David Shoebridge held up a mirror to Berejiklian government ministers on Tuesday indicating just how skewed their priorities are. The NSW Greens MLC did this as the Coalition – with the backing of Labor and One Nation – moved a motion to censure the man who to many is a social justice warrior.
Brought by Legislative Council government leader Damien Tudehope, the ultimately successful motion was based on two points linked to rising voices within the community calling for widespread reforms to deal with the systemic racism towards First Nations people ingrained in the system.
The first point raised in the motion was Shoebridge’s “failure to publicly address” concerns around one of his staff members having been arrested on Sunday morning for allegedly defacing the Captain Cook statue in Sydney’s Hyde Park. This is despite his already having commented on the matter.
The government also moved to reprimand Shoebridge over going to Nambucca State Forest at the request of the local Gumbaynggirr community to join their anti-logging demonstration. This was linked to his having earlier attended the Sydney Stop All Black Deaths in Custody rally.
Liberal ministers claimed his participation was a COVID risk. Although, in leading his party in support of the motion, Legislative Council Labor leader Adam Searle noted that Shoebridge hadn’t broken any public health orders. And let’s face it, the stadiums are about to reopen.
So, Shoebridge let the ministers have it. He pointed to the hypocrisy of their bringing “motion after motion after motion” on superfluous matters – such as censuring him – while completely ignoring the tens of thousands of Australians calling out that black lives matter.
The Greens justice spokesperson chastised the government for failing to move motions on matters that deserve dire attention, such as stopping the disproportionate incarceration of Aboriginal kids, the continued Stolen Generation, “racist policing” and Aboriginal deaths in custody.
“The government does not move motions to stop the likes of the deaths of David Dungay Junior, who was killed a few kilometres down the road in Long Bay gaol with five prison officers on him, holding him down with him saying, ‘I can’t breathe’”, Mr Shoebridge remarked.
And in addressing his having demonstrated with Gumbaynggirr elders, he said that he was helping them protect “their country from the industrial-scale logging that is going to destroy it – not their country of 150 years or 250 years, but their country of 40,000 years and 60,000 years”.
“Racially unjust laws”
In addressing the act of graffiti – “an act of nonviolent civil disobedience” – Shoebridge questioned why government ministers were not listening to “those who call out injustice” in a state where “being black in a public place” is “still a crime”.
The Greens member made certain that he will not be sacking his staff member. And he added that he’s “deeply regretful of the kinds of attacks” she’s been subjected to since her arrest.
“If one part of your anger had been directed at the real injustices,” Shoebridge ripped it to the government ministers, “then I would listen to you.”
“But, I have nothing but contempt for you, to be honest – nothing but utter contempt.”
Paul Gregoire is a Sydney-based journalist and writer. He has a focus on human rights issues, encroachments on civil liberties, drug law reform, gender diversity and First Nations rights. Prior to Sydney Criminal Lawyers®, he wrote for VICE and was the news editor at Sydney’s City Hub.