Gympie jury ponders land rights and crime in council fracas
DEFENCE barrister Tony McAvoy yesterday invoked the memory of Australia's first recognition of Aboriginal land rights, to argue for the innocence of his client, Gympie activist Wit-boooka (charged as Gary Tomlinson).
Wit-boooka is charged with unlawful entry of Gympie Regional Council offices, causing alarm to mayor Mick Curran.
Mr McAvoy's point was contested by Crown prosecutor Ryder Reid. Mr Reid told the jury the case was about trespassing, not land rights.
Earlier, barrister David Yarrow, appearing for Diane Redden-King said she had not engaged in any unlawful activity but had peacefully recorded events on her phone and this was not a crime and did not make her a supporter or accessory to any other crimes.
She was accused of aiding Wit-boooka by her presence, handing out eviction notices and taking video, as others also did.
Mr Reid said mayor Mick Curran had behaved lawfully at all times and was entitled to respond to what was occurring after Wit-boooka climbed over the council front counter and told staff they were being evicted. The mayor had not committed a criminal assault in striking Wit-boooka on the nose and could not be said to be in the wrong just because he had responded rather than doing nothing.
The mayor was entitled to act to protect council executive Dimitri Scordalides from "further assault”.
"This is not about land rights,” he said.
But Mr McAvoy said it was not necessarily unlawful to occupy land or to protest.
"We are allowed to protest in this country,” he said, adding that in some countries protests might lead to a person disappearing or being killed.
He told the jury some of their children and grandchildren might have recently taken part in climate change protests, just as many Gympie region people had protested against the proposed Traveston Crossing dam.
He invoked the memory of Aboriginal man Vincent Lingiari, who occupied cattle station land for at least seven years before Prime Minister Gough Whitlam recognised Aboriginal rights by symbolically handing Mr Lingiari a handful of dirt in the 1970s.