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Anti-Protest Laws

Cassy O'Connor MP

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Thursday, 14 November 2019

Tags: Anti-Protest Laws, Protest, Freedom of Speech

Anti-Protest Laws: Cassy O'Connor, 14 November, 2019



Your Government's first crack at shutting down the right to peaceful protest was struck down by the High Court a couple of years ago. Now you are back with another darkly draconian attempt to stifle dissent in Tasmania with legislation to be tabled today that will lock up forest or climate protesters or unionists. For example, 18 months for the first offence and four years for the second. This is another direct attack on our democratic foundations at a time of climate emergency when people are peacefully protesting to demand action. Scott Morrison would be proud of you. Why are you so intent on marching us down the road of a police state?



Madam Speaker, I thank the member for the question. It is an important piece of legislation, a reform, as part of our agenda to ensure that we do all we can to support Tasmanian workers who are rightly entitled to go to work and earn a living without that being compromised by political protesters. That is where we stand on this matter and have done so in successive elections.

Yes, we took forward some legislation. We took on board the reflections of the High Court. We noted that their judgment, in fact, supported the notion of what we were endeavouring to do to protect people's right to work which is one of the most important rights that we will always uphold. This is not a direct attack on anyone because people are still able to peacefully protest. This is direct support for Tasmanian workers in all sectors who, sadly, are often the target of political attack by the Greens and their colleagues.

It is not just about forest workers, it goes through to farmers, those who work in fish farming, those who work in industry sectors that are now more confident than ever before and are now employing more people than ever before. We are seeing the strength in our economy now across almost all industry sectors bar one and that is the first time that has happened for many, many years.

This legislation that we introduce today will protect people who are simply seeking to go to work, do their jobs, get paid, support the business that they work in and be part of Tasmania's strong economy. That does not prevent anyone political protesters from doing their thing as well.

Why should they be allowed to go in and disrupt these workplaces?

Members interjecting.

Madam SPEAKER - Order, I remind the Greens that this a place for professional debating not a slanging place where you just mouth off. I am asking you to be respectful of the Premier and let him finish.

Mr HODGMAN - I do not know why political protesters, environmentalists, are entitled to go in to prevent people from earning a living.

Ms O'CONNOR - Point of order, Madam Speaker. The interjection just then was on behalf of the knitting nannas, for example, who could be captured by this law. That is why we interjected and we think that is a professional point.

Madam SPEAKER - That is not a point of order. This is reducing it from professional debate. It is just slanging. We can all rise above that, please.

Mr HODGMAN - Thank you, Madam Speaker. I know that the Greens will try to stir up concerns within the community about these laws which will be debated in this place and thoroughly scrutinised. It is an important provision, in our view, for our laws to also support people's right to go to work, earn a living, be part of a business that -

Dr Woodruff - For the 20 000 children and young people who went on strike and went on the streets peacefully protesting.

Madam SPEAKER - Dr Woodruff, warning one.

Mr HODGMAN - is part of a growing economy. That is where we stand.

I have to wonder where the Labor Party stands on this. So often they claim to be the party of the workers. Are they going to stand with us and support the workers who we want to protect through these laws to allow them to go about their jobs? Are you going to stand with us on this or are you going to join the Greens again? That is the question most people will be asking. You know where we stand.

Ms O'Byrne - Is that what the whole bill is about?

Mr HODGMAN - No, it is not. It is not about that at all but it is an important question to ask. It is a fact that we know you do not have a position on many things. In fact the member who interjected blamed us for them not having a position on pill testing. She said that this is not a matter that the Labor Party should have a position on, it is a matter for the Government. They will blame us for everything, including not having a position on that very issue of pill testing. I wonder whether we will see the same thing happen again.

This is a chance to see if the Leader of the Opposition is as clear as she says she is. She calls others in this place wishy-washy. The Leader of the Opposition has a fast-growing reputation for standing for very little, if anything. It will be important to understand whether the Labor Party will stand with us and support Tasmanian workers, which is what this legislation is about. We are not about the political games that you play. We are about supporting Tasmania's strong economy, supporting our workers, whether it be our state servants, whether it be people who work in forestry, on farms, in mines, in aquaculture - that is what this bill is about. Are you going to support it or not?