Debate on the anti-protest bill has resumed in the Legislative Council #Tasmania.
The webcast is here: https://www.parliament.tas.gov.au/TBS/LCvideo.html
The Leader of the Government, Leonie Hiscutt, is proceeding with the 2nd reading speech on the anti-protest bill.
Leader of Opposition Business in the Legislative Council in the Legislative Council, Sarah Lovell, speaking now.
Says she supports right to protest and that this bill is not a workplace safety bill.
Refers to 2 previous anti-protest bills – 1 found to be unconstiutional.
Says she has concerns about aspects of the bill – some of which can be dealt with by amendments and others which should be struck out. Says the proposed changes would affect protests without a permit.
Says that while govt says they support the right to protest, what they mean is protest on their terms.
Now discussing effect on industrial actions. Says there are protest actions that should be addressed.
Says she has taken part in many protests – says she will be inserting a protection for industrial action in clause 5. Supports higher penalties against some trespass activities.
Ruth Forrest speaking now – says she supports right to protest & has participated in protests herself. Endorses comments by Lovell that many workplace safety issues are not being pursued by the govt.
Says issue is about finding a balance. Forrest referred to Leg Co members having been briefed on the bill by Mr Steve Scott the General Manager of MMG Rosebery.
MMG’s proposed new tailings dam has been opposed by the Bob Brown Foundation. Forrest reading part of letter from Ray Mostogl the Chief Executive Officer of the Tasmanian Minerals, Manufacturing & Energy Council urging action to curtail protest actions.
Forrest expressed concern about protests at MMG blocking access to assess the proposed tailings dam site.
Says if there are going to be high penalties then there needs to be a high bar. Says that generally high penalties don’t necessarily deter offences — but said given most BBF protests are pre-planned then maybe they would. Says she supports the principle of the bill.
Rosemary Armitage, member for Launceston, says there is a need to address protests affecting mining, forestry. Supports higher penalties for remote protests but says important to protests such as handing out flyers can occur.
Armitage says Q for her is whether increased penalties deter the protests she is concerned about where people overstep the mark. Says need to take a balanced approach – says she supports the principle of the bill.
Mike Gaffney speaking now. Notes protest can often be out of frustration with govt not hearing or responding to public concerns.
Says we need to be mindful of risks of some protests, and right of workers to safe workplace but also the importance of protest to dissent against govt policy.
Govt 2nd reading speech here parliament.tas.gov.au/Bills/Bills202…
Text of the bill is here parliament.tas.gov.au/Bills/Bills202…
Clause notes here parliament.tas.gov.au/Bills/Bills202…
Submissions — including those by the Tas Aboriginal Legal Service, Tas Forest Products Assoc & Tas Minerals Manufacturing & Energy Council — on the exposure draft of the bill are here https://www.justice.tas.gov.au/community-consultation/closed-community-consultations2/police-offences-amendment-workplace-protection-bill-2022
Historical note: It is almost 40 years since the Gray Liberal Govt amended the Police Offences Act (No.74/1982) to give police the power to arrest people entering or remaining on land of another person.
1272 people were arrested for trespass over the Franklin Dam.
Tania Rattray speaking – read from a letter to the editor to the Examiner from Steve Whiteley of Sustainable Timbers Tasmania. Says protest should not impede others from doing their work.
Refers to additional info provided overnight from Steve Scott from MMG. Rattray also mentioned forest industry presenters to Leg Co members yesterday on anti-protest bill were Nick Steel the CEO of the Tas Forest Products Association & Andrew Walker the CEO of Neville Smith Forest Products.
Now the new member for Huon Dean Harriss is speaking – referring to his background in the construction industry. Says he can’t see where the govt bill infringes on right to political communication or right to safe protest.
Member for Hobart Rob Valentine speaking now. Said there is a lot of concern from a broad array of groups not just environment groups – mentions Tascoss submission referring to broad wording on bill and risk of chilling effect on legitimate protest.
Valentine said he had concerns over bill impact – for eg if a farmer protested against impacts of a fracking licence over their land; or when log truck drivers blocked road in protest against low payments. Valentine read from letter from CPSU Tas Asst Sec Tom Lynch saying bad bills shouldn’t be amended but rejected.
Asked “what is it fixing?” “Protests have changed the world” & refers to Ghandi’s protests against the British salt tax w 60,000 Indians being jailed. Valentine said when we look at their bill we need to look at the chilling effect, its impact on society. Said he can’t support the bill.
Member for Nelson Meg Webb speaking now. Webb says the bill is part of an ideologically driven culture war.
“This bill will not do what is say on the packet” – says it is not about workplace protection. Says a decent government would invest in addressing the policy disputes that give rise to protests.
Webb says committed protests have delivered important changes in Tasmania such as decriminalisation of homosexuality, protection of wilderness areas now a tourism drawcard. Says bill risks depriving Tas of future benefits that come from changes flowing from protest.
Webb reading a letter from Carol Barnett, a relative of Guy Barnett, on how she went from writing letters but – when they were being ignored – decided she decided to do more.
Referred to Bob Brown Foundation protests she had attended to protect swift parrots. Said she been arrested on the road to MMG’s proposed tailings dam site — but the charges had been dropped as the road had been illegally closed.
Now reading from letter from Philip Tapper, a 70 yo retired former OHS officer. Recounted the protest he undertook against MMG, how he locked onto machinery and how claims of unsafe protests, harassment, intimidation were “trumped up” claims. Carol is the sister-in-law of Guy Barnett, the Minister who introduced the bill to parliament.
Webb notes legal submissions raised doubt that increased penalties deter protests. Said every industry group had as a core element of their support for the bill that increased penalties will deter protests. Webb asks what evidence the government has that increased fines will deter the protests being targetted by the bill?
Said on all expert advice the bill is likely to have a chilling effect on routine protests but likely to have no effect on the protests targetted. Said instead of seeking to “squash protest” the govt should be engaging more constructively on the issues that give rise to protests.
Webb asked what assessment the govt has made on the risk of chilling public protest on people beyond the protests the govt thinks it is targetting.
Webb read a letter from a member of Tas Aboriginal community on how protest is one of the few available avenues to protecting and reclaiming land. Accepting protest would force business and govt to adopt more sustainable approaches
“Please, please vote this down.” Webb will resume her speech after the Legislative Council returns at 2:30pm
Quick recap: Labor & Govt leaders have spoken & Webb is last of 7 independents to speak.
Then it will go to 2nd reading vote – if approved then amendments will be debated in committee stage #politas
15 members in Leg Co #politas
Libs = 4
Labor = 4
Independents = 7
Libs + Labor = 8 so majority
Libs (4) + majority of indep (4) = majority
as @tassiepatrat noted (& TI accidentally omitted)
Labor + 4/7 independents = majority – so amendments can be made
Govt, Labor & Webb have flagged they will move amendments.
Leg Co has resumed but first it is questions.
Meg Webb speaking. Webb read letter from Tim Jacobsen State Secretary of Health & Community Services Union received over lunch break urging bill be rejected. HACSU emphasised need for government to focus on collaborative approaches to address frustrations that lead to protests.
Member of Windemere Liberal Nick Duigan speaking now — says the bill targets protests which are “routinely extreme”.
Duigan says he accepts the argument from legal submitters that increased penalties may not deter protests
Says as protests impose costs on business he is “comfortable” that increased penalties “is an appropriate response”. Duigan read a letter from Michael Bailey the CEO of Tas Chamber of Commerce & Industry supporting the bill – an industry lobby group which didn’t brief the Leg Co yesterday.
Vote on the end 2nd reading 11-3 in favour of the bill
3 against Webb, Valentine, Gaffney
11 for Labor (3) + Liberal (4) + Forrest, Armitage, Rattray, Harriss
Now will deal with amendments in committee.
Ruth Forrest as Chair of Committees in chair. Clauses 1, 2 & 3 carried on the voices & no division
Hiscutt now moving several amendments to clause 4. Lovell (Labor) says she supports amendments but has Qs (TI doesn’t have a copy of latest amendments & they were read quickly).
Lovell sought clarification that these changes wouldn’t apply to industrial action or protests without permits. Hiscutt says they wouldn’t.
Forrest out of chair and speaking – supporting govt amendments as being targetted at those “actively preventing people going about their lawful activities”.
Gaffney read correspondence from Human Rights Law Centre stating that the govt amendments indicate bill is being targetted as protests which block road access in limited no of workplaces in the state. HRLC said it can be used against protests in far more locations.
Lovell speaking and saying while she supported the amendment to clause 4 as being better than the original, she would oppose the clause.
Webb said pleased to see govt amendment to be adopted but said she won’t be supporting the clause.
Forrest says she supports the clause for increasing the penalties for the obstruction of a road.
Lovell said the clause was framed to target protests on the Helilog Road in the Tarkine but would have broader effects.
Clause 4 was carried 8-6
Against Labor (3) + Webb, Valentine and Gaffney.
Clause 5 (on unlawful entry to land)
Lovell (Labor) moving amendment to carve out exemption for workers from trespass involved in industrial action, industrial disputes or people (incl community/family members) involved in an industrial campaign.
Lovell read correspondence from Scott McLean, State Secretary, Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union who expressed support for principle of acting against forest protests – but opposes provisions which would have wider impact on unions and community.
Hiscutt opposing Labor amendment stating there should be no distinctions between groups of people.
Forrest said she has a mind to support Lovell’s amendment.
Webb says she is not inclined to support Lovell’s amendment – said she can’t agree to put selective protections in place but leave the rest of our citizens exposed to aggravated penalties. Says it is a hard one for her.
Armitage says she will support it.
Valentine says he won’t support Lovell’s amendment – described it as discrimatory.
Lovell said Labor’s amendment would apply only to exclusion from an aggravated penalty applying — but they could still be charged with trespass and have the normal penalty apply. She says it is aimed at protecting union officials, family members, volunteers.
After a long debate and many questions Lovell’s amendment was put and defeated 8-6.
The Leg Co went quickly through the last clauses which were adopted on the voices.
Then the final vote on the bill with the amendment and it was carried on the voices.
The Legislative Council has now adjourned.
* it was repeatedly made clear that the provisions were to specifically crack down on Bob Brown Foundation protests in forests & at MMG’s proposed tailings dam site. This had support of Labor & most independents (Harriss, Rattray, Armitage, Forrest) & CFMMEU.
* to do this the govt cast a wide net – they conceded to make one amendment which tempered some of the provisions a little;
* Labor pushed for a carve out from higher penalties under the trespass provisions for workers, union officials & supporters (families, community).
The carve out was defeated.
The govt got nearly all of what they wanted.
What next? The amended Leg Co bill has to go back to the lower house in mid-August.
Will it be used against protests by the end of the year? Probably.
Then there are likely to be appeals all the way to the High Court.
Final observation: all Leg Co’s said they supported right to protest – but then a majority voted to crack down on the sort of protests they don’t like ie where the motivation is environmental protection.
That’s all for now – thanks for reading along. Tasmanian Inquirer is an independent news service
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Correction: Meg Webb – Actually the final vote on the Bill will occur on the third reading – next time the upper house sits. There will be a division called on that vote so that it is clear who supports/doesn’t support
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