Activists arrested for protesting at the Piliga Push by “locking on” to the gates and preventing mining trucks from entering the forest have had demerit points deducted from their license and been fined for failing to follow police directions. At least three individuals have had three demerit points deducted and have been fined $350 or more under the NSW Road Transport Act 2013.
The particular offence being used is Rule 304(1) “Failing to follow directions of a police officer”. While the definition of Rule 304(1) does not specifically defined the scope of police powers, Section 32.1 of the NSW Road Transport Act 2013 identifies that offences for which demerit points are incurred are those (relating to the driving or use of motor vehicles).
The full wording of that clause is,
“(1) The statutory rules may prescribe: (a) the offences (relating to the driving or use of motor vehicles), and the number of demerit points incurred for each offence, that comprise the national schedule of demerit points, and (b) additional offences (relating to the driving or use of motor vehicles) created under a law of this jurisdiction for which demerit points may be incurred and the number of demerit points incurred for each offence.”
Thus it is clear that the intent of the act is to restrict the use of demerit points to offences that reduce the safety of the roads or the citizenry due to activity on the roads.
Rule 304(1) is an offence under Section 32.1(a) as it is part of the Australian Road Rules, agreed to by all states to establish a national framework of regulation for traffic offences.
Under the Commonwealth Road Traffic Act 1961, Part 2, Division 1, Clause 11 “Australian Road Rules apply to vehicles and users on roads and road related areas.”
The question is likely then to come down to one of whether the arrest by NSW Police of protestors who “lock on” to protect the Pillaga from mining is
- a road traffic and safety activity carried out on behalf of the citizens of NSW OR
- a security operation carried out to protect the commercial interests of international mining companies who wish to destroy farmland and forest in the interests of profit.