The last time a long-serving former CSIRO scientist was arrested was in the 1980s when he protested in the UK against the threat of nuclear war.
Dr Nicholas Orde Jamison Abel’s cause is now climate change and he has warned a court he will continue to break the law to draw attention to government inaction when his new protesting charge was dismissed without a conviction.
Extinction Rebellion activists gathered outside the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment on Wednesday (4 August) and painted ‘Duty of Care’ outside the building.
Dr Abel was charged with defacing public property after smearing red paint across a bollard in front of the office.
“I committed a minor crime to avert a major crime,” he said when pleading guilty in the ACT Magistrates Court on Thursday (5 August).
The 77-year-old and grandfather of seven said the Federal Government had “sold its soul” to the fossil fuel industry and should not determine the role of “our children’s future”.
“I do it for more than them; I do it for all of us,” he said.
Dr Abel, an environmental scientist, worked with the CSIRO for 20 years, as well as 22 years at the Australian National University, and said the world did not need more scientific information to deal with climate change.
“We have what we need. It’s up to citizens now,” he said.
“Whatever decision is made in this court today, I will continue to break the law.”
Special Magistrate Jane Campbell said it was clear Dr Abel believed civil disobedience was required in certain circumstances, and as his charge was a fine-only offence she dismissed it and did not impose a conviction.
His supporters sitting in the court’s gallery broke into applause when she did so.
Another protester arrested was grandmother Lesley Michelle Mosbey who gave an impassioned speech to the Magistrates Court on Thursday.
“As to why I did what I did, I have exhausted all legal methods,” she told Chief Magistrate Lorraine Walker.
“We have known about this for 30 years.
“We have been told by scientists we have three to four years, or we are heading for hell on Earth.
“That’s my grandson’s life – he’s going to be living in hell on Earth and so will your children and grandchildren.”
Mosbey said she would continue to keep “throwing her body” at the criminal justice system as it was the only way she could think to “wake up this country”.
“I don’t know what else to do,” she said.
Magistrate Walker said she would not dismiss her charge of defacing public property, to which Mosbey had pleaded guilty, although she did note the 59-year-old had a “genuine concern about the state of the climate”.
“But the reality is these are crimes in breach of the law,” she said.
Magistrate Walker dealt with her in what she said was a “lenient way” by convicting and fining her $200.