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Right to Peaceful Protest Law - High Court Decision

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Thursday, 19 October 2017

Tags: Anti-Protest Laws, Protest, Democracy, Freedom of Speech, Australian Constitution


The entire country now knows a bad law brought in by your Government has led to a landmark High Court decision affirming the right to peaceful protest, the right to stand up to protect the environment. Environmentalists and unionist all over Australia are thanking you for giving Bob Brown and Jessica Hoyt the opportunity to affirm this fundamental right and freedom of political expression in our democracy.

The court has also awarded costs against the state in the order, we understand, of around $170 000. What is your understanding of the costs and how do you justify a folly that will slug taxpayers with the lawyers' bill? Now your anti-protest law has been found to be unlawful and invalid, will you commit to reading the Australian Constitution before formulating your policies for the next election, so you are not trying to sell Tasmanians illegal policies and huge lawyers costs?


Mr Speaker, I thank the member for the question. I note the cheer squad and the Labor Party who are probably also as excited as the Greens are about us and our efforts to protect workers. We are working to protect them in earning a living and to support those who employ them. We note and accept the decision of the High Court. It is not going to be possible under laws that came off the back of a strong commitment we gave to all those people and the Tasmanian community. When it comes to extremist and illegal activities, with people interfering in workplaces, we would stand up for them every day of the week.

What we are seeing is a frightening insight into the Labor Party 2017 which is no different from what it was three-and-a-half years ago. They are still unwilling to stand up for workers.

Ms O'CONNOR - Point of order Mr Speaker. Standing Order 45 goes to relevance. I did not ask any question about the Labor Party. I asked about costs against the state the taxpayers will pay and whether the Premier will read the Constitution before the next election.

Mr SPEAKER - Thank you for that, Ms O'Connor. There was a substantial preamble and as you are fully aware, when members go through that process I will allow the leniency and the appropriate amount of time to whomever you ask the question.

Ms O'CONNOR - On the point of order Mr Speaker, the Premier talks about illegal protestors but what we found is that the Premier's law is illegal.

Mr SPEAKER - Order. Ms O'Connor, it is disorderly to use the point of order to disrupt the House. I officially warn you for doing that.

Mr HODGMAN - Thank you, Mr Speaker. We were expecting the member for Denison to be full of beans this morning. We did not expect to see so much happiness in members of the Labor Party, or to see what we put through this parliament and took to the election, to protect workers and to protect the businesses that employ them, is not something that the so-called Labor Party supports.

We note and accept the decision with respect to the cost. That matter has not yet been quantified and we will release details of any costs as they become known.

It is true to say only one party that will stand up for workers, step in when they are losing their ability to go to work, earn a living and not have their business staff or their employer being interfered with by extremists, by environmentalists, whose sole motivation is to make a political point and to disrupt those businesses. We are the only political party that will stand up for them.

I note, while we make no apology for wanting to protect the rights of workers -

Mr SPEAKER - Order, Ms O'Byrne, order.

Opposition members interjecting.

Mr HODGMAN - The Liberal majority government will do what we can to protect the rights of workers to earn a living.

The High Court said in its summary that a majority of the court held that the Protestors Act pursued the legitimate purpose of protecting businesses and their operations by ensuring that protestors do not prevent, hinder or obstruct the carrying out business activities on business premises. I do not know why the Labor Party is so excited about that, nor should anyone make or form a view that our laws did not have at their heart the objective to provide that protection for business from the sorts of behaviour we have spoken about.

We accept the findings of the High Court that certain provisions designed to achieve this in respect of forestry land are invalid. The entire set of laws we brought to this place or that passed through the Parliament is not invalid.

We will continue to work through the findings and determine what we can do next to better protect workers. The message today from all this is, do not expect the Labor Party to stand up for workers. Expect them to fall into line with the Greens as they did in Government three-and-a-half years ago.