Gunns (a Tasmanian tiber company) are sueing several envrironmental activists including Bob Brown for “alleged actions includ(ing) defamation, interference with contractual relations, trespass and property damage, all committed in the name of protest against the company and its practices.”
Greg Barns is adiment that “(t)he Gunns case concerns the limitations on freedom of speech and the balance between the exercise of that freedom and how it impinges on other rights. That freedom of speech, and this includes actions such as protests, is not absolute has been confirmed in 1997 by the High Court in a case involving veteran animal rights campaigner Laurie Levy.”
What seems to be missing from this picture is how Gunns’ actions impinged on the freedom or rights of others through its unethical practices.
Moreover Civil Disobedience is overlooked as a legitimate tacktic. Civil Disobedience is, by definition, illegal. I have no down that the protesters concerned were aware that they were breaking the law. More over Gunns are not sueing for issues of freedoms or liberty but to protect their financial interests. And of course the State is far more concerned with the rights of property or capital than freedom of speach or the rights of a forest.
So of course the environmental groups are crying foul. They have done what they feel they are morally obliged to do and are being sued for it. However anyone who has ever engaged in an act of civil disobedience has felt that they was an expession of their opinion but also known that it is illegal. They have actively tried to restrict the rights of those they are protesting against, or perhaps more accurately, they are trying to draw attention to the way the action of those being protested against are inpinging on the rights of others under the protection of the law.