Protesters blocking coal trains in central NSW have been warned by the state’s top cop they face 25 years in prison if they continue.
A group of climate activists have been blocking coal trains in the Hunter Region from entering the Port of Newcastle for more than a week, resulting in NSW Police establishing Strike Force Tuohy.
On Tuesday, Police Commissioner Mick Fuller issued a statement, saying the ongoing protests were placing public safety at risk and endangering the lives of those who use the rail network.
“They will not be tolerated,” he said.
“I have sought further legal advice and am warning anyone who intends on behaving in the manner we’ve seen over the past week that they could be charged with offences … which carry a maximum penalty of 25 years in prison.”
Mr Fuller said this was in addition to the various trespass and rail disruption offences numerous protesters have been charged with since Friday, November 5.
The statement from Mr Fuller comes after Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce claimed protesters had disrupted $60 million worth of coal exports in the past week.
“If they’ve got other ways that the nation can earn money right now, then we’re all ears,” Mr Joyce said from the Singleton train station on Monday.
“In the meantime, we’ve got to make a buck.
“For each one of these (trains) that goes through, that’s about $1 million in export dollars.
“It’s about $100,000 in royalties, so what you’ve got here is payments for your NDIS … payments for pensions and unemployment benefit.”
Mr Joyce said protesters believed their views were “more important than the law”.
“They are a different breed,” he said.
“(They) believe they can shut things down, a legal industry that underpins their standard of living.”