Tasmania Police have suddenly dropped serious charges against Tasmanian environmentalists Bob Brown, Lucy Langdon Lane, Gabbi Knox and Kevin Vaughan. The four were arrested for alleged trespass when peacefully defending Swift Parrot habitat from being logged in the Eastern Tiers, near Swansea, in December 2020. The charge carries a potential penalty of six months in jail. Last week, on 22 March 2022, the charges were listed for a three day hearing before Magistrate Marron commencing on 25 May. On 22 March, the police prosecutor indicated that validating legislation was being considered by the government in relation to the charges.
Tasmania Police have not given a reason for dropping the charges, after being asked in court today.
“I believe these logging operations were unlawful and could not withstand court scrutiny. Premier Gutwein must explain the need for validating legislation and why the charges were dropped,” Bob Brown says.
“The defendants have been through a lot and have a right to know. The wider public also has a right to know.”
“It would not be the first time in Tasmanian history in which arrogant government has required validating legislation after exceeding its powers to destroy our island’s heritage.”
“Forestry Tasmania has form on illegal logging. For example in 2005, amidst the Wielangta case in the Federal Court, Forestry Tasmania cleared Swift Parrot habitat in a coupe subject to the court action.”
“Had we pleaded guilty, we faced jail. Having been repeatedly but falsely labelled ‘extremist radicals’ by Premier Gutwein, the charges were not dropped because he likes us. So we will not rest until he clears the air. There is something amiss here.”
“The apparent regulatory failure comes on the heel of the dropping of charges against 38 Bob Brown Foundation forest defenders in February this year when it was revealed Forestry Tasmania had not complied with its own legislation in closing Helilog Road in the takayna / Tarkine. The 38 were part of more than 600 environmentalists who have successfully, if temporarily, stopped MMG from going ahead with a toxic waste dump in the takayna / Tarkine rainforest.”
“Last year it was revealed that MMG had been bulldozing its way towards the dump site, which is habitat for the vulnerable Tasmanian Masked Owl, without federal permission - but no one at MMG has been charged.”
“This latest apparent regulatory failure also comes on the heels of Minister Guy Barnett having issued MMG an invalid mining lease in July 2021 to enable its destructive works in the takayna / Tarkine.”
“There is a need for an independent inquiry, with judicial powers, to sort out how this premier and government, under pressure from logging and mining companies, can have Tasmania in such a legal quagmire with huge unwarranted impacts on the environment and environmentalists’ lives.”
“Any attempt by Premier Gutwein to retrospectively validate his government’s failures should be thrown out by parliament,” Brown says.