Garry Stannus The Incident at the Parliament, convened in Launceston’s Albert Hall.

We had to pass through security, this took quite a while, and then we were free to sit down. We listened to a long address from Premier Bartlett and a reply from Jeremy Rockliff and it appeared that Nick McKim would not be allowed to speak. This was changed and he was given about two minutes – at which decision the gallery clapped and got told-off for it. The Speaker said if we did it again: “You know what you’ll be doing? You’ll be spending your time enjoying the sunshine outside.” Then Kim got his chance to introduce his Bill and after making his address he said “Well Premier, draw that line in the sand and … reject the Pulp Mill”. He was roundly clapped and again we were chastised by the Speaker. When Bartlett got up to reply, a woman began yelling the word “Corruption” and she was grabbed by Security, roughly, and hustled off. We couldn’t hear Bartlett – he was too soft – and some started calling out “Speak up please!”. Security came back and hustled off the other two woman who had been with the first ‘Corruption!’ lady. I hadn’t heard them call out. One of them was in a wheelchair, they were no spring chickens. As they were being taken out, they too began yelling “Corruption!”

More pictures …

Professional media?: Not an online line anywhere (at 8.16am); imagine if it was about Princess Mary …

I HAD some days off work owing to me and this was the day that a Bill to revoke the PMAA 2007 would be introduced into the House by Kim Booth. So I arranged to take the day off work and called in and spoke to the people at the Anti-Pulp Mill tent, staffed voluntarily by members of the local community who call themselves TAP – Tasmanians Against the Pulpmill.

I saw Brenton Best being interviewed. He was asked if Steve Kons’ lying to the Parliament was not something that was relevant to Nick McKim’s being accused of acting improperly by not declaring some vested interest in some busines his partner was involved in. It was exasperating to hear him tell the media cameras outside the Parliament here in Launceston, that the Steve Kons had made a mistake – he wouldn’t say that Kons had been caught telling a straight-out lie to the House. No, he called it “a mistake”.

I listened to Kim, and later Nick, being interviewed. Various people were coming past the tent and some were stopping and chatting. Mums with babies, school children. The TAP people got a good reception from everyone.

Later it was time to go inside and listen.

We had to pass through security, this took quite a while, and then we were free to sit down. We listened to a long address from Premier Bartlett and a reply from Jeremy Rockliff and it appeared that Nick McKim would not be allowed to speak. This was changed and he was given about two minutes – at which decision the gallery clapped and got told-off for it. The Speaker said if we did it again:

“You know what you’ll be doing? You’ll be spending your time enjoying the sunshine outside.”

Then Kim got his chance to introduce his Bill and after making his address he said “Well Premier, draw that line in the sand and … reject the Pulp Mill”.

He was roundly clapped and again we were chastised by the Speaker. When Bartlett got up to reply, a woman began yelling the word “Corruption” and she was grabbed by Security, roughly, and hustled off. We couldn’t hear Bartlett – he was too soft – and some started calling out “Speak up please!”. Security came back and hustled off the other two woman who had been with the first ‘Corruption!’ lady. I hadn’t heard them call out. One of them was in a wheelchair, they were no spring chickens. As they were being taken out, they too began yelling “Corruption!”

Bartlett then in relation to Section 11, accused the Greens of over-reacting and said of one of Kim’s examples that it was completely false. He went on to say that “The removal of Section 11 would unfetter Gunns completely.” He was met with incredulous laughter from the gallery. Imagine! Section 11 according to Bartlett was there to protect us from Gunns!

When Rockliff got the floor he wasted no time in calling the Bill a “classic Greens’ stunt” and went on to say that the Greens were “anti-everything”. His use of the word ‘Democracy’ in reference to the actions of the Parliament in passing the PMAA, were met with jeers and he did not improve the situation when he said that there would be “disastrous results for business investment in the state” if the Bill to revoke the Pulp mill approval was approved.

When Rockliff said that “The Greens are trying to move the goalposts as usual” there was again strong laughter from the gallery … and jeers.

Lisa Singh got up and told the House how she wouldn’t need to abstain from a vote this time, because the matter had already been decided and, her views being already well known, “I stand by that position” – whatever that meant. She used the word “outrageous” in relation to the Bill and the public begin to heckle her, for she has been raising her voice in a none too pleasant way. She concluded that there needed to be “a line in the sand on this issue and finished with: “I stand by the Premier – this Government has done enough”.

A vote was taken which was procedural and on voices, it not being clear whether the ayes or the naes ‘had it’, a division was called. As the MPs got to their feet for the division, elements of the gallery, perhaps because they couldn’t hear properly, the PA being too soft, thought that the vote for the Bill had been taken and began calling “Shame!” They began standing up. Some began to turn their backs on the MPs and others followed suit, realising that it was too late to be able to stop those who had already stood, who had turned and in some cases, had taken off shirts to show their ‘Anti Pulp Mill’ T-shirts. And so they joined them.

Voices and hubbub ruled the day and security began telling us that we had to go and it was being said that the Parliament was closed and indeed some of the Parlimentarians were walking off down to a side door. They, including the Premier, had to pass within feet of us and we told them ‘Shame’ and ‘This is not right.’ They didn’t pay us any attention.

The cries of shame continued while the politicians left the chamber. The only ones to remain were the Greens. They remained sitting in their seats, no longer facing the Speaker’s chair, but turned towards us. As we saw that they were alone in the Chamber, the others, the Liberals and the Labor Members having gone, our cries were replaced by strong, sustained clapping and we were looking at the four of them. We kept clapping, no voices now. Just clapping. At first they acknowledged us with smiles, and nods. Then they started clapping us, and we continued to applaud them, and they returned this with their own acknowledgement in like manner. Cassy O’Connor, the newest Green, who replaced Peg Putt, was showing signs of emotion as the whole of the gallery in the Albert Hall demonstrated its solidarity with these four lonely people, the Government and Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition having abandoned the Parliament to the People. Her eyes were glistening, as she understood in that moment, that some link was being forged. I too felt that something special had happened and I wanted to tell her she was not on her own. This was not polite, token applause. This was one of those moments which would be hard to forget. The Government had abandoned its own parliament, taking with it the Opposition, both united in their betrayal of the People over the Pulp Mill, over Gunns, over honest, ethical Government. Only the Greens remained with us, the Public.

Police came into the Parliament and helped the security personnel get us all out of there. Some were refusing to move, demanding to know under what law the police had the right to require them to move from the Parliament. It took quite a while before the 200-300 members of the public were able to be excluded. There was no rudeness, no violence from either side. Only a stubborn unwillingness from the public to yet again be excluded from the decisions that affect their lives.

This is why we say the government is undemocratic. Inside it was mayhem. I doubt the speaker even knew what he was going to do next, and whether it would work. When they got the last of the public through the doors, they began closing them.

Finally the outside doors were closed tight and locked. The police and the security remained on the inside. The public were locked out. On the outside of their own Parliament.

This is what Tasmania has come to.

On the inside, the parliament was again convened, and a vote taken. Barring the four Greens, everyone else in the Chamber voted to reject the Bill to Revoke the Pulp Mill Assessment Act of 2007.

Shame! Shame! Shame!

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– Garry Stannus,
27th August, 2008