Anti-protest laws currently being reviewed by the Legislative Council in Tasmania are an unnecessary attack on the right to freedom of speech and freedom of assembly, says the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA).
“If this proposed law had been in force at the time, it would have severely curtailed or prevented the Franklin Dam protests in the early 1980s,” said Mr Fabiano Cangelosi, spokesperson, ALA.
The Police Offences Amendment (Workplace Protection) Bill 2022 is another attempt by the Government to restrict individual’s right to protest after previous attempts were struck down by the High Court and rejected by the state parliament.
“There are ample existing powers in the current Police Offences Act to deal with trespass, obstruction of streets and public spaces. These additional laws are simply not needed,” said Mr Cangelosi.
“The Bill offends the rule of law by reversing the onus of proof. It forces the defendant to prove they had a reasonable excuse for entering land.
“Although better drafted than previous attempts at this legislation, the Bill will lead to injustice and to extended hearings because of the vagueness of definitions.
“We are also confident that the increase in penalties in the Bill – providing for jail terms of up to 18 months – will have no deterrent effect. As we know, increasing penalties in most areas of the criminal law does not have this effect.
“We already have sufficient laws in place to protect businesses and other organisations and we do not need more authoritarian legislation designed to restrict the freedom of individuals.”