Anti-protest law delay due to Liberals’ inability to beat High Court ruling, Bob Brown says
Former Greens leader Bob Brown challenged the laws that led to his arrest at a forest protest in 2016. (Supplied: Bob Brown Foundation)
More than a year after the Tasmanian Government’s controversial anti-protest laws were shot down in the High Court, the Liberals are yet to unveil the new legislation they promised in the lead-up to the state election.
The 2014 laws allowed police to stop protests before they had started if they were on a business premises or an access area, and allowed on-the-spot fines for protesters as well as jail time for second offences.
The Liberals pledged to address the High Court’s concerns and draft legislation to amend the Workplaces (Protection from Protesters) Act to “support the rights of workers” within the first 100 days of this government being elected in March.
It has now been more than 200 days since the Liberals won their second term, but a spokeswoman said draft legislation would not be ready for public consultation until next year, and no bill would be introduced to Parliament before autumn 2019.
The spokeswoman said drafting had commenced within the 100 days timeframe, but was ongoing.
Lawyers ‘scratching their heads’
The anti-protest laws were passed in 2014, and were part of the Liberals’ wider campaign to rebuild Tasmania’s forest industry and stop disruptions at logging sites.
Mr Brown said it was taking the Government months to draft new legislation because the intent of the laws was unconstitutional.
Bob Brown and Jessica Hoyt won their challenge with the High Court ruling the laws breached the right to free speech. (ABC News: Marco Catalano)
“It’s now face-saving, or window-dressing, legislation,” Mr Brown said.
“Our Premier promised legislation that was unconstitutional and he’s gone to his fellow lawyers and they’re still scratching their heads.
“The Premier’s searching for a means of getting around that High Court ruling and he won’t find one.”
The new head of the Forest Industries Association of Tasmania (FIAT), Craig Jones, said he had not been consulted on the new legislation and was not aware of any protests in forested areas that would have required the legislation recently.
“If that law comes forward then we absolutely would like to be involved in the process,” Mr Jones said.
Efforts to ‘get it right’ causing delay
Michael Bailey from the Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (TCCI) said the Government was taking a reasonable amount of time.
“I suspect what we’re seeing here is government spending the time to get this legislation really tied down properly, to get it right, to make sure it’s palatable legally,” Mr Bailey said.
“It’s a fair time I think, to get the legislation correct and to make sure it can pass the challenges that will probably come at it.”
Mr Bailey said the past year had been quiet and he could not think of any protests that would have warranted the legislation.
“But we know that it’s always hanging in the background, we know that there are always groups that want to undertake this sort of action,” he said.