Hefty fines and substantial jail terms ushered in to deter protests are unlikely to stop climate activists grinding Sydney peak hour to a halt, a lawyer says. 

Environmentalists from Blockade Australia sparked commuter chaos across the city on Monday and Tuesday, with dozens of demonstrators marching through the CBD and blocked the entrance to the Sydney Harbour Tunnel. 

The high-profile group’s antics – which have included blocking coal ports, bridges, and fossil fuel terminals – prompted the NSW government to introduce tough anti-protest laws in April. 

Under the new penalties, protesters face a maximum penalty of two years’ jail and $22,000 fines for disrupting traffic or preventing access on roads. 

Blockade Australia caused commuter chaos on Monday after a protester in a white hatchback blocked the Sydney Harbour Tunnel and locked herself to her steering wheel with a bike lock (pictured)

But as the group forge ahead week-long ‘mass disruptions’ to traffic, Australian Lawyers Alliance national criminal justice spokesman Greg Barns SC has warned the sanctions will not curb protest activity. 

‘People who are engaging in protest generally are happy to take the risk of being jailed or fined large sums of money because they’re motivated by the cause,’ he told ABC News.

‘You’ve got to ask the question: ‘Why do you pass this legislation? Is it going to have a deterrent effect?’ And the evidence seems to be that it won’t have a deterrent effect.’

Ten people were arrested during the ‘unauthorised protests’ on Monday, including one woman who chained herself to a car steering wheel with a bicycle lock in North Sydney.

Another 12 arrests were made on Tuesday as Blockade Australia launched a second march through the CBD to Hyde Park. 

Police have said they will use the new laws to prosecute those charged and have vowed to be out in force through to July 2 to stamp out planned protest activity. 

The extreme environmentalists have planned a week-long 'mass disruption' of Sydney traffic (pictured, protesters blocking a car in Sydney on Monday) despite tough new anti-protest laws, which include a maximum of two years' jail and $22,000 fines

The extreme environmentalists have planned a week-long ‘mass disruption’ of Sydney traffic (pictured, protesters blocking a car in Sydney on Monday) despite tough new anti-protest laws, which include a maximum of two years’ jail and $22,000 fines

One female protester was knocked to the ground by a police officer during Tuesday's demonstration

One female protester was knocked to the ground by a police officer during Tuesday’s demonstration

New South Wales Attorney-General Mark Speakman said the delays caused by rallies, such as the one on Monday, potentially cost millions in lost productivity. 

He said the old laws that featured $400 fines were no deterrent and authorities need to give the new ones a go, as they will likely scare off a large portion of protesters. 

Acting Assistant Commissioner Paul Dunstan said that police would continue to maintain a highly visible presence. 

‘It is unacceptable that a small number of people – who have little to no regard for everyday individuals going about their lives, are causing unnecessary disruptions to their morning commute,’ A/Assistant Commissioner Dunstan said.

‘What these individuals are doing is both illegal and unsafe, putting the lives of themselves, the general public and our officers in danger by running on roadway and blocking roads by other means to disrupt traffic.’

The arrested activists, seven of whom were refused bail, face multiple obstruction and disruption charges and will appear in court on Tuesday.

Police Minister Paul Toole said it was infuriating.

‘I’m furious. The public are furious,’ he told the Nine Network on Tuesday.

‘These are professional pests.

‘These people say that they are out there trying to actually protect the climate but yesterday what they were doing was littering all over Sydney.’

Blockade Australia spokesman Jonah Shabtay told AAP the protests were designed to demonstrate the effects of the collapse of the climate.

‘(The protests are) really for making it quite known and unavoidable that disruption is going to come from climate collapse, in which Sydney’s economy is largely responsible,’ he said.

‘In order to respond to that we’re choosing to disrupt the city.’

Ten people were arrested on Monday after dozens of protesters stormed Sydney's centre demanding action for climate change (pictured)

Ten people were arrested on Monday after dozens of protesters stormed Sydney’s centre demanding action for climate change (pictured) 

Mr Shabtay said the group had moved away from its previous tactic of targeting ports and was focusing on roads in Sydney’s CBD.

‘It’s essentially going to be traffic disruptions that we’ll see throughout the week.’

Labor leader Chris Minns said it was not sustainable for the protesters to routinely bring Sydney to a standstill.

‘We may have had women waiting to get to emergency departments, birthing centres to give birth to children, or (other) emergencies,’ Mr Minns said on Monday.

The opposition leader also noted the new federal Labor government had committed to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 and had ambitious interim targets for 2030.



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