November 21, 2019

This morning nipaluna/Hobart’s Parliament Lawns played host to several concerned groups, including the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre (TAC) and the Tasmanian Greens, filing a petition against new anti-protest laws proposed by the Liberal Government.

If passed these broad ranging laws would mean up to four years in jail for protesting and impose mandatory fines on protesters who are considered to have interfered with the operations of a business and fines of up to $10,000 per individual and $100,000 for a corporation.

“These laws target everyday people, not just people protesting, but we as an Aboriginal community are really concerned as we hold many protests,” spokesperson for the TAC Sara Maynard said.

“We’re outraged. We don’t want more Aboriginal people locked up as the incarceration rate for our people in this country is shameful. Aboriginal people are dying in police custody on a weekly basis.”

Sponsor of the petition and Tasmanian Greens leader Cassy O’Connor said legislation was destructive.

“It’s a threat to their democratic right and politically going to fall over in court at great expense to the tax payer,” said Ms O’Connor.

Tasmanian Director of Civil Liberties Australia and lead petitioner Richard Griggs said the message government is sending to Tasmanians with this legislation is to ‘sit down and be quiet’.

Bob Brown describes the potential laws as ‘anti-Tasmanian’ saying the Bob Brown Foundation hopes parliament stands up to this legislation.

The bill harks back to 2015 when an almost identical piece of legislation was overturned in the High Court. Lawyer Roland Browne said not much has changed from the original convoluted statute.

“You have to wonder what the point of this law is. There are already hundreds of laws that cover these offences. It’s going to make more work for a system that is already overburdened.”

Mr Browne says laws will impact on a ‘ridiculous array of activities’, not just protests, which the Liberal Government are mislabelling ‘trespass’. Even a disagreement in a shop could end up with a customer being charge under the proposed law.

“A four year maximum sentence for having an argument with a store manager in Bunnings is outrageous,” stated Mr Browne.

“Protest has a very important role to play in our society. The High Court shut down these laws in 2014 as they are so broad and vague.”

He recommended getting rid of the legislation and looking at uniting the community rather than dividing it.

Aboriginal people in Australia make up around 2% of the population yet incarceration rates constitute 27% of the national prison population. The last two weeks have seen deaths in custody occurring at an almost weekly rate with another young Aboriginal man mowed down by police in Alice Springs two days ago while the Yuendumu Community are still mourning the recent loss of 19-year-old Kumanjayi Walker.

Other groups petitioning include Respect the Mountain and Residents Opposed to the Cable Car.

Following on from lodging the petition a protest will be held on Parliament Lawns on Monday, November 25, organised by the Bob Brown Foundation. Defend Your Right to Protest begins at 12 pm.

The petition is as follows:

TO: The Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Assembly

The petition of the undersigned residents of Tasmania draws to the attention of the House the Workplaces (Protection from Protesters) Amendment Bill 2019.

Your petitioners are concerned the Bill is:
(1) Undemocratic and illiberal in the way it shields business from public criticism and elevates economic interests of organisations over the civil liberties of individuals.
(2) Unjust in setting harsh criminal and financial penalties for those who peacefully assemble on public land to protest.
(3) Dangerous in the silencing effect it will have on Tasmanians who decide against participating in public meetings and rallies for fear of breaking the new law.
(4) Technically flawed in that none of the concerns and drafting problems identified by independent legal academics or community groups during public consultation have been addressed in the Bill or its supporting information.

Your petitioners, therefore, request the House to vote against the Bill.

Or view the petition yourself at: