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Police Offences Amendment (Workplace Protection) Bill 2022 - Legislative Council Amendments

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Wednesday, 7 September 2022

Tags: Legislation, Anti-Protest Laws, Protest

Ms O'CONNOR - Minister, I have no doubt at all Ms White will make a strong contribution on this and explain why Labor voted against this odious legislation.

Minister, as I listened to you talk about Helilog Road, it reminded me that you, as the previous Resources minister, unlawfully approved a mining lease for MMG over Helilog Road. As we understand it, you are in a world of legal trouble because of that. We think that is why you have lost the Resources portfolio, because you broke the law, minister. So do not come in here on this odious bill and talk about peaceful protesters as lawbreakers, because you in this Chamber are the number-one lawbreaker. That is a fact. Unlawful lease, never explained.

Mr BARNETT - Madam Deputy Chair, I ask the member to withdraw that offensive remark.

Madam DEPUTY CHAIR - Ms O'Connor.

Ms O'CONNOR - On what basis?

Mr Barnett - It is offensive.

Madam DEPUTY CHAIR - It is offensive.

Ms O'CONNOR - Madam Deputy Chair, I simply stated a fact but if the minister takes offence at being called a lawbreaker, I withdraw it.

Mr Barnett - Thank you.

Ms O'CONNOR - What we know is that this minister has egg all over his face after three unsuccessful attempts through previous bills which were found to be unconstitutional. So we now have this amendment bill to the Police Offences Act, which has been changed substantially by the Legislative Council because it was massive overreach. Of course it is still a steaming pile of legislative manure and we will not support it, because it is intended to crush peaceful protest, it is intended to chill civil society into not standing up to corporations that are given free rein by this Government, largely unregulated, to plunder and profit.

In the process we risk losing places like takayna. Minister, there is nowhere on Earth like the Tarkine, and that is why, no matter what you do, no matter what legislation this House passes that is designed to crush peaceful protest, people will step up to defend that place, they will defend forests and they will stand up for a safe climate. When the law is an ass we have a responsibility to challenge it, and people will challenge this law. I have no doubt about it, because young people striking for a safe climate and those people who love the forests, they figure they have nothing left to lose. The rate of environmental destruction and the heating of this planet means that it is urgent and they know they have an ethical responsibility to stand up, and they will keep doing so.

Minister, the real extremists in this place, the real extremists in Tasmania, are not peaceful protesters, they are people like you, a real extremist who never saw a native forest he did not want to fell, burn and chip, who can travel through takayna and be excited at the vision of a toxic mine dump in a rainforest, a minister who cheerleads for corporations at every opportunity.

We are looking at these amendments because this minister is a shill for a Chinese state-owned mining company. This is nothing to do with the protection of workers. This is a corporate protection racket bill and this is all about MMG in the Tarkine, a Chinese state-owned company this minister bends over backwards for, broke the law for and will do anything for. That is what these amendments are all about. That is what this legislation is all about, and despite the adjustments made by members of the upper House, this is still legislation that is designed to crush dissent. It is still legislation that seeks to enable massive corporate profit and environmental destruction without challenge by civil society.

Of course, as we know, it will not work. It will not stop the peaceful protests. It will not stop the people who are gathering on the lawns right now. It will not stop us, the Greens, from standing up for nature and for civil society and, for example, for coastal communities that your party and your Government has abandoned, from Long Bay at Port Arthur to Cape Barren to the north-west corner in our pristine waters. This is MMG, JBS and Cooke protection racket legislation, despite the amendments.

I thank those members of the upper House who argued valiantly against this bill and voted against it ultimately - Meg Webb, Rob Valentine, Mike Gaffney, Rosemary Armitage and Sarah Lovell, all of whom stood up for the right to peaceful protest which is core to who we are as Tasmanians.

If people had not stood up, the Franklin River would be dammed, there would be a pulp mill pumping dioxins into Wesley Vale, there would be a pulp mill pumping pollutants into the Tamar airshed, there would be a 500 home canal estate in Ralphs Bay and hundreds of thousands of more hectares of our forest would have been felled. The right to peaceful protest is core to who we are, and this law-breaking minister with his odious attempts -

Mr Ferguson - This has been ruled on.

Ms O'CONNOR - Hang on a minute, it is a statement of fact that this minister broke the law under the Mineral Resources Act and he is currently subject to legal challenge.

Mr Ferguson - Madam Deputy Chair, please ask her to withdraw.

Mr Barnett - Unreservedly.

Madam DEPUTY CHAIR - Ms O'Connor, I ask you to withdraw.

Ms O'CONNOR - Thank you, Madam Deputy Chair, because you asked so nicely of course I will withdraw.

Madam Deputy Chair, today is Threatened Species Day and out on the lawns of this parliament are good people, Tasmanians from all walks of life, all ages, all genders and backgrounds, and they are out the front there peacefully protesting for species you will not find anywhere else on Earth - the Tasmanian devil, the masked owl, our own wedge-tailed eagle, the critically endangered spotted handfish - and if this minister thinks the police offences amendment (corporate protection) bill of 2022 will stop those people from speaking up for those creatures, he is sorely mistaken. It will not work.

We are very glad to see that Mr Gaffney's amendments that lowered the grossly disproportionate penalties have been accepted, but the penalties in this legislation can still lead to someone being jailed for two years for exercising their right to peaceful protest.

I remind the House that we asked in Estimates this year how many reports there had been to WorkSafe Tasmania about people injured in the workplace as a result of peaceful protest and of course the answer was zero. This legislation is not about protecting workers. If this Government was serious about protecting workers it would have brought in industrial manslaughter legislation, but no.