Mining, Drilling, Arresting, Imprisoning – Simon Bridges
On TVNZ’s Q+A last Sunday, Energy Minister and Dear Leader Mini-Me, Simon Bridges, announced a new law with heavy sanctions against protesters who “want to stop other people going about their lawful business and doing what they have a permit to do and they are legally entitled to do“,
Acknowledgement: Radio NZ – Govt plans hefty fines for offshore mining protests
In plain english, Bridges was referring to activists and local people who tried to stop Petrobras and Anadarko from deep-sea prospecting of the East Coast of New Zealand.
To refresh the reader’s memory;
Anadarko is the same company that, it was revealed in November 2011, Dear Leader John Key was meeting in secret talks,
Acknowledgement: TV3 – Key keeps meeting with Anadarko boss quiet
(Funny how Key habitually meets corporate businessmen in secret…)
Anadarko is the same company that was involved in the Deepwater Horizon disaster on 20 April 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 men on the platform; injuring 17 others; and released about 4.9 million barrels of oil into the ocean from a 10,680 metre deep well.
Acknowledgement: Wall Street Journal – Judge Rules BP, Anadarko Liable in Gulf Spill
Petrobras – the target of sea-going protesters in March and April of 2011 (see: Protest flotilla taking on oil giant ) – intercepted and protested against Petrobras’ prospecting-drilling ships at the Raukumara Basin, off the East Cape of the North Island. The water at the Basin is deeper than those of the Gulf of Mexico, where the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig blew apart.
During the protest, on 23 April 2011, the skipper of the ‘San Pietro‘, Elvis Teddy, was arrested (see: Charge laid after oil protest).
With Petrobras’ track record of oil spills elswhere in the world, it was hardly surprising that people on the East Coast were angry that their coastal waters were under threat,
Acknowledgement: TV3 – Brazilian oil spill draws attention to drilling in New Zealand
Six months later, the MV Rena would run aground the Astrolabe Reef, spewing 1,700 tonnes of heavy fuel oil and 200 tonnes of marine diesel into the east coast waters, and onto beaches (see: Rena ‘worst maritime environmental disaster’)
No wonder many New Zealanders wanted no part of deep sea drilling of our coast. Well, most New Zealanders,
Meanwhile, on 11 April 2011, Dear Leader Key had a rush of blood to his head and took on quasi-fascist overtones when he threatened to unleash our own military forces on protesters. As Fairfax Media reported,
Prime Minister John Key is not ruling out using the Navy or Air Force to ensure multi million dollar oil exploration work off the East Coast continues.
Key today hit out at groups protesting against exploration by oil giant Petrobas by saying the company should be able to carry out work it was legally entitled to do.
Acknowledgement: Fairfax Media – PM hits out at Petrobras exploration protesters
Not since the 1951 Waterfront Lockout has a New Zealand government used the military on it’s own people. This is the sort of man that our Prime Minister is.
However, the Nats have become more cunning, and instead are proposing to amend the law, criminalising sea-going protests with heavy fines and terms of imprisonment. As Simon Bridges said on TVNZ’s Q+A (31 March 2013),
JESSICA MUTCH I want to start off by asking you your predecessor in a speech, Phil Heatley, said, ‘I’m determined to ensure the mining sector is not hampered by unsafe protest actions by a small but vocal minority.’ You’ve been working on this since taking over. What are protesters in for?
SIMON BRIDGES So, that’s right. So we are acting, and so two offences are going to be put into the Crown Minerals Bill. Look, the first of those is truly criminal offence. Effectively, what it says is that it will be stopping people out there at deep sea, in rough waters, dangerous conditions, doing dangerous acts, damaging and interfering with legitimate business interests with ships, for example, seismic ships, and what they’re doing out there.
JESSICA What fines are we talking about there?
SIMON Well, for that one, 12 months’ imprisonment, or $1000 (please note: the minister meant $100,000 not $1000) or $50,000 fine, depending on whether you’re a body corporate or an individual. Then a lesser, more infringement offence, really, strict liability offence for entering within a specified area, probably up to 500 metres within that ship, again because of the dangers associated with doing that.
Acknowledgement: TVNZ: Q+A – Transcript Simon Bridges Interview
Jessica Mutch challenged Bridges on this,
JESSICA Isn’t this just about putting commercial interests, though, ahead of the rights of New Zealanders? We saw this- the Government doing this with The Hobbit as well.
SIMON No, I don’t think so at all. Look, I think what you’re seeing is a desire to ensure that really reckless, dangerous acts out hundreds of miles from the shore don’t happen. I don’t think it’s on. I don’t think most New Zealanders would think it on. They’d agree with me, I think, that it should be treated as criminal behaviour.
And then a glimpse of truth came out,
JESSICA Did mining companies complain to the Government?
SIMON Oh, there have been complaints. Look, I’ve talked with a range of businesses.
JESSICA So isn’t this just basically a sot to mineral companies and mining companies?
SIMON No, I don’t think so. In fact, I think what’s also true is this is best practice. You look at Australia, you look at other countries, they already do this. We’re also, I think, here filling a gap in the sense that to the Territorial Sea – that’s 12 miles out – you already have these sorts of provisions. Even the Exclusive Economic Zone, as I say, a massive area – 4 million-odd square kilometres – there are some provisions for oil rigs and so on. But for these moving vessels, where it was very dangerous and we thought so, that’s where we’re acting.
JESSICA Was this prompted by the Elvis Teddy case?
SIMON Look, that’s certainly part of the genesis of this.
JESSICA Well, that’s interesting because Phil Heatley said, ‘Protest action played no part in the company’s decision to quit New Zealand.’ So what does it even matter?
At which point, Jessica Mutch laid it on for Bridges, who could only deny, deny, deny,
JESSICA Are you basically trying to send a message to mining companies to say, ‘Hey, look, don’t worry. The Government’s got this. We’ll take care of the protesters. Come on down and have a look around’?
SIMON No, because what’s quite clear, as I’ve already said, is that there are many ways that Kiwis can protest if that’s what they want to do – fill their boots with protest. There are many ways they can do that, but as I say, look, when you’re talking about this dangerous kind of activity where lives could be lost, and I’m not putting that too highly, I think it’s right that we make it criminal behaviour and seen as criminal.
JESSICA You’re clearly looking to help out mining companies…
For full transcript, read here: Q+A – Transcript Simon Bridges Interview
Bridges and Key can deny all they like, but the proposed law changes – like the ‘Hobbit Law’, Search and Surveillance Act, etc, are all designed to stifle dissent and increase corporate and State power.
Never mind Labour’s so-called “Nanny State” that National complained about in 2007 and 2008 – this has the hallmarks of a nasty, petty authoritarian, government.
This is the sort of threatening behaviour we have previously seen from National Ministers. Instances such as Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce, who on 27 September 2011, warned protesting university students to keep their “heads down”,
“My general advice to NZUSA (NZ Union of Students’ Associations) on the cost of living for students is to keep your heads down because actually most people probably think you’re doing OK.”
Acknowledgement: NZ Herald – Minister to students: ‘keep your heads down‘
If National ministers go ahead with this draconian law, I suspect our jails may soon be filling up with protesters. The ‘martyring’ of protesters is nothing new in this country.
Bridges may find a whole bunch of New Zealanders willing to stand up to this sort of bully-boy tactics.
I suggest he read up on history. Like the 1981 Springbok Tour.
Red Squad anyone?
This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 2 April 2013.
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