Anti-protest workplace bill defeated

April 7, 2021
Protest outside Tasmania's Parliament House on March 25. Photo: Grassroots Action Network Tasmania / Facebook

Gagged protesters held a silent vigil on March 23 outside Parliament House to protest the Workplaces (Protection from Protesters) Amendment Bill 2019 which proposed the harshest anti-protest, anti-democracy measures in Australia.

The government bill was tabled in the Legislative Council after the previous Workplaces (Protection from Protesters) Bill was struck down by the High Court, after a strong opposition campaign.

Grassroots Action Network Tasmania organised the protest after a vote on the bill was moved forward from May.

But on March 25, the bill was defeated with Labor and progressive independent MLCs voting against it, 8-6.

The bill had proposed a one-year jail sentence for a first offence of protesting at a “workplace”, a four-year jail sentence for second offence and, potentially, 21 year’s jail for a third offence.

Motivating the bill, Primary Industries Minister Guy Barnett said: “We support the right to protest … but we don’t support the intrusion into other people’s workplace”.

Labor resources spokesperson Shane Broad, “The Liberal government has been sitting on this so called ‘emergency’ legislation for 16 months and the only reason [it is] bringing on the bill now is because it wants to invite a fight over forest protests in the lead up to the upper house elections in May.”

Tasmania Greens Leader Cassy O’Conner said: “The High Court gave the original Workplace (Protection from Protestors) Act 2014 the short shrift it deserved, so the Liberals cobbled together some amendments in 2019 which they described as ‘urgent’ and jammed through the House of Assembly with Madeleine Ogilvie’s vote, then left gathering dust in the Upper House until closer to election day. 

“The Greens have a Workplace (Protection from Protesters) Repeal Bill already tabled in Parliament. We’ll be moving to purge this unconstitutional law from Tasmania statutes as soon as we can.”

The bill had been supported by the Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Tasmanian Forest Products Association and the Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association.

The Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre, Civil Liberties Australia, the Human Rights Law Centre and the Bob Brown Foundation were among the organisations that opposed it.

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