There have been many famous seaborne protests in New Zealand’s history. Some of them – like the Moruroa ship visits – were even organised by the Government of the day. But the current National Government is trying to classify ship-borne protests as terrorism, and we only have until this Friday to say “No!”

Why should a group campaigning against new and expanded coal mines care about that? Although protests against nuclear ship visits might come to mind first when we think of seaborne protests – and indeed, the Government appears to be rushing this Bill through in advance of a planned US warship visit – New Zealnd has also seen seaborne protests against oil exploration and coal shipments in recent years.

What with the Government’s plans to expand deep sea oil drilling, its desire to increase coal exports, and the persistent blind eye it turns to illegal fishing, there is plenty of scope for seaborne protests.

So what’s the Government planning to do? Here’s the callout from our friends at Peace Action Wellington, including the worst features of the Bill and what changes we should ask for. We encourage everyone who wants to preserve the right to effective protest action against fossil fuels – and nuclear ship visits – to submit against this unwise and repressive Bill.

Peace Action Wellington: Call for Submissions Against the Maritime Crimes Amendment Bill

Parliament is currently considering amendments to the Maritime Crimes Act that introduces a new crime of “maritime terrorism”. It seems clear from the current draft of the Bill, and its timing, that it is intended to target protests against visiting warships planned for November this year. It will criminalise free speech and could target maritime workers. Submissions close on Friday 19 August so we need to act fast!

What’s the problem?
The big problem with the proposed law is Section 4. This is the main new “terrorism” clause and it says:

Sec 4 (1): If you are trying to get the government to do or not do something (like what most of politicians and activists are trying to do!), then you are guilty if:
(b)   You discharge from a ship any noxious substance that could cause damage. The new law doesn’t define what is “noxious” nor does it define what “damage” is.
(c)   You use a ship in a manner that causes damage.

Most worrying in the new law is that it is terrorism crime if you even threaten to do any of these things. This is Section 4(A)(2).

Its important to know that it is already illegal to cause damage to a ship or anything else; it is already illegal to intentionally cause injury or to act recklessly on the sea. It is already illegal to threaten to injure or kill someone, it doesn’t matter where you are. This law says that it is terrorism if you do any of those things to a ship with the motive of trying to influence the government. So if you damage a ship because you had a bad time on the last cruise you took, that’s fine. But if you damage a ship because it is carrying out widespread illegal fishing or helping to fight illegal wars then that is terrorism!

What is really important is that this law makes it a crime of terrorism just to TALK about doing something. This law would make it illegal for you to say that you were going to spray paint the side of the US warship visiting New Zealand with the words NO WAR; because they could say you were trying to influence the government not to host US warships. You don’t even need to do it! The penalty: 14 years in prison.  Back in 2003, someone spraypainted the side of a visiting Australian Navy ship with the words “John Howard: US Boot licker!” while it was docked in Wellington Harbour. This would now be a terrorism offence in New Zealand – not just a charge of intentional damage.

No Protections
There is no protection in this law for peaceful protests, strikes, lockouts or any other industrial action.

Even in the Terrorism Suppression Act, there is a specific provision that says:
To avoid doubt, the fact that a person engages in any protest, advocacy, or dissent, or engages in any strike, lockout, or other industrial action, is not, by itself, a sufficient basis for inferring that the person is carrying out an act for a purpose, or with an intention or intends to cause an outcome.

What we can do
Let’s build a groundswell of opposition to this law and demand important changes before its too late.

Make a Submission – Online before FRIDAY, 19 August

Tell Parliament:

  • Section 4 is simply not good enough, it lacks appropriate definitions and has no proper safeguards
  • That the the definition of damage must be significantly limited:To destruction of, or serious damage to, property of great value or importance, or major economic loss, or major environmental damage, if likely to result in 1 or more outcomes:

(a) the death of, or other serious bodily injury to, 1 or more persons (other than a person carrying out the act):
(b) a serious risk to the health or safety of a population:
(c) serious interference with, or serious disruption to, an infrastructure facility, if likely to endanger human life:

It MUST include an exception that a person who engages in any protest, advocacy, or dissent, or engages in any strike, lockout, or other industrial action, is not, by itself, a sufficient basis for inferring that the person— is carrying out an act for a purpose, or with an intention to cause any outcome specified in this Bill.