Alberta must retract Forest Act before it becomes law: Treaty 8 grand chief


The Alberta government must pull back its new Forest Act before it becomes law next month, says the grand chief of the province’s northern First Nations.

“We expect the province to suspend the new Forest Act immediately,” Arthur Noskey of Treaty 8 First Nations said Thursday. “We are asking (the government) to pull this back and consult with us.”

The United Conservatives passed the act late last year and it is to come into effect May 1.

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Noskey said it was drafted without meaningful consultation with the Indigenous people who live in the forests it affects. The soon-to-be law violates their treaty rights to practise their traditional way of life, he said.

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“It’s our livelihood. Our people still practise that way of life,” he said.

“A family might be making $18,000 a year, but that’s enough because the majority of their food and medicine still comes from the land. They still make a living and they choose to live like that.”










Unions and environmentalists call for suspension of new wood pellet mills


Unions and environmentalists call for suspension of new wood pellet mills

Noskey said increased logging is taking a toll on the animals and forests his people depend on.

“The forest is being overharvested,” he said. “There’s a chain reaction to everything that’s done.”

The UCP government has increased the industry’s annual allowable cut.

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Forestry Minister Devin Dreeshen has told the legislature that the harvest has increased 13 per cent since last May and that he wants another 20 per cent increase.

It’s not clear where that extra timber will come from in Alberta’s already heavily allocated forests, said Grace Wark of the Alberta Wilderness Association. She said that could mean cutting on steeper slopes or returning earlier to areas burned by wildfire.

“Those areas have greater impacts on biodiversity and are more challenging to recover,” she said.


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Impact of record-breaking lumber prices on B.C. economy – Mar 17, 2021

A government website says the act will bring “a more expedient return” of burned areas to harvest. It also says the harvest will be increased by cutting in unallocated parts of already approved areas.

Wark said there has been little transparency and even less dialogue.

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“There’s been no public consultation on this.”

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Dreeshen’s office and the Alberta Forest Products Association did not reply to a request for comment. The association supported the changes when they were announced.

Treaty 8 includes 40 First Nations and is the largest treaty in Canada by area at 840,000 square kilometres _ larger than France. It spreads into British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and the Northwest Territories and has about 40,000 members in Alberta.

Noskey said the province is obliged to consult with First Nations on a government-to-government basis and not just a few phone calls. He said courts have ruled that governments can’t simply delegate First Nations consultations to companies doing the work.


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Concerns over backcountry and backroad long-term camping – Mar 12, 2021

“It seems like we have to force the government to the table.”

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He accused the province of rushing the legislation through while the public is distracted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are for the economy, but we want to do it in a way that respects the land,” Noskey said. “It seems with this UCP government nobody cares about the environment.

“It’s a free-for-all.”




© 2021 The Canadian Press



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Top US baseball league pulls All-Star Game from Georgia in protest over contentious voting law



Critics of the new voting law say it aims to suppress voting among black people and other racial minorities.

Major League Baseball commissioner Robert Manfred on Friday ordered the sport to relocate its 2021 All-Star Game and amateur player draft out of Atlanta in protest over Georgia’s new voting restrictions.

The removal of the lucrative All-Star Game marks one of the most significant and high-profile gestures after Georgia last week strengthened identification requirements for absentee ballots, shortened early voting periods for runoffs and made it a crime to offer food and water to voters waiting in line.

“I have decided that the best way to demonstrate our values as a sport is by relocating this year’s All-Star Game and MLB Draft,” Mr Manfred said in a written statement.

“Major League Baseball fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box.”

The voting law, which was endorsed by the state’s Republican Governor Brian Kemp, faces legal challenges from civil rights groups and others who say it aims to suppress voting among black people and other racial minorities who tend to vote Democratic.

Mr Kemp said in a written statement MLB’s leadership had “caved to fear, political opportunism, and liberal lies” and later told a television interview the state would not bow to corporate pressure.

“They’re going to come after your ballgame. They’re going to boycott your business if you don’t agree with their way of life,” Mr Kemp told Fox News. “We are not backing down.”

US President Joe Biden, a Democrat, has been sharply critical of the law, recently telling ESPN it was “Jim Crow on steroids,” and welcomed the decision, according to a White House official. Jim Crow refers to racial segregation practices prevalent in the South from the late 19th century through much of the 20th century.

“He said earlier this week that if the decision was made by Major League Baseball to move the All-Star Game, he would certainly support that decision – and now that MLB has made that choice, he certainly does,” the official said.

Mr Manfred said the league took the decision after consulting with clubs as well as current and former players. He said it was finaliing plans for a new host city.

“Fair access to voting continues to have our game’s unwavering support,” said Mr Manfred, a day after the league opened its 2021 regular season.

The decision set off strong reactions from across the political spectrum.

“What a pathetic and weak decision by @MLB to give in to the Radical Left’s false attack on Georgia voting laws!” Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of neighboring South Carolina wrote on Twitter. “I hope the people of Georgia remember this in 2022 when they will have a chance to check/stop the Biden agenda in the Georgia US Senate race.”

Stacey Abrams, an influential voting rights activist and fierce critic of the bill who had nevertheless cautioned against boycotts, said she was disappointed the game would be moved but “proud” of the league’s stance on voting rights.

Ms Abrams, who blamed voter suppression for her narrow loss to Mr Kemp in the 2018 race for Georgia governor, said on Twitter that Republican leaders had “traded economic opportunity for suppression” and she urged “events & productions to come & speak out or stay & fight.”

Former president Donald Trump called for a boycott of “baseball and all of the woke companies that are interfering with Free and Fair Elections.”

“Baseball is already losing tremendous numbers of fans, and now they leave Atlanta with their All-Star Game because they are afraid of Radical Left Democrats who do not want voter ID, which is desperately needed, to have anything to do with our elections,” he said in a statement.

Corporate opposition

“Just as elections have consequences, so do the actions of those who are elected,” Atlanta’s Democratic Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said on Twitter. “Unfortunately, the removal of the @MLB All Star game from GA is likely the 1st of many dominoes to fall.”

The fight is emerging as the latest flashpoint between corporate America and states over voting rights. Atlanta-based Coca-Cola Co and Delta Air Lines joined a bid by US companies to challenge the restrictions on Wednesday.

The Atlanta Braves, who were to host the All-Star Game at their four-year-old Truist Park, said they were deeply disappointed.

“The Braves organisation will continue to stress the importance of equal voting opportunities,” the team said in a written statement. “Unfortunately, businesses, employees, and fans in Georgia are the victims of this decision.”

Speculation began almost immediately over which ballpark would assume hosting duties for the All-Star Game, an annual tradition popular with fans.

Democratic California Governor Gavin Newsom offered his state shortly after the league made its announcement, writing on Twitter: “Hey @MLB — feel free to give us a call. In California we actually work to expand voter access – not prevent it.”

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Fiona Weaver ditching a life in law to begin Wild Island Women Tasmanian adventure community


While many people in their early 20s are taking their first steps into a career, Fiona Weaver realised she did not want to climb up the corporate ladder — she wanted to climb off it.

Ms Weaver started her career working as a legal secretary at a firm in Sydney but now spends her days on Tasmania’s rivers and mountains.

“At 22, I was just very unhappy, really not myself and I remember sitting in my beautiful office which overlooked the Blue Mountains, I was on the 17th floor … right in the middle of the CBD,” she said.

Persia Brooks (left) and Emma Fletcher (centre) participate in Wild Island Women tours.(

ABC News: Selina Ross

)

Ms Weaver realised her need for nature had to be more than just a weekend hobby.

“I wanted to really just get back out into the world and do what really made me happy and follow my joy rather than what was expected of me,” she said.

“I eventually just quit completely, so actually when I was 23 was my last full time role that I have ever had.”

‘Reawakening joy’

Seventeen years later, Ms Weaver is the founder of the Tasmanian outdoor adventure community, Wild Island Women.

The group aims to support women to tackle outdoor adventures around Tasmania, such as kayaking and bush-walking.

Ms Weaver is passionate about helping more women get out into the wilderness, regardless of their age or ability.

A woman wearing a long sleeve short and a vest stands in front of two horses.
Fiona Weaver left a high end career in Sydney to work in adventure tourism.(

ABC News: Selina Ross

)

“I want to create a greater sense of community around Tasmania, we can meet in the wild places as women and adventure together and support each other and also socialise outside rather than just meeting at cafes and having that cup of coffee,” she said.

“We can actually support each other to live these amazing untamed lives, and whatever untamed means for them.

Three young children ride horses in an arena.
Wild Island Women’s Fiona Weaver has always been happiest in nature.(

Supplied: Fiona Weaver

)

The idea for Wild Island Women was sparked by the women themselves, five years after Fiona and her husband Liam started running commercial adventure tours. 

“In 2016, I was receiving so many phone calls from local ladies asking if they had a more accessible trip, they were feeling a bit overwhelmed about joining a commercial trip of ours,” Ms Weaver said.

“They’d most likely had a negative experience about kayaking in the past and they were quite fearful about getting back on the kayaks again … I was just hearing this same narrative over and over and over again.”

Huge response to women only tours

Ms Weaver decided to promote a women’s only introduction to kayaking trip on social media.

“The response from local ladies was so overwhelming, that one trip of 10 spots sold over 10 times,” she said.

A group of 11 women pose for a picture in front of a mountain.
Fiona Weaver says she witnessed women ‘transformed’ by the end of a trip.(

Supplied: Fiona Weaver

)

“That was a sign that there was something about how we [the tourism industry] have set up adventure tourism activities that’s not really speaking to women specifically.

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“That became very obvious and very clear as I was talking to more and more local ladies, that even though we had all this accessible wilderness around us, they really felt that they needed to feel supported and encouraged and safe to get out there and have a go.”

Ms Weaver said she saw the participants transform during the trip.

“I saw women get out of the car just completely overwhelmed about what they were about to encounter, very nervous and unsure about whether they could actually accomplish a three-hour moving water trip,” she said.

She said once the women “had that sense of safety and trust within themselves again to give things a go, they were mostly likely to go off and do things on their own or with a group of friends on the weekends”.

Those initial trips were the start of a thriving community.

“The women asked for a group where they could meet and catch up after they’d met on these trips, so I started a closed Facebook group where they could reconnect and exchange details and also find a buddy [for future independent adventures],” she said.

“We’ve got that space and now there’s over 1,800 women, so using social media to help build community has been really important.”

A group of women kayaking on a river.
Fiona Weaver’s tours have proved hugely popular.(

ABC News: Selina Ross

)

Persia Brooks first joined a Wild Island Women bush walking trip to Mount Eliza three years ago, at a time she describes as a “crossroads”.

It was a hard time of my life because I really was struggling with my mental health,” she said.

“Being out in nature really takes it away from you, you become a lot more relaxed and can think more clearly.

Emma Fletcher is also part of the Wild Island Women community, and helps out working as a kayak guide.

“Fiona has created a fantastic community of women,” she said.

“Each summer season I come and work as a kayaking guide and I’ve really noticed as I’ve come into this 50s age group how hard it is to get work, particularly outdoor guiding work.

“I really appreciate Fiona recognising the skills I can bring without caring what age I am and that I can contribute to getting women my age out into nature.”

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‘Jim Eagle’ and Georgia’s Voting Law


Georgia passed its over-hyped voting law on Thursday, and the news was met with more of the same. President Biden said at his news conference that the voting bills percolating in GOP state Legislatures are “un-American,” “sick,” “pernicious,” and worse: “This makes Jim Crow look like Jim Eagle.”

C’mon, man, as Mr. Biden likes to say. The comparison is grotesque, and seeing that only requires swimming sideways for a minute to escape the rip current of the media narrative. Take a look at what’s actually in the legislation—and what isn’t.

Georgia’s new law leaves in place Sunday voting, a point of contention with earlier proposals, given that black churches have a “souls to the polls” tradition after services. The Legislature, rather, decided to expand weekend early voting statewide, by requiring two Saturdays instead of only one under current law. In total, Georgia offers three weeks of early voting, which began last year on Oct. 12. This is not exactly restrictive: Compare that with early voting that started Oct. 24 last year in New York.

The new law also leaves in place no-excuses absentee voting. Every eligible Georgia voter will continue to be allowed to request a mail ballot for the sake of simple convenience—or for no reason at all. Again, this is hardly restrictive: More than a dozen states, including Connecticut and Delaware, require mail voters to give a valid excuse.

So what does the Georgia law do? First, it gets rid of signature matching, so election workers aren’t trying to verify mail ballots by comparing John Hancocks. This subjective process should concern both sides. It creates avenues for contested outcomes, with fighting over ambiguous signatures. In 2018 about 2,400 ballots in Georgia were rejected for issues with the signature or oath, according to a recent paper in Political Research Quarterly. Those voters were 54% black.

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Hotel quarantine law changes coming if vaccine targets met, international travel


Head of the federal Health Department Brendan Murphy has high hopes for international travel returning to normal as soon as next year, providing the success of the globe’s ongoing vaccine rollout.

A change to Australia’s quarantine laws could be coming in the next few months as well, with 14-day quarantines reportedly set to be replaced by home quarantines – or simply a shorter mandatory hotel quarantine for returning overseas travellers.

“As we get more and more Australians vaccinated, and as more and more countries around the world get vaccinated, we will start to progressively look at what sort of border and quarantine measures we have to do,” Mr Murphy told Sky News on Sunday morning.

“We might think about, for example, reducing the length of quarantine or more home quarantine, particularly for vaccinated people.”

Mr Murphy said while it’s still “too early to tell” the overall success of the rollout, he is hopeful for international travel to return in 2022 given the speed the world has responded to funding vaccine programs.

“When we get a lot of our population vaccinated, particularly the vulnerable people who are at risk of severe disease, it is for us as a nation to open up, reduce all of the restrictions, and make sure we don’t close any more state borders,” he said.

“12 months ago I would have said, there’s no hope we would have had vaccines in early 2021, and if we did, when we do get them I would have thought they’d be mildly, partially effective.”

Australia’s internal border laws will need to be fully lifted before any changes to overseas travel are implemented.

Things are shaping up on that front, with country’s two worst-hit states, NSW and Victoria, recording no new community cases on Sunday.

RELATED: Quarantine-free and two-way Trans Tasman travel bubble to open by mid April

Phase 1B of the government vaccination program is set to begin on Monday, with citizens over the age of 70 getting top priority for the jab.

Clinics around the country have received shipments of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which has been given to over 11 million people in the UK.

“The data that’s coming out of all of those countries is that both (Pfizer and AstraZeneca) vaccines are really good at preventing severe disease, preventing hospitalisation, preventing death, and are probably likely to help prevent transmission,” Murphy said.

However, Mr Murphy believes it is possible people will need an “annual booster” shot like the flu to stave off COVID in the future.

“It may be that COVID the virus is going to be with us, and everyone may need an annual booster dose like we have with flu,” Professor Murphy said. “As long as most of the population are protected, most people who get this virus have mild disease but as long as we’ve protected those vulnerable people I think we can get back to normal, but we just need to be patient.”

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Marika Koroibete case proof the Giteau Law has to go


There has to be ways to maintain connection for guys like Marika. He’s one of the world’s best players and has to be a part of rugby in Australia. It’s only a few months in the year that he’ll end up playing in Japan.

It’s a bit like cricket and the IPL. If you let guys go over and make some money, it could make them more amenable to taking less money in Australia so they can wear the Wallabies jersey. You want players to aspire to that jersey.

In the early 2000s, New Zealand Rugby faced a similar problem to the one that Australian rugby has been forced to deal with for the past decade. Emerging All Blacks were leaving for cashed-up European clubs far too early into their careers.

New Zealand addressed the issue on three fronts.

Firstly, players who stayed in New Zealand were made to feel like they were developing and improving every year.

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Secondly, NZR made an effort to ensure their pathways were strong enough to account for the loss of second-tier All Blacks taking the big money on offer abroad.

You don’t want to give jerseys away, but building depth allows you the luxury of dropping guys in and testing them out at the top level. That keeps more guys engaged at the national level and, in turn, helps keep those second-tier players. Keeping those guys means more success and, in turn, guys want to stay and play in those successful teams.

The final element of ensuring there isn’t a constant overseas exodus? Team success.

If the Wallabies are winning, players will want to stay and play for the Wallabies.

By changing the Giteau Law and allowing Koroibete play overseas and play for Australia, rugby in this country will enjoy the best of both worlds.

The extra $500,000 that it would cost to keep Koroibete can be spent on the next generation of Wallabies and Dave Rennie will still have one of the best players in the world at his disposal.

Throwing absurd amounts of money at top-level Wallabies isn’t going to stop the overseas exodus.

Since the 1999 World Cup, there has been a constant drive to pour money into the guys at the top of the game. A lot of those players were once-in-a-generation players, all playing in the same team.

Koroibete is one of those once-in-a-generation players. But you can’t develop other generational players if you just pump money into the top-level talent.

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Can states criticise Central law?


SC on Friday sought to know from a petitioner whether the state legislatures have the right to express their opinion or not on central laws

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday sought to know from a petitioner-NGO whether the state legislatures have the right to express their opinion or not on central laws and asked it to do some more research on the subject.

The top court was hearing a PIL filed by an NGO challenging legislative competence of different State Assemblies in passing resolutions against central laws like the Citizenship Amendments Act (CAA) and the three farm laws saying it falls under the Union List of the Seventh Schedule.

 

The NGO has made the Centre and the Speakers of the Legislative Assemblies of Punjab, Rajasthan, Kerala and West Bengal party in the petition, saying the apex court is already seized of multiple petitions challenging these laws passed by Parliament.

A bench of Chief Justice Bobde and Justices A.S. Bopanna and V. Ramasubr-amanian adjourned the hearing on the PIL after four weeks while observing, “We don’t want to create more problems than resolving the issue. We will see.”

During the hearing, senior advocate Soumya Chakraborty, appearing for NGO Samata Andolan Samiti said that the state Assemblies are incompetent to pass such resolutions against the central legislations.

 

The bench asked the council to show the resolutions he was objecting to.

Referring to CAA law and the Kerala Assembly resolution, Chakraborty said the state legislature said that central law was against the basic structure of the Constitution. “This is the opinion of majority of Kerala Assem-bly and this may not have the force of law. This is just an opinion. They have simply requested the Centre and sought repeal of the law. Do they have no right to express their opinion? They have not asked the people to disobey the Central law,” the bench observed.

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Bad education. A mathematician, astrophysicist, publisher, and Wikipedia director respond to Russia’s draft law on ‘educational activity’ that could force new regulations on popular science and more




On Tuesday, March 16, the State Duma adopted the third and final reading of reforms to Russia’s education regulations, adding new restrictions to the “dissemination of knowledge outside formal academic programs,” such as popular-science initiatives and probably even Wikipedia and the mass media. Deputies from the country’s ruling political party, United Russia, used their supermajority in Parliament to force through the legislation without the support of any other faction. If the Federation Council and President Putin support the law, it will enter force on June 1, 2021. Meduza spoke to several educators and popular science communicators about the new reforms and how these restrictions will likely affect their fields. 

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Myanmar junta imposes Yangon martial law after deadliest day since coup


Myanmar security forces have shot dead at least 20 pro-democracy protesters, an activist group says, and the military junta has imposed martial law in parts of the main city Yangon, giving commanders wide powers to stamp out dissent.

Supporters of detained elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi took to the streets again despite the killing of dozens of protesters on Sunday in the bloodiest day since a military coup on February 1 ignited mass demonstrations nationwide.

Marches took place on Monday in the second city Mandalay and in the central towns of Myingyan and Aunglan, where police opened fire, witnesses and media reported.

“One girl got shot in the head and a boy got shot in the face,” an 18-year-old protester in Myingyan told Reuters by telephone. “I’m now hiding.”

The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) said at least 20 people were killed on Monday in shootings by security forces. The Myanmar Now media outlet reported protests across the country, including in the Yangon district of Hlaingthaya, the scene of unrest and arson attacks the previous day.

A journalist in Mandalay said one person was shot dead there after a big protest had passed peacefully.

A junta spokesman did not answer calls requesting comment and Reuters could not independently confirm all the casualties.

The AAPP said 74 people died on Sunday, many of them in demonstrations in Hlaingthaya, a factory area.

In total, 183 people have been killed by security forces in the weeks of protests against the coup and the casualties were drastically increasing, the group said.

In Washington, the US State Department said the military’s violence against protesters was “immoral and indefensible”.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged the Myanmar military to allow a visit by his special envoy to help calm the situation and set the stage for dialogue and a return to democracy.

Khin Maung Zaw (C), lawyer of Myanmar democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, speaksafter a virtual hearing was unable to proceed in Naypyidaw, Myanmar, on 15 March.

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Myanmar state broadcaster MRTV said martial law had been imposed in several districts of Yangon, the country’s commercial hub and former capital. Myanmar Now said it had also been imposed in several parts of Mandalay.

Military commanders in Yangon would take over administration of districts, including the courts, MRTV said.

The courts martial had the authority to hand down the death sentence or long prison terms for a range of offences. These included treason and dissent, obstructing the military or civil service, spreading untrue information, and crimes related to unlawful association.

The army said it took power after its accusations of fraud in the 8 November election won by Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy were rejected by the electoral commission. It has promised a new election but has not set a date.

The military has ruled Myanmar for most of the years since independence from Britain in 1948, and cracked down hard on previous uprisings before agreeing to the latest attempt at a transition to democracy, now derailed.

Ms Suu Kyi, 75, has been detained since the coup and faces various charges, including illegally importing walkie-talkie radios and infringing coronavirus protocols. Last week, the junta accused her of accepting illegal payments but she has not yet been charged with that.

The Nobel peace laureate was due to face another virtual court hearing on Monday but her lawyer, Khin Maung Zaw, told Reuters the session could not go ahead because the internet was down. The next hearing would be on 24 March, he said.

Western countries have called for Ms Suu Kyi’s release and condemned the violence and Asian neighbours have offered to help resolve the crisis.

 



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Anti-lockdown protester David Weisinger interrupts to challenge Victorian law


An anti-lockdown protester who has launched civil action over Victoria’s lockdown restrictions made a brazen move in his court case.

An anti-lockdown protester interrupted his own lawyer during a court hearing to declare he wanted to challenge the validity of Victoria’s public health act.

David Weisinger is one of three anti-lockdown protesters who launched civil action against the state’s top health bosses chief health officer Brett Sutton and deputy public health commander Finn Romanes.

Police allege Mr Weisinger helped organise a protest outside Queen Victoria Market in September last year when clashes broke out between protesters and officers. He has been charged with incitement and is on bail.

His lawyer Serene Teffaha was about to address the court when the anti-lockdown protester interrupted.

“I understand that you’re representing me … I just want to say one thing to the court,” Mr Weisinger said.

But Justice Richard Niall said since he had a lawyer he normally didn’t get to address the court but allowed him to speak.

The anti-lockdown protester said he wanted to challenge the validity of the “impugned” Public Health and Wellbeing Act.

“If I need to be removed from being represented, I’ll do that,” Mr Weisinger said.

He asked the judge about whether this challenge was in the jurisdiction of the court.

“I don’t propose to answer that question for this reason. You are represented by a solicitor at this moment,” Justice Niall said.

The judge told Mr Weisinger if he wanted to challenge the validity of the legislation he would need to file separate paperwork and it was not appropriate to deal with it at the same time as the current case.

The protester sighed as the judge explained this.

His lawyer Ms Teffaha said she had to speak to her clients about their position following the High Court case involving Clive Palmer against Western Australia.

Mr Weisinger, Tony Pecora and Kerry Cotterill are arguing the state’s stay-at-home orders during the coronavirus lockdown burdened individuals’ freedom of political communication.

All three were charged for breaching restrictions to attend protests, according to court documents.

Ms Cotterill was handed an infringement notice while carrying a sign “displaying a political message”, an amended originating motion shows.

“She was otherwise complying with the public health directions; she was walking on her own in public, within five kilometres of her ordinary place of residence and was wearing a face mask,” according to the court document.

Mr Pecora was charged with incitement from the use of “his social media to organise protest activities”. His home at Middle Park was raided and he was granted bail but was barred from using social media.

The case will return to the Supreme Court in late April.

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