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Nats boss denies Nannas agenda, says Greens can get knotted

UPDATE 12.45pm: ANTI-gas group the Knitting Nannas Against Gas are welcome to continue their regular "knit-ins" outside Lismore MP Thomas George's office NSW Deputy Premier and Nationals Leader Troy Grant has said.

Mr Grant has today issued a statement demanding Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham apologise for suggesting the government wanted to get rid of the Nannas.

The statement follows a furore over a police visit to the Nannas on Thursday, where officers told members of the group they would have to stop their protests outside Lismore MP Thomas George's office.

>> BACKGROUND: Greens question government agenda to 'shut Nannas down'

He said Mr George was out of the electorate when the complaint was made and he had no involvement in it or knowledge of it.

STAYING PUT: The Knitting Nannas in front of Thomas George office in Lismore have been asked to move by the police.
STAYING PUT: The Knitting Nannas in front of Thomas George office in Lismore have been asked to move by the police. Mireille Merlet-Shaw

"I absolutely do not support the lies, fear and smear that Jeremy Buckingham is pushing. He needs to apologise to the NSW Nationals for his outrageous allegations," he said.

Mr Grant said the Nannas has every right to conduct their protests and both he and Mr George were happy for them to do so.

"I support everyone's right to peacefully protest, as does the local member Thomas George, who was not aware of this complaint being made," Mr Grant said.

"The Knitting Nanas have appropriate permits to peacefully protest outside my Dubbo electorate office, and I have on occasion had a cup of tea with them - Thomas has also extended this kindness to the group."

INITIAL REPORT: POLICE moves to stop the Knitting Nannas against Gas staging protests outside Lismore MP Thomas George's office have spawned a huge outcry since the group was told they were breaking the law on Thursday.

But was it a planned move to shut down the regular "knit-ins" - or a case of mistaken identity?

Knitting Nanna Clare Twomey said the Nannas may have been "implicated by association" over a complaint from another protest - not involving the Nannas - during which a female employee of Thomas George's allegedly injured herself while trying to avoid bags of manure.

Local police were not answering questions on the matter yesterday and the Nannas said they had legal advice their protests were within the law.

Ms Twomey said the group had also received overwhelming public support, and the police intervention had only served to fire them up.

"We're very legally savvy, we know that we weren't breaking any laws," she said.

"We were all feeling a little bit flat after the election … then all of this excitement happened, it was great.

"It's just reinvigorated us now.

"Our first picture of the police officers had 70,000 viewings on Facebook in 24 hours, and our Facebook likes have gone up by 200.

"We want (Thomas George) to use his position in the Baird government to stop CSG mining in NSW, starting with the cancellation of the licenses here."

The event quickly became politicised yesterday, with Greens NSW CSG spokesman Jeremy Buckingham blaming the National Party for the crackdown, dubbing it a "ridiculous attack on the democratic right to peaceful protest".

A spokesman for Mr Buckingham confirmed the comments were based on an ABC report the original complaint came from a member of the Nationals, but that Mr Buckingham had not been able to personally confirm that. Nevertheless, the MP called on Deputy Premier and Police Minister Troy Grant to clarify the government's position on the Nannas.

"Police Minister Troy Grant needs to clarify whether he and the Nationals want the Knitting Nannas shut down and whether his government supports the right to peaceful protest," Mr Buckingham said.

He said National Party members were "kidding themselves" if they thought communities would stop protesting while there were still active CSG licenses threatening their region.

Mr Grant could not be reached for comment yesterday afternoon.

But not everyone agreed the Nannas' weekly presence outside Mr George's office should continue.

Modanville mum Tracy Cook, a nurse, said the Nannas weekly knit-ins now bordered on "harassment" and Mr George should be left alone to do his job.

"He has a huge variety of issues on his plate and his role as an MP is about more than coal seam gas," she said.

Nationals' state and federal electoral councils chair Andrew Gordon said he understood police had acted on a complaint from the public and there was no political agenda at play.

But Mr Gordon said he believed the presence of the Nannas outside Mr George's office no longer served public debate.

"The position of the Knitting Nannas I think is well known now … everybody knows exactly what they're about … and I think that point has now been registered, it's been acknowledged, and we're acting upon that," he said.

"The National Party itself is interested in seeing this matter resolved; it's not doing our community any favours."

Topics:  csg, knitting nannas, protest



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