‘A win for democracy’

Two Castlemaine fathers who appeared in court last Friday charged with trespassing in a politician’s office during a protest against Queensland’s proposed Adani coal mine are hailing the court’s decision as a win for democracy.
Damien Cook and Bernard Tonkin, both members of Central Victoria Climate Action, fronted Bendigo Magistrates Court on Friday charged with trespass for their role in entering the Bendigo office of National Party senator Bridget McKenzie during an anti Adani coal mine action last May.
The two argued before the court that members of the public have implied consent to enter MPs’ offices.
During last Friday’s hearing magistrate John Murphy directed the matters against Mr Cook and Mr Tonkin be diverted from the court system – a process which will ultimately see the trespass charges against them dismissed – providing they are of good behaviour for the next three months.
Representing the two, solicitor Bill O’Donnell said the outcome was “a win for the democratic right of constituents to approach politicians for legitimate reasons”.
“Politicians can’t expect to simply slap charges on protesters who they might disagree with,” Mr O’Donnell said.
Central Victoria Climate Action group members said that on two occasions before the action last May they had requested meetings with Senator McKenzie but had been ignored on both occasions.
Outside the court Mr Tonkin told the Midland Express they believed Friday’s court decision had broader implications.
“We’re pretty happy because it basically affirms that people have a democratic right to approach their politicians without getting slapped with trespass,” he said.
“We did the action with the our kids and our legitimate worry is about their future.
“The reason why the climate change issue is so intractable is that we’re fighting the influence of corporations over our politics.”
Mr Cook, a wetlands ecologist, said CSIRO research findings project that Bendigo will become a semi-arid salt bush plain by the turn of the century under a “fossil-fuel-burning-business-as-usual-scenario”.

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