Fossil fuel's "dark money" is leading to crackdowns and draconian punishments for climate protesters, a new report says.
The Human Rights Law Centre, Greenpeace Australia Pacific, and the Environmental Defenders Office also found state and federal governments had enacted a suite of laws designed to crack down on climate protests, including draconian punishments and harsh bail conditions.
The report claimed the development was driven by the fossil fuel industry, which used donations to major political parties to warp Australian democracy.
"Climate activists will continue to face significant repression, and their calls will continue to fall on deaf ears, for as long as the fossil fuel industry wields such disproportionate influence in Australia's political system," it said.
The Centre of Public Integrity found that roughly $1 billion in contributions from an unknown source - so-called "dark money" - had been made to political parties over the past two decades.
The new report argued that, as a result, the fossil fuel industry had likely pumped far more into the body politic than the $1.9 million publicly declared in 2018-19.
One of the report's authors Yusur Al-Azzawi said protest was a critical outlet for people without money or political access.
"Yet we are seeing an alarming trend in which climate defenders are increasingly being restricted, intimidated and attacked by governments and politicians wedded to fossil fuels," she said.
"At a time when the stakes could not be higher, and dire warnings about the Earth's warming could not be clearer, this is nothing short of reprehensible."
The report also accused the federal government of targeting climate change charities through reforms to non-government organisation regulations.
The report argued the measures, which banned damaging property and threatening injury, provided an avenue to deregister entire climate change charities on the basis of an individual's action.
"Charities are already prohibited from engaging in such offences," it read.
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"These changes mean that charities would not only face existing punishments, but could also face deregistration of the entire charity if an individual employee engages in such conduct, even if the charity did not condone or have knowledge of the offence."
Blockade Australia described the sentence, which came with a non-parole period of six months, as an "overreach of power". But NSW Police Minister David Elliott described the incident as "nothing short of economic vandalism".
Youth climate activist Anjali Sharma said the threat of draconian responses led her to take the fight to the court system, where she sued Environment Minister Sussan Ley over climate inertia. She said her generation had "lost all faith" in the government's desire to act.
"Coalition MPs have called for an increase in funding to the government's school chaplaincy program to address concerns that climate 'activism' is causing anxiety for Australian children, rather than implementing policy that assures us of a safe and liveable future," she said.
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