Imprisoning Eric Herbert and threatening other coal opponents can’t be justified

Eric Herbert

Contributed by Adam Carlton 

The sentencing of Eric Herbert to one year imprisonment and a minimum of 6 month. He had participated for obstructing a coal train. He was charged with attempting to hinder working mining equipment and attempting to assist in obstruction of railway locomotives. 

This has outraged environmentalists, who have called the sentence an excessive overreach. It is this and more. Legal process is being politicised to defend an industry most Australians want phased out. The scandal is the power that coal money has over politics and the law in Australia.  

Having been arrested over the same campaign more than once still doesn’t justify it.

Campaigners with environmentalist group blockade Australia has been targeting the line leading to the world’s biggest coal terminal at Newcastle.  

Others have been arrested and threatened with up to 25 years imprisonment because the obstruction of trains has been successful.  

Bill Ryan, 96, and Susie Gold, 75, chained to the tracks

The 22-yeas old Eric Herbert is also involved with the activist climate organisation Extinction Rebellion, which takes up non-cooperation and disruption as necessary means to force change in a political system incapable of hearing bringing a change on its own accord.  

It is a lack of faith strikes a chord with many.  

By shifting to more extreme measures, the court system is being used to pursue a political objective in an increasingly authoritarian way. Whether one approves of the tactics of Blockade Australia and Extinction Rebellion, is not the point. That Australia’s carbon print is growing rather than shrinking and that this is leading towards suffering and death is.  

Even the Morrison government admits now that climate warming is real. The science can no longer be denied, and in the face of a biblical scale crisis, it is hardly surprising that there are those who such urgency that they must take dramatic action.  

Eric Herbert and the others facing the possibility of imprisonment should be celebrated and regarded as heroes. We all have a duty to rise to their defense and turn on a legal system rigged to put them away.  

Look at the difference between the treatment of these Australians and others, such as crooked politicians and employers who kill workers by providing unsafe workplaces. They get off lightly. 

The turn towards using prison as a weapon to deal with climate activists marks an escalation of the chipping away at civil liberties across the nation by the powerful, afraid that their increasing isolation from the rest of the population spell coming trouble.  

Opposition to coal is part of this threat.  

Australia’s movement to put an end to coal has justice on its side and it is necessary to step up action against the continuing failure to act on a transition away from dirty fuel.  

The movement has a significant weakness though. More attention must be put on helping those who work and live in communities currently too dependent on coal. It’s not good enough to convey that their interests must be sacrificed for the greater good.  

For a transition to work there must be cooperation. Affected workers and communities must be consulted and a transition that guarantees work and the health of these communities must be worked out together.  

Failure to do this can only lead to confrontation. It does not help the cause.

Regardless of any shortcomings on this count, the need to defend those currently trains to Newcastle is important.

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