How councillor is funding Extinction Rebellion protesters

A PROMINENT Greens politician is using his ratepayer-funded office to host strategy meetings for the law-breaking "Extinction Rebellion" and has compared their disruptive protests to Diggers marching on Anzac Day.

The Courier-Mail can reveal weekly meetings by the group are hosted in Greens councillor Jonathan Sri's ratepayer-funded office at Woolloongabba, as well as training courses in how to deal with police at protests.

It has sparked accusations he is using his office as a "training hub for (green) extremists" and demands to explain the use of ratepayer money.

Extinction Rebellion protesters blocking peak hour traffic in Brisbane earlier this month. Picture: AAP Image/Dave Hunt
Extinction Rebellion protesters blocking peak hour traffic in Brisbane earlier this month. Picture: AAP Image/Dave Hunt

Cr Sri defended the use of his office, saying any community group could ask to use it and that while he did not support law-breaking, this was an exception given the circumstances.

Meanwhile, RSL Brisbane North Branch president Merv Brown said any comparison between Extinction Rebellion's actions and Anzac Day were "disgusting and despicable".

The Courier Mail front page July 30, 2019
The Courier Mail front page July 30, 2019

In a post on his personal Facebook page, Cr Sri defended the group's protests blocking traffic.

"It's a legitimate and effective strategy for maintaining political pressure and drawing attention to an issue," he posted.

"A whole rage of parades and events (eg Anzac Day marches) block Brisbane streets all the time and inconvenience motorists."

Mr Brown, who served in Vietnam, said the nation's veterans had gone to war so people had a right to protest, but to link this with the climate protests was "despicable".

"I think it's disgusting that they are trying to align Anzac Day with their protest march," he said.

Veterans Affairs Minister Darren Chester said Cr Sri was out of touch.

"Comparing the commemoration of those who have served with 'green' activists disrupting the city is disrespectful and offensive to those who have served, and their families."

Resources Minister Matt Canavan said the protesters were "nothing like Diggers".

"Super-gluing yourself to a road to stop ordinary people going about their day is about the direct opposite of digging a trench to stop a German invasion," he said.

Cr Sri said the LNP were deliberately taking his comment out of context "because they want to distract from the protesters point that democracy has been hijacked by big business".

The outspoken councillor has previously defended Extinction Rebellion's actions, but not revealed any direct link.

Brisbane city councillor Jonathan Sri provides his ratepayer-funded office to Extinction Rebellion protesters for meetings. Picture: Jack Tran
Brisbane city councillor Jonathan Sri provides his ratepayer-funded office to Extinction Rebellion protesters for meetings. Picture: Jack Tran

The Brisbane City Council is powerless to halt the use of its ratepayer-funded facilities by the militant group, as a councillor can provide them to any community group.

A Facebook group called "XR SEQ weekly meetings" is used to plot the group's actions. Cr Sri, whose office costs ratepayers about $60,000 a year to lease, said he made the space available to many community groups and Extinction Rebellion were no different - despite their arrests and disruptions.

"I think it's fine for us to be supporting community activism of this kind," he said.

"The kind of disruption it causes is nothing compared to the disruption that climate change will have on our way of life," he said.

The Gabba councillor said he was not an organiser of the meetings, but had attended one and would likely attend more.

Cr Sri said he could not rule out that Extinction Rebellion had used other ratepayer-funded services, like photocopying and the use of public address systems, but added that he would happily provide them to the group if they asked.

Asked if it was appropriate for ratepayer funds to be used to support a group which disrupted the city and broke the law, Cr Sri said yes.

"When we have such a broken political system and big coal companies routinely break the law and get away with it, then yes, it is appropriate," he said.

"But only under those circumstances."

Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner accused Cr Sri of using his ratepayer-funded office "as a training hub for extremists".

An Anzac Day parade in Brisbane not blocking peak hour traffic. Photographer: Liam Kidston.
An Anzac Day parade in Brisbane not blocking peak hour traffic. Photographer: Liam Kidston.

"It is appalling that the Greens are supporting training extremists in how they can deliberately disrupt police and emergency services," he said.

LNP deputy leader Tim Mander accused the Greens party of pulling the strings of "loony protesters".

"People have a right to protest but these extremists are becoming a stain on our city," he said.

"Jonathan Sri needs to front up and explain why he's using ratepayer funds to give these protesters a free ride."



How Patricia’s diagnosis changed how people saw her

premium_icon How Patricia’s diagnosis changed how people saw her

‘Most people think your stupid because you’re in a wheelchair’

COURT: 38 people facing Rockhampton Magistrates Court today

premium_icon COURT: 38 people facing Rockhampton Magistrates Court today

See the full list of people appearing in Rockhampton Magistrates Court today.

COURT: 23 people facing Yeppoon Magistrates Court today

premium_icon COURT: 23 people facing Yeppoon Magistrates Court today

See the full list of people appearing in Yeppoon Magistrates Court today.