Rally protesters let off the hook

RICHMOND Greens candidate Joe Ebono says he won’t press charges over a violent incident at Tweed Heads on the weekend where he was shoved and his leaflets torn up and thrown in his face at a fishing rally.

However, he also said he would steer clear of the fishing lobby for the remainder of the election campaign.

Mr Ebono was attacked on Saturday at a rally organised by Friends of Fishing and supported by Richmond Liberal candidate Joan van Lieshout to protest against a series of giant offshore marine parks being considered by the Federal Government.

The parks, which were initiated by the Howard Government in 1996 and aim to meet international obligations to protect a representative sample of Australian marine habitats, has been the source of growing anger in the fishing community for months.

That anger has intensified during the election campaign, as the Coalition attacked the Government over its handling of the parks and vowed to allow fishers a ‘seat at the table’ in developing them if it wins government on Saturday.

Mr Ebono said he sympathised with the fishers’ concerns and The Greens wanted to work with industry groups to protect fish stocks.

Mr Ebono had gone to the rally to address the crowd, but was told he would not be allowed access to Ms van Lieshout’s truck, which was being used as a stage for speakers addressing the rally.

Mr Ebono said he was told Ms van Lieshout didn’t want him on the truck. Ms van Lieshout said the rally organisers blocked the request because they feared greater violence if he stood up to speak to them.

As an alternative, Mr Ebono said he went through the crowd to hand out leaflets and speak to individuals. But the already angry gathering was being fired up by comments being made by ‘official’ speakers who were attacking The Greens.

Mr Ebono agreed the encounter had been ‘scary’, but he had done his best to avoid inflaming the situation.

He said he believed the hostility towards The Greens was a case of ‘shooting the messenger’ and pressing charges would not help anyone.

Mr Ebono said he was running in the election because he wanted to make the world a better place, which meant working with others – not taking them to court.

Mr Ebono has been running with a campaign strategy he has dubbed ‘grill a Green’, where he encourages groups hostile to, or opposed to The Greens, to meet him and discuss their concerns.

He conceded the strategy had been less successful than he hoped.

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