Protester compared to Sir David Attenborough in Bowen court
An 81-year-old protester was compared to Sir David Attenborough during a trespassing case when a character reference suggested the two shared a deep concern for the environment.
Rupert Anley William Russell faced Bowen Magistrates Court after attaching himself to a staircase at the bulk coal loading facility at Abbot Point to protest the use of fossil fuels.
Police prosecutor Sergeant Jay Merchant told the court Russell ventured onto the premises with Jeanette Elaine Kemp in November.
Russell then attached himself to a staircase leading to a conveyor, so the machinery had to be stopped for safety reasons.
Kemp filmed the protest and they refused to leave when asked.
Sgt Merchant said port operations were disrupted for about an hour because of the protest.
Both Russell and Kemp pleaded guilty to one count each of trespass and intentionally interfering with a ports operation.
Russell also pleaded guilty to a third charge of using a dangerous attachment device to interfere with transport infrastructure.
Lawyer Sue Higginson appeared for both Kemp and Russell.
Ms Higginson said Kemp's involvement was limited to filming Russell while he was " very briefly" attached to the staircase before he self-released.
The court heard Kemp, 52, worked full-time at the Australian Wildlife Conservancy and was committed to returning land to good ecological health.
Ms Higginson said Kemp, from Magnetic Island, had been instrumental in bilby reintroduction and designed vegetation monitoring programs among other projects and had previously worked for the Queensland Government for 15 years.
Ms Higginson told the court Kemp took protest action out of frustration after seeing decades worth of detrimental change in the landscape over her 32-year career and was disappointed at the lack of leadership shown by politicians.
"She's truly sorry and remorseful for the impact that she has had on people," Ms Higginson said.
"She is remorseful for the response time and resources it has taken."
When representing Russell, Ms Higginson said Russell had worked for 13 years as a park ranger with the Queensland Government and spent time reporting for publications.
The court heard he had also had a rare plant named after him as a recognition for his contribution to botany, had written five books and was involved in a protest 37 years ago that resulted in the Daintree Rainforest being recognised as World Heritage property.
The protest did result in Russell being brought before the court.
"I think it's significant that because of, in part, the work of Mr Russell and others at that time, we now have an asset in such good condition that it generates $5.2 billion dollars per year to the national economy," Ms Higginson said.
Ms Higginson handed up three reference letters for Russell, with one of the references noting Russell held a deep concern about the effects of climate change akin to the concern held by Sir David Attenborough.
The court heard the Mount Molloy man did not take the action lightly and had in the past donated to conservation efforts, written to politicians and had written flyers for distribution in Bowen and Collinsville explaining the need to end fossil fuel reliance.
Magistrate James Morton grilled both Kemp and Russell on their own personal use of fossil fuels, saying they had also benefited from the industry.
"I'm sure you don't live by a kerosene lamp in your house," Mr Morton said during Russell's sentencing.
"You enjoy it as well, you flick the switch and the light comes on.
"There's only so much that can be done at this stage, we're not at that technological stage of getting through this so coal is the frontrunner."
Mr Morton said the action had not achieved anything but giving the workers a short break and urged both of them to worry about what happened in their own hometowns.
"This place is built on workers, we've got two coal mines out here and a lot of people that live and work at those coal mines, they come from far and wide," Mr Morton said.
Kemp was fined $800 and Russell was fined $1000, no convictions were recorded.