Tuesday, 2 April 2013

The Lucy Lawless Law [updated]

The job of government is to protect individual rights. So whose rights are being infringed with Simon Bridges’s new law that “would stop deep sea protesters ‘from doing dangerous acts, with business interests with ships”, he said. This could result in 12 months’ jail or a $50,000 to $100,000 fine depending on whether it was for an individual or body corporate…’”?

_Lucy LawlessThis new law is in direct response to Steve Abel’s efforts off the East Cape, and those of Lucy Lawless and a grab-bag of fellow fruitcakes in occupying an oil exploration ship berthed at New Plymouth, stopping it leaving the dock. (It also, probably, reflects years of anarchic Antarctic anti-whaling activities by the Sea Shepherd outfit, which will be in the public mind but won’t be included in this law.)

So whose rights does the Lucy Lawless Law infringe, if any?

Let’s start with a question: Do whaling and oil companies, for example, have a right to go about their legitimate business?

Your answer to that question will colour your answer to the next question: Do folk have a right to protest these companies’ activities by occupying, ramming and sinking their ships, using a “can opener” to rip open their sides, or to spray sailors with toxic chemicals (these last two being among the signature tactics of the pro-whale Sea Shepherd organisation)?

Do they?

My answer: it depends whether or not those opposed have crossed a line from protesting to attempted sabotage. Protesting is a legitimate right; attempted sabotage is not. If the new law still allows the former, while protecting the rights of other folk to go about their legitimate business, then it infringes no-one’s rights.

Sadly however, it does disallow legitimate protest, banning even “entering a specified area, probably within 500m of a ship, [which] would carry a fine up to $10,000.”  That this will be difficult to enforce (no ship can enter with 500m of another one?!) is a reflection that this second, “lesser offence,” does not reflect a legitimate protection of rights, but is an infringement of them.

So this is yet another law which, by ignoring rights, manages both to protect and to violate.

Mind you, since the locus of most protest is anti-capitalist, protestors themselves might like to answer this question: who saved more whales, Lucy Lawless, Sea Shepherd’s Paul Watson or Standard Oil’s John D. Rockefeller?  The answer might astonish you.

And since so many of the protests being outlawed are anti-fossil fuel, they might also like to consider how fossil fuels are greening the planet:

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