‘House Arrest’ for Alleged Woodside Gas Protester

‘House Arrest’ for Alleged Woodside Gas Protester
A woman was seen spraying Woodside Energy logo on the front doors of Western Australia's parliament in Perth, Australia on Feb. 21, 2022. (Disrupt Burrup Hub/Twitter)

An activist who allegedly forced 2500 Woodside Energy staff members to be evacuated from the company’s Perth headquarters has been placed under virtual house arrest.

Disrupt Burrup Hub campaigner Kristen Morrissey was released on bail on Friday after appearing in Perth Magistrates Court charged with one count of act creating false apprehension as the existence of threats or danger.

The 49-year-old is accused of releasing a non-toxic stench gas called ethyl mercaptan in the lobby area of the oil and gas company’s building on Thursday.

A police bomb response unit and firefighters were called to the scene, with workers unable to return to their desks until later in the day.

Morrissey, who was protesting against Woodside’s plans to expand its gas operations on the Indigenous rock art-rich Burrup Peninsula in WA’s Pilbara region, was arrested at the scene and kept in police custody until her court appearance.

Outside court, she told reporters the gas hadn’t hurt anyone.

“I used safe, harmless stench gas yesterday to sound the alarm about Woodside’s Burrup Hub,” she said.

“All Woodside workers were safely evacuated by Disrupt Burrup Hub yesterday, in stark contrast to Woodside’s activities at the Burrup Hub.

“Faking a gas leak using harmless ... serves as a potent warning of the dangers of gas from Woodside’s Burrup Hub to our culture and climate.”

Magistrate Kevin Tavener expressed concern over the number of people the gas release had impacted and said Morrissey’s beliefs were such that the bail conditions may not stop her from attending other protests.

Morrissey’s lawyer Zarah Burgess told reporters the bail conditions were onerous and unusual.

“Despite very significant police opposition, the magistrate did choose to grant Ms Morrissey bail,” she said.

“Those conditions include that she needs to remain at her home.”

Ms Burgess said police had not presented any evidence to show the evacuated workers were adversely affected.

“The magistrate has effectively given the police an extra week and a half to get their act together and bring some evidence,” she said of the adjournment for the matter until June 13.

Morrissey, a musician, was released on home bail and can only leave to attend work.

She emerged from the court about two hours after court finished in borrowed clothes after police seized those she was wearing during the protest, along with her wallet and prescription glasses.

Human Rights Watch’s Sophie McNeill described Morrissey’s bail conditions as outrageous and said she was concerned they were politically motivated and another example of climate protest being criminalised.

“House arrest should be reserved for individuals who pose a serious risk to the community, not for a peaceful climate activist,” she said.

“Kristen has not yet been found guilty of any offence.

“This order is a pre-emptive punishment which is excessive and disproportionate.”

The gas ethyl mercaptan can be used to alert underground mine workers to emergency situations.

The Burrup Peninsula, known as Murujuga to traditional owners, contains the world’s largest and oldest collection of petroglyphs.

Disrupt Burrup Hub wants the industrial development on the Burrup Peninsula, about 30km west of Karratha in the Pilbara region, to be stopped, including Woodside Energy’s expansion of the Pluto gas plant.