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Resources - Anti-Protest Legislation

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Thursday, 9 September 2021

Tags: Anti-Protest Laws, Protest, State Budget, Parks

Ms O'CONNOR - Seeing as we have started with some early onset fascism from Dr Broad, I will ask you some questions about your proposed Workplaces (Protection From Protesters) Amendment Bill, given that the act has been found to be unconstitutional. I have a letter here from a former secretary of Primary Industries, John Whittington, who writes that:

DPIPWE is seeking legal advice on the following matters, and it's in relation to the previous iteration of the bill in 2019 and we'll keep your department informed. Powers to manage protestors on land associated with leases and licences on all reserve classes including Wellington Park and thoroughfares, both during construction and operation.

Mr Whittington at the time recommended that the tourism industry be included in the definition of business premises in part 5 of the current act. This would have the effect of protecting the interests of this industry on reserved land.

Is it your Government's intention also to prohibit protest, lock people up, slap them with huge fines if they're defending public protected areas or for example, kunanyi, from a cable car?

Mr BARNETT - I welcome the question on the Government's plans to re prosecute our workplace protection legislation, which was released for public comment last week. We'll take on board that feedback and reintroduce that bill. That will give the Labor Party and other members of parliament the opportunity to support that bill -

Ms O'CONNOR - We'll be voting against it, but do you want to answer the question?

Mr BARNETT - I appreciate that you will be voting against it because you've always said that you would vote against it, notwithstanding the facts and the reasonable arguments in support of the bill.

Ms O'CONNOR - You can't arrest your way out of a climate and biodiversity crisis.

CHAIR - Order, Ms O'Connor, the minister is answering the question.

Mr BARNETT - The amended bill has taken into account a number of the observations and remarks shared in the upper House. It's taken into account the legislation that has been passed on the mainland, in New South Wales, in Queensland, in South Australia, Western Australia and at the federal level with bipartisan support from the Coalition and the Labor Party. We think we have the balance right. It will apply across the board for all relevant businesses that are affected and impacted by relevant protests that are inundating or that are intimidating and that are stopping the lawful operation of a business.

Ms O'CONNOR - Can you confirm that, for example, if a group of anglers and bushwalkers protested at Lake Malbena in the Walls of Jerusalem National Park this anti protest law would capture those protesters if Mr Hackett's tourism development is approved? Anglers, your friends, the anglers who are vehemently opposed to the EOI process.

Mr BARNETT - What it doesn't do is only apply to forestry land, which was the Labor proposal. It applies across the board to those businesses affected by the legislation as it is drafted.

Ms O'CONNOR - Can you confirm that?

Mr BARNETT - The draft legislation is being circulated for public comment. You can draw your own conclusion and provide advice on that. I'd encourage you to do so over the coming weeks.

Ms O'CONNOR - Chair, can I ask the minister to that pointed question, because that is two questions now I have asked, that he has not answered.

CHAIR - You understand as well as I do, Ms O'Connor, that I can't put words in the minister's mouth.

Ms O'CONNOR - I do, but anglers are really interested to know whether your draconian workplace legislation would capture them, should they be defending the places they love, like Halls Island and Lake Malbena.

Mr BARNETT - It is written into the bill that there's a right to free speech. The intent of the bill remains the protection of Tasmanian workers and business from illegal, dangerous and threatening extremist and radical protests.

Ms O'CONNOR - Like your angler friends?

Mr BARNETT - The bill will more clearly define the threshold for disruption exceptions and defences on business premises. The version more clearly focuses on recognising every Tasmanian's right to free speech and lawful protest. The bill will also clearly outline exemptions, including hospitals, schools and charitable organisations.

Ms O'CONNOR - We can take that as a 'yes', can we?

Mr BARNETT - The bill will alter penalty provisions for individuals and body corporate, including making them summary penalties. There have been important amendments after the previous bill, based on feedback we have had from the Legislative Council, from others.

Ms O'CONNOR - Why won't you answer that question? Are you embarrassed that I will send the Hansard to your Anglers Alliance? Because I will.

Ms O'CONNOR - Minister, on behalf of bushwalkers, anglers, people who love kunanyi and our protected areas. Can you confirm it is the intent of your Government to increase the powers to arrest people who are protesting against developments inside protected areas, including kunanyi?

Mr BARNETT - I won't be verballed, through you, Chair.

Ms O'CONNOR - I am just asking for a straight answer.

Mr BARNETT - I won't be verballed and I won't be told what the Government's position is. The Government's position -

Ms O'CONNOR - I'm not telling you, I'm asking.

Mr BARNETT - You have made it very clear in the way you have asked that question and you are seeking a specific response - yes or no? I'm making it clear that the bill is available. Please review the bill. It's available for three weeks.

The intent of the Government has been clear all along for the last three elections, and the Tasmanian people have voted us back with a mandate every time. We will reprosecute this bill. We are very determined to protect businesses' right to operate free from intrusion and intimidation. We are committed to protect the right of workers to work freely from intimidation and intrusion. The bottom line is, they have got to be able to feed their families.

We support the right to protest, we support the right to free speech. Let's be very clear -

Ms O'CONNOR - No you don't. You want to tame the protesters.

Mr BARNETT - I don't accept that interjection from Ms O'Connor, the member for Clark, the Leader of the Greens. I simply don't accept it. We absolutely do support free speech. We do support the right to protest, but it must be done legally.

Ms O'CONNOR - What I asked you before, this is the fifth question I've asked on this issue that you have not answered: is it your Government's intent to have the powers to lock up people like bushwalkers, anglers and other people who are defending public protected areas from the expressions of interest process? Is it your Government's intent, for example, to have legislation in place that would protect workers from the Mount Wellington Cableway Company should they be constructing terminals and other buildings on the top of the mountain?

Mr BARNETT - Through you, Chair, the member keeps asking questions which are hypothetical. I can't answer hypothetical questions. The legislation is available and I encourage you to review the legislation and provide your feedback.

Ms O'CONNOR - We're asking for your intent.