Tasmania’s Liberal government has amended its anti-protest bill to allay fears from concerned groups who say the laws are undemocratic and a threat to free speech.
The laws were passed in the state’s Upper House on October 30, and will be further amended by a committee.
A coalition of more than 20 community groups, including unions, the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre, The Wilderness Society and the Australian Lawyers Alliance, released a joint statement urging parliamentarians to drop the Bill.
The statement said: “We believe the Bill proposes a dramatic and dangerous change to the Tasmanian legal system which diminishes the separation of powers, curtails free speech, duplicates existing laws and may contravene the constitution.”
These groups say the amendments do not stop their concerns about the Bill.
Richard Griggs from Civil Liberties Tasmania said: “Having read the amendments I believe the proposal remains fundamentally flawed because it still proposes to create mandatory three-month jail terms for peaceful protestors who twice gather on public land to protest.
“The prison system should be used to make us all safer, not to frighten the community into silence.”
The legislation, which passed Tasmania’s lower house in June, provides penalties including on-the-spot fines of $2000 and mandatory jail sentences of three months for second offences. The fines have now been reduced to $280 for individuals and the definition of business premises has been changed to include only forestry, mining, agriculture, construction and manufacturing.
A small group of protesters from Groundswell Tasmania climbed poles at Parliament House on October 28 to unfurl a banner. Two people were arrested. Group spokesperson Dr Lisa Searle said: “Today’s protesters are sending a clear message to the Legislative Council that these laws are unnecessary and unacceptable.
“There have been major concerns about this Bill from its controversial inception and the proposed amendments do not make this Bill acceptable. It is a deeply flawed piece of legislation and if passed, will change the face of peaceful protesting in Tasmania.”
[For more information on the Bill, click here.]