Tas govt breaches election promise, introduces ‘Silence’ bill

Anti-protest laws tabled in The Tasmanian parliament will frighten the Tasmanian community into silence and are a direct breach of election commitments by the Tasmanian Liberals, Civil Liberties Australia says.

“This would be an outrageous law and we call for it to be quickly rejected by non-government legislators in State Parliament,” Tasmanian Director of CLA, Richard Griggs, said.

The “Silence-the-People” bill was table on 14 Nov 2019.

Section 6(7) of the proposed law specifically covers rallies and gatherings on public land such as public parks and beaches.

“This is in direct breach of election commitments made in both 2014 and 2018 by the Tasmanian Liberals who pledged to punish ‘work place invasion’,” Griggs said.

“To include people who peacefully gather in public places in this harsh legislation is profoundly undemocratic, authoritarian and dangerous.

“Under these proposed laws, Tasmanians using a public place to meet and raise concerns about a particular business or industry  face a $5000 fine. The government was made aware of this during their public consultation earlier this year but have elected to proceed with these laws anyway.

“In May this year thousands of people rallying in Cascade Gardens in South Hobart against the proposed cable car would have risked fines under these new laws.

“If one thousand people each receive a $5000 dollar fine, the government would recoup $5 million.”

Background:

  • Proposed 6(7) states “A person must not cause the use or enjoyment of a public thoroughfare to be obstructed, if the person intends, by so doing, to impede the carrying out of a business activity.
  • The fine for breaching 6(7) is up to $5040 (30 penalty units)
  • Proposed 6(8)(c) provides a defence if a permit is issued by police under 49AB of the Police Offences Act (Note permits are only issued for a demonstration or procession on a public street not, for example, a public garden or park)
  • The definition of “public thoroughfare” earlier in the bill at proposed section 3 includes “a street, road, land, footpath or bridge” and a “public place” and a “waterway”.
  • The definition of “impede” earlier in the bill means to “prevent, hinder or obstruct”
  • As made clear in the submission by Dr Brendan Gogarty, this set of words has been held by Australian courts to include any act which makes any aspect of a business more difficult to carry out, regardless of whether the interference is complete, serious or even physical.
  • Copy of Dr Gogarty’s submission: https://www.justice.tas.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0018/551016/B-Gogarty-submission-Workplace-protesters.PDF
  • For example, a rally which made the cable car business more difficult to gain public acceptance and progress would be impeding the Cable Car Company.
  • The use of the public park at Cascades, if large enough, would obstruct others from using the same space at the same time, satisfying the first element of 6(7)
  • On 7 May 2019 “thousands” or people rallied in the Cascade Gardens. If 1000 people were issued a $5040 fine each, that would be $5 million in fines

Media release, issued by Civil Liberties Australia A04043

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