TWO men charged with trespassing in Senator Bridget McKenzie’s office in Bendigo during an anti-Adani coal mine protest claim the public has the “implied consent” to enter the offices of MPs.
Bernard Joseph Tonkin, 52, and Damien Edward Cook, 48, appeared in the Bendigo Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday where they continued to fight the charges.
The men claimed it was their constitutional right to enter the offices of members of parliament, but Prosecutor Sergeant Mark Snell said the protesters had breached the reception desk and a security door, and the protest went beyond the foyer.
He said the two men admitted a “small child” had gotten through a gap in a security screen, and then unlocked the door from the inside.
“The secured area was locked until a child got through,” Sergeant Snell said.
“It’s not an area that the general public is permitted to go to. They know they have overstepped the grounds.”
Up to 30 people then entered the office and wrote a message on a whiteboard before police arrived and they left upon request.
Staff members left the office through a back door during the protest. Senator McKenzie was not present at the time.
Defence counsel Bill O’Donnell said the majority of facts of the case were not in dispute, but he planned to argue that the constitution gave the “implied consent” for members of the public to enter MPs’ offices.
“If you’re a politician and you have an office, you have an implied consent for people to come into your office,” he said.
“A politician’s office is an open office.
“A whole lot of people saw the door open, they went upstairs. They don’t destroy anything, they write a message on a white board, ‘Stop Adani’ and so on. Police arrive, and they leave.”
During their police interview, Tonkin described their protest as “civil disobedience” and their “intention was to occupy the office”.
Magistrate John Doherty said there was a difference between entering the foyer, and then entering the office behind a secure door.
He used the example of a member of the public attempting to contact himself in the court building.
“It’s OK if they speak to me in the foyer,” Mr Doherty said.
“But if they make it to my chambers, that’s different. I’d say, ‘who are you? Get out’.
“They’ve crossed the line, gone too far.”
Mr Doherty said the men could “expect to be convicted” if they were found guilty, and doubted the strength of their legal argument.
Two civilian witnesses, seven police officers and four defence witnesses will be called during the contested hearing on May 18.