Rabble without cause

Herald Sun. Editorial: Rabble without cause. 26 February 2014

AT long last it seems authorities may be getting serious with the serial pests in the anti-East West protest group.

Protest leader Anthony Main was charged yesterday with wilful damage.

But the alleged offence stretches back to an accusation Mr Main damaged a fence at a test drilling site in Collingwood on January 15.

Why did it take more than 40 days to lay a charge?

Why is it just four other protesters have been hit with either property damage, offensive behaviour or motor vehicle tampering charges, while dozens have conducted a picket and others have tied themselves to machinery?

Prosecutors should immediately seek injunctions against those facing charges to ban them from re-attending the work sites until their matters have been dealt with by the courts.

Almost every day dozens of police are diverted from other duties to babysit this rabble — many of whom are committed socialists — who refuse to obey the law and who interfere with legitimate works for a construction project that is vital for Victoria’s future.

Mr Main is a vocal member of the Socialist Party.

If there is a protest in Melbourne — against all manner of issues — he and his cohorts are likely to be front and centre.

Of course, among the anti-East West group are some who are genuinely upset about the forced acquisition of property for tunnel works.

And some want to highlight the need for better public transport.

Those issues are legitimate reasons for debate.

But Victoria needs the East West Link — and its concomitant boost to construction jobs as the manufacturing sector takes a pounding.

Sir Rod Eddington’s comprehensive review of Melbourne’s arterial needs identified the East West project as a cornerstone in building the state’s economic and transport future.

Stage One of the project will cost up to $8 billion and the Napthine and Abbott governments are looking to simultaneously fund Stage Two to run from CityLink to the Western Ring Road to service the Port of Melbourne, essential for import and export growth.

Separate to road transport, the $9-$11 billion Metro Rail project is aiming to help rejuvenate the city’s public transport system.

Major projects in both roads and public transport.

So just what is it that anti-East West agitators want?

As its web page states, the Socialist Party — which is a key driver of this protest movement — is an anti-capitalist party.

Memo to the SP: we live in a capitalist society, not a failed socialist society.

We also live in a vibrant democracy.

That democracy encourages debate on ideas, priorities and politics.

It allows peaceful, legal protest.

And it insists laws be obeyed.

Mr Main has the right to have his day in court, and defend the charge if he chooses.

But in the end, his ideological demonstration has done more to undermine the right to protest than anything else.

New laws giving police power to issue move-on orders — where a person is impeding lawful access to a business, obstructing people or traffic — are due to come into effect in coming months.

When enacted, Victoria Police must use these powers to full effect.

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