On March 29th Drew Hutton, spokesperson for Friends of the Earth and leading campaigner for the national Lock the Gate campaign, was arrested at the Tara anti-coal seam gas blockade. He appeared in court the following day after spending the night in custody where he was bailed to appear in court in April.
According to a Press Release from the Qld Greens forty police moved on to private property to shut down the blockade camp on a landholder’s property. The landholder was unhappy with his treatment by the gas company and had invited the blockaders onto his land. Drew Hutton has refused police bail conditions that he not return to the property or nearby public roads. The arresting officer informed him that he could be held in custody for a month. He has been arrested under Section 804 of the Petroleum and Gas Act which guarantees mining and gas companies access to private land and provides for $50 000 fines for hindering the companies’ access.
The Greens accuse of the Qld police of doing the dirty work of the gas company:
‘What we are clearly seeing here is the way that the gas companies – in this case a multinational company British Gas which owns QGC - are instructing the local police force.
‘There were reports a fortnight ago of leaked memos from the company to the Queensland Government instructing the government of their legal powers,’ Libby Connors, spokesperson for the Queensland Greens pointed out this afternoon.
‘The state Labor government has meekly obliged their economic masters – sending in the police to override Queensland landholder rights.’
Hutton's wife Libby Connors was quoted on the as stating that her husband was engaged in a peaceful demonstration on private land.
"This is one of the problems with the Petroleum and Gas Act that it overrides all private property rights," she said.
"The mining and gas companies have rights that surpass those of the landholder."
The Sydney Morning Herald also reported that fellow protester, 70-year-old great grandmother June Norman, also appeared in the same court on Wednesday. She was arrested on March 15 and charged with disobeying police orders after she stood in front of a truck carrying a bulldozer outside the QGC station. She was fined $200 but no conviction was recorded.
Arrest of Drew Hutton footage from Youtube