in a shout of support and solidarity across the space between us. We know why this bill and any other limiting measures will fail to stop the Knitting Nannas and other carers, protectors and campaigners from safeguarding air and water. Because like us, the Knitting Nannas have no choice; asking them to stop is the same as asking them to abandon their children and grandchildren to known risks.
We share our ups and downs  with the Knitting Nanna’s and have journeyed in parallel purpose. We watched with hope and anxious anticipation, as the #BentleyBlockade  event was created and invitations were sent. We burst with joy when it became something so huge and impactful.  We’ve wept with our Nanna’s overseas too at the stories of their families, the suffering of the children  and mourned with them for the tragic loss of George Bender.  We may not be able to physically stand alongside each other, but we are each woven into our shared purpose and together on every step of this journey. We write now to make clear our outrage at the changes in law that threaten these noble campaigners.
Many of us have sought out those exit doors from this intensely demanding, life-changing, exhausting way of life and realise there are none. Once you know of the risks that unconventional energy techniques pose, walking away would be negligent and criminal. The use of high volume fracturing, setting fire to coal seams and other techniques to get at the last gasps of gas and oil from our fossilised past, is a recipe for disaster for the future.
Sure, we’re an ‘N’ short and our knitting’s not up to much, but we’re all genuinely in this together and determined to stand strong for our communities against provably dangerous unconventional energy techniques  like fracking and coal seam gasification (CSG).
So Nana to Nanna, we salute the determination, perseverance, passion, creativity and most of all – unstop-ability; we recognise this because like them, we are protecting our young. We also understand the dilemma they now face and wish them the strength required to see this through. Thank you for all you continue to do.
Much Nana/Nanna love,
The UK Nanas