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Government Introduces Draconian Anti-Dissent Legislation

WE REACHED a low point in parliamentary history this week when the Government tabled the Workplaces (Protection from Protesters) Bill 2014  in the House of Assembly – legislation that would see the criminalisation of protest in Tasmania, which is now passed. See the Bill below.

WORKPLACES (PROTECTION FROM PROTESTERS) BILL 2014

“Ostensibly, this legislation will enhance the workplace health and safety of forestry workers in the context of forest protests”, CPSU Acting General Secretary Mat Johnston said. “But it actually criminalises nearly all forms of protest in Tasmania whether it’s about a super-trawler, the environment, a humanitarian issue or just about anything else including an industrial dispute in your workplace.”

The legislation includes major financial penalties for breaches and mandatory custodial sentences for repeat offenders. 

“Not all forms of protest are appropriate but there are already laws that apply, such as trespass, under the Criminal Code and Police Offences Act”, Mr Johnston said. “And there are provisions in Federal industrial law around industrial action.”

On Thursday your CPSU joined with representatives of the Law Society, the Civil Liberties Council, the Tasmanian Opposition, UTAS students and other unions to publicly raise concerns about this extreme, unnecessary and inappropriate piece of legislation.

“Anyone who thinks at some stage in their life they may need to protest against something, and we’ve seen pensioners and the disabled doing just that recently, ought to be very concerned by this legislation”, Mr Johnston said. “Anyone who believes that in a developed democracy we should be able to legally express dissent ought to be very concerned.  We don’t know if anyone was consulted around the ridiculously broad brush of this legislation, but the groups represented on Thursday certainly weren’t consulted.

“It’s unclear whether the government intends to persist with this flawed piece of legislation or whether it’ll recognise the unforeseen consequences of a rushed Bill and withdraw it for consultation and further work”, Mr Johnston said. “I hope this is a mistake or oversight rather than a deliberate strategy to stifle any public expression that doesn’t agree with a government’s position.”

Your CPSU will work with allies across the community to have this legislation defeated in the Legislative Council and, if deemed to be necessary at all, redrafted to limit it to its purported use. We’ll let you know how you can get involved in the near future.

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