WA's Anti Protest Bill: The Fight Continues

Issue 
Seventeen people stood in the public gallery of WA Parliament with the words “Protect Protest WA” spelled across their t-shi

A broad coalition of forces continues to challenge anti-protest legislation tabled in the Western Australian state parliament.

If passed, the broad powers of the Criminal Code Amendment (Prevention of Lawful Activity) Bill will make it a criminal offence to be in possession of an unnamed “thing” or to disrupt "lawful activities". The bill also threatens two year's jail and $24,000 fines for impeding lawful activity. Widely criticised by environmental, social justice, and legal campaigners the law smashes free speech and criminalises peaceful protest.

A broad coalition of forces continues to challenge anti-protest legislation tabled in the Western Australian state parliament.

If passed, the broad powers of the Criminal Code Amendment (Prevention of Lawful Activity) Bill will make it a criminal offence to be in possession of an unnamed “thing” or to disrupt "lawful activities". The bill also threatens two year's jail and $24,000 fines for impeding lawful activity. Widely criticised by environmental, social justice, and legal campaigners the law smashes free speech and criminalises peaceful protest.

It is obvious why the Barnett government is trying to introduce anti-protest legislation. It is because mass protest keeps the government on its toes. Several people-powered campaigns have successfully challenged the state government's agenda in recent years, including those against the Kimberley gas hub, the shark cull, Perth Freight Link, and the forced closure of Aboriginal communities. The anti-fracking movement is also gathering steam throughout the state.

How do you defend the right to protest? With protest! 1400 people rallied outside parliament house on February 23 shortly after the bill was passed by the upper house to tell the government the people will resist this authoritarian effort to shut down protest. An alliance of campaign groups attended, including the Maritime Union of Australia, the Nyoongar Tent Embassy, Rethink the Link, Animal Liberation, No Shark Cull and other organisations and community groups. Labor leader Mark McGowan ripped up the legislation and promised to repeal it if Labor is elected.

Pro-democracy activists held an impressive follow up action on March 15, disrupting state parliament itself. Seventeen people stood in the public gallery with the words “Protect Protest WA” spelled across their t-shirts. They stood with their mouths closed before removing the symbolic gags and singing a classic protest song calling for the right to protest to be respected.

The next large rally will take place when the legislation goes to the lower house, which will probably be in the next few weeks.

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