New Police Powers a Threat to Civil Society: Research Submission

The Tasmanian Government’s proposed law for a police crackdown on peaceful protest has been criticised as anti-democratic and a threat to civil society, in a submission by independent think-tank the Australia Institute, Tasmania.

Key points in submission:

  • Bill undermines freedom of expression, association and assembly for the Tasmanian public
  • Bill contains unclear, broad and discretionary language which will make it difficult for the public to comply, and for police to enforce
    • For example, it could extend to a person holding a placard at the Salamanca Market, handing out pamphlets outside a café, asking for a petition to be signed in a public park or filming on a public road
  • Questions remain about whether or not this Bill is inconsistent with the implied freedom of political communication contained in the Constitution
  • The Bill is unnecessary, as several offences already exist to stop protestors doing the wrong thing
  • The Bill creates disproportionate penalties for people who peacefully protest against business activities, equivalent to aggravated assault, possessing an implement with intent to commit a crime, or loitering near children.

“The Tasmanian Government’s new anti-protest Bill continues a sustained attack on Tasmanians’ democratic right to peaceful protest,” said Eloise Carr, Director of the Australia Institute, Tasmania.

“This Bill is completely unnecessary. There are a broad array of offences already available to police to stop people who are doing the wrong thing.

“It places peaceful protest amongst the worst offences.

“The High Court declared this Bill’s predecessor partially invalid, as it breached the freedom of political communication. Those questions remain with this Bill.

“The ability to communicate freely through protest, is fundamental to our democracy.

“This Bill uses unclear language and gives police broad powers of arrest. It could be interpreted to mean that a person holding a placard at the Salamanca Market, handing out pamphlets outside a café, or asking for a petition to be signed could be charged with an offence.”

The submission was made as part of a public consultation by the Department of Justice into the Police Offences Amendment (Workplace Protection) Bill 2022.

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