Healthy Democracies Don’t Criminalise Protest

CPSU Assistant Secretary Tom Lynch weighs in on the Rockliff Government’s Anti-Protest bill.

People in healthy democracies should feel free to protest without threat of criminal prosecution.  The Rockliff government’s Police Offences Amendment (Workplace Protection) Bill 2022 is bad legislation.  Rather than being developed to address real problems, its purpose is to create a political wedge.  

In addition to broadening trespass laws, the Bill amends the Police Offences Act to expand the offence of ‘public annoyance’.  Actions that constitute public annoyance include conduct such as ‘commit a nuisance’, ‘disturb the public peace’ and ‘disorderly conduct’.  The Bill broadens the circumstances where a person can be charged with public annoyance by including ‘unreasonably obstruct the passage of vehicles or pedestrians on a street’. 

The government will tell you that the that the Bill won’t prevent activities on streets, activities such as demonstrations, fundraising drives, processions or cycle events, as long as they have been issued with a permit.  So now we need permission to protest, permission granted by the same government many of the protests are against. 

When public sector workers took strike action in 2019 and marched to a rally on Parliament lawns, did they unreasonably obstruct the passage of pedestrians on their way there?   

When they walked around the city at lunch time beating drums to highlight how much Tasmanians needed a pay rise, did they create a public annoyance?  

When thousands of Tasmanians turned up to protest for women’s rights and spilled out across the street, were they unreasonably obstructing the passage of vehicles?   

Are we really going to crack down on the knitting nannas for protesting in the Elizabeth Street mall in support of refugee children?  Should they be charged?  

There are some that say those who oppose the Bill should be lobbing the Legislative Council to make amendments but its bad legislation, and bad legislation shouldn’t be amended, it should be opposed.  

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