Episode 40 23 September 2021
Standing up for the right to peaceful assembly
Principal lawyer, Geraldine Grace | Host, New Earth lawyer podcast
I explain why the political and media portrayal of Melbourne worker protests as driven by thugs and extremists is contradicted by footage from those who were actually there. These protests are occurring because people see no other outlet to stand up against infringements of their liberties. Free and informed consent to medical treatment means no coercion and the introduction of broad employment mandates in sectors like construction is coercion, pure and simple.
I express my support for peaceful protests against infringements of basic human rights. A person who says they support individual liberties and human rights should not be selective about which protests and which human rights they choose to support.
I am an experienced corporate lawyer, using the law to build purposeful, human-centred, Earth-friendly legal enterprises & ecosystems, for happier humans and a better planet.
I am also the founder and host of the New Earth lawyer podcast.
I am based in Melbourne, Australia, and an expert in enterprise governance, purpose, business & human rights and modern slavery. I established my own law practice Geraldine Grace in 2020, focussing on enterprises seeking purpose, and actors in the impact economy.
I am a legal advisor to not-for-profits with a national reach in impact and purpose. I work with Boards to optimise performance and help enterprises embed purpose and integrate human rights into their business.
I have over 20 years' experience practising law in Australia, the UK, Hong Kong and mainland China. I have worked for large global and Australian law firms and was a partner of a top-tier Australian law firm for several years.
I sit on the peak governing body of Australia's largest university.
[0:28] I explain the lead-up to the workers' protests that occurred in Melbourne, Australia in September 2021.
[3:31] I show footage from the Real Rukshan of the protests in the city and the West Gate Bridge.
[4:46] These are not thugs or extremists, they are ordinary people expressing their objection to the infringement of a basic human right - the right to consent to medical treatment. Free and informed consent, meaning no coercion and full information about the risks.
[6:54] Only one politician in the State of Victoria understands what this is about i.e. basic human rights and free and informed consent. His name is David Limbrick, MLC.
[8:12] We cannot be selective about which human rights and which human rights protests we support. The right to protest is in itself a fundamental human right that we should support, regardless of whether we agree with the position of those protesting.
The Real Rukshan Facebook page
David Limbrick, Member of Legislative Council, Victoria
David Limbrick's Twitter page
Quote misattributed to Voltaire ('I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it'): I defend your right to say it.')
Hi, everyone, welcome to the New Earth lawyer podcast. My name is Geraldine Johns-Putra. I am a lawyer based in Melbourne, Australia. I come to you from Boon Wurrung country, and I wish to pay my respects to the elders past, present and emerging.
Now what I wanted to talk to you today about is really something that I feel moved to discuss and to express my view on, because it's happening right here in my city where I live. And that is the recent protests. And in fact, they're ongoing even today, by the largest workers' union that we have in Australia. The protests yesterday, which was Tuesday in Melbourne, there were by some accounts up to 20,000 workers and other people protesting against the lockdowns, against the shutting of the construction industry for two weeks by our state government, and against mandatory vaccinations. What happened in the lead up to the yesterday's very large protest was that there was a prior protest in a suburb called Richmond. And that was just members of the general public apparently. And then on Monday, there was a protest outside the headquarters of this particular workers' union here in Melbourne, which turned ugly. And then on Tuesday, there was this massive protest.
Now, I live not far from where the protests occurred yesterday, because it started in the inner city moved through the city and then ended up on the West Gate Bridge, which is a major thoroughfare near where I live. It's like two kilometres. So you might actually hear, yesterday there were there were police helicopters around, you might actually hear on this video while I'm talking to you the sound of police helicopters, and I apologise for that. But what I wanted to do by talking about the protests was to give a counterbalancing view to what's in the media. The media is portraying these protests as being made by thugs, by far right extremists, not by the union members, or the unions have been infiltrated by these extreme parties. And there's a lot of names being thrown about blaming other elements for being violent, and so on. Now, there's never any cause for violence, never any call for it. And I've made this very clear in previous videos when I talk about protests, protests need to be peaceful and loving. But the media that's coming out about it seems to be trying to take away from the fact that people are actually protesting about a legitimate concern that they have. So I want to show you some footage that's not in the mainstream media that's actually taken by an independent journalist. His name is the real Rukshan, that's what he calls himself. I want to show you some footage. So have a look at this.
Oh, no, no, no, please.
My husband said when you go today, I want you to give this.
No. Tell your husband I appreciate it, you can donate it to charity and I would love that.
OK I'll do that.
Just give it to someone else or something.
Thank you for the real news.
Thank your husband.
So I think you can see from that footage, that these are really ordinary people who are out there because they're concerned about their livelihoods, the lockdowns and about being made to take mandatory vaccinations to keep their jobs, which is where the State government is now insisting people need to go. It's insisting that the construction industry must be vaccinated to keep running.
Now, I mentioned in a previous video, that, legally speaking, it's a very complicated road as to whether those mandates are lawful or not. And every case has to be looked at separately. So you can see that from a legal perspective, it's not a cut and dry situation, that it would have to be argued as to whether it's lawful and reasonable. So given that this requirement's coming down from the government, and the legal solution is not clear, people are apparently standing up for the right not to be forced or coerced into taking vaccinations and they are expressing it through going out into the streets. Not as the media is saying, is this necessarily infiltrated protests with thuggish elements, it's seems to me that it's ordinary people protesting against a basic human right that's being infringed. Now that basic human right is the freedom to consent to receive medical treatment, the freedom to give full, free and informed consent, free consent, meaning that there's no coercion involved, and informed meaning that they're told all of the risks that are attached to that medical treatment. And no coercion means that if you are given the choice between keeping your job and receiving the medical treatment, well, that's coercion.
There's only one politician that I can see in Victoria, the State where I live, the State where Melbourne is the capital, who understands the meaning of free and informed consent. His name is David Limbrick. He's with the Liberal Democrats, which is a very minor party here. And he understands that this is about individual liberties and human rights. Now, I'm absolutely dead against violence. Like I said, I condemn it. I don't agree with clashing with police. I don't agree with people throwing things. I don't agree with people assaulting a journalist, which apparently happened. That is all reprehensible. But do I support people standing up for their freedoms, when, especially when they have no legal way of defending themselves and standing up for their rights? Yes, I do. Do I support people fighting and standing up for the freedom to assemble, which is a fundamental human right, and fighting for the freedom to speak up? Well, yes, I do.
As David Limbrick, the politician I mentioned correctly says, this is about standing up to medical tyranny. It's about refusing to accept a situation of medical apartheid. I have read a prominent human rights activist saying that he did not support what was happening, what has been happening in Melbourne, and he was dismissive of it and said that where are all these people when there is a true human rights protest or rally happening, say, against climate change or LGBTQI rights or asylum seeker rights, and so on and so forth? And his position was that those are real human rights rallies and what happened yesterday or in the days preceding that were not true human rights protests. Well, I disagree. I think you can't be selective about what rights you think people might be able to stand up for just because you agree with the position or not. If you agree with the position, then it's totally fine for people to protest with human rights. And if you don't agree with the position, then it's not. That is just being selective and that's not what human rights and defending human rights is about. You know, this is where the quote that's misattributed to Voltaire comes in. I may disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it. You may not agree with the position that's being taken here by people protesting but it's very important to think about whether you will support the right to protest. That's truly the fundamental thing here. So thank you very much for listening, and I'll see you next week.