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NSW to ‘throw book’ at protesters: premier

Dominic Perrottet NSW teachers
Teachers say Premier Dominic Perrottet failed to make progress with their union on staff shortages. Photo: AAP
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Four more protesters arrested after blocking a Sydney road can expect the state to “throw the book” at them.

The warning from NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet is unlikely to deter the protesters, who have already promised to continue their campaign, despite the increased penalties and expanded reach of new laws that passed parliament last Friday.

Mr Perrottet hopes they will change their mind once they are facing two years’ jail or a $22,000 fine.

“This type of behaviour needs to stop,” the premier said on Tuesday.

His government respects and promotes free speech, Mr Perrottet said, but people must exercise their right to protest responsibly.

“Don’t do it at the expense of people trying to get to and from work, trying to get their kids to school, stopping people earning a living and a wage – that’s what these protests are doing,” Mr Perrottet said.

He warned activists they risked alienating the public and losing support for their cause.

That much was apparent on Tuesday morning shortly before four Fireproof Australia protesters were arrested after blocking traffic on General Holmes Drive at Brighton-Le-Sands in Sydney’s south.

“F—ing move, I’ve got to get to work,” one man said, before attempting to drag one of the women protesting off the road.

His intervention came seconds after two other drivers had spoken to the group.

“I understand where you’re coming from but can you just open up one lane so the people who need to get through can get through?” The driver of a BMW SUV asked the blockading protesters in footage shared by Fireproof Australia.

“You’re not making any friends by stopping people getting through, you’re not getting any support,” another said.

The group’s “three basic demands” are to “immediately re-home flood and bushfire survivors”, implement recommendations of the royal commission into the Black Summer bushfires including securing an Australian-based aerial firefighting fleet, and to “smoke-proof” schools, aged care and disability facilities.

Fireproof Australia spokeswoman Bonnie Cassen said the new laws are not protesters’ primary cause of concern.

“We’re more scared of what will happen when the climate crisis causes the breakdown of law and order than we are of fines and prison,” Ms Cassen said.

Blockade Australia spokesman Greg Rolles similarly told AAP on Monday the new laws are not dissuading blockading protesters.

The blockades are the product of decades of “every other kind of protest” not achieving results, Mr Rolles told AAP.

NSW Police confirmed four people had been arrested but are yet to be charged.

– AAP