You are here

Workplaces (Protection from Protesters) Amendment Bill 2019

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Wednesday, 27 November 2019

Tags: Anti-Protest Laws, Protest, Ralphs Bay, Westbury, Legislation, Big Business, Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre, Australian Constitution

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Madam Speaker, I rise to speak on the 'Workplaces (Protection from Democracy) Bill 2019', or we could call it the 'Workplaces (Early Onset Fascism) Bill 2019', or the 'Workplaces (Criminalising Peaceful Protest) Bill 2019'.

Whatever we call it, this is a dog of a bill that is designed to take away the freedoms that Tasmanians have enjoyed to peacefully protest. It is designed to silence dissent. As Ms O'Byrne said in her contribution, it is designed to scare Tasmanians out of standing up for places they love, for their rights. This bill is intended to have a chilling effect. It is a bill of rights for business while this Government seeks to continues to seek to erode our rights as citizens in a democracy.

We are debating this legislation at a time that the health system is manifestly in crisis. People are sleeping in tents and in their cars because this Government has neglected the Housing portfolio. Seasoned firefighters are raising deeply concerning and very legitimate questions about our preparedness for this bushfire season. The people of Westbury are livid because this Government wants to plonk a prison in their beautiful little town. Thousands and thousands of young people and everyday Tasmanians are striking for climate. People are standing up against new coalmines, standing in defence of the wilderness and the forests, standing up to big business that is stealing the pay from workers .

To deflect from the manifest problems of its own pernicious incompetence, this Government has brought forward this legislation in the last sitting week of the 2019 session. What is happening here is very transparent -

Ms O'Byrne - It is the only transparency we have seen from this Government.

Ms O'CONNOR - That is true. I will give you points for transparency; we can see straight through you.

Ms O'Byrne - Accidental transparency.

Ms O'CONNOR - Yes, accidental transparency. It is so transparent. This is about having the fight, as Ms O'Byrne said. This is about setting up a tinderbox in the community over summer because the Legislative Council will not get to this bill, by design, as we know. That is the intent.

This is a political exercise. If it was not a political exercise, the draft bill would not have been quietly dumped on 26 January this year when the state was ablaze, with no media announcement, none at all. It was quietly put out there and there was a consultation process, a very small one. There was feedback from the likes of the Tasmanian Law Reform Institute, Professor George Williams from the Gilbert + Tobin Centre at the Centre of Public Law at the University of New South Wales, the TasCOSS submission, and I will go to some of the contents of these submissions in my contribution. Unions Tasmania made a submission and a range of people offered feedback on the draft bill in good faith. Do you know, Madam Speaker, what happened to that feedback?

Ms O'Byrne - They adopted all of them?

Ms O'CONNOR - It was completely ignored. You will be shocked to hear, Ms O'Byrne, every bit of it was completely ignored. That is how you know it is political. If you are going to ignore the nation's leading constitutional expert, Professor George Williams, you are not serious about bringing in good law. You are not serious about not winding up back in the High Court at massive taxpayer expense because, if your intent is to use the power of the state, Office of Parliamentary Counsel, this place, to create a political wedge, you are not going to listen to the legal experts. They certainly have not.

I will start by acknowledging that we are an Aboriginal land, on the land of the Mouheneener people, we are on the land of the people who fought hard for their country and who stood up to invasion and oppression. This bill is, perhaps, most insulting to our First People. I read, now, an excerpt from the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre submission -

We urge that the Bill be abandoned. Current laws are wide enough to deal with the harms the government perceives. In fact, so effective have current law and practice been that very few people are even tempted to protest at all these days. That cannot be good for democracy.

We note that the Aboriginal community in Tasmania has long been active in protesting the current state of law. In recent times our community has continued its advocacy from the tent embassy sit-ins on Parliament House Lawns in Hobart in 1976, through the Land Rights reoccupations of putalina/ Oyster Cove, piyura kitina/Risdon Cove, and pinmatik/Rocky Cape to the protests against bridge construction through our ancient site at kutalayna/ Jordan River which resulted in several arrests and detentions. This is one of the few ways our community has of letting its views be known. It is anti-democratic in the extreme to attempt to quell those public demonstrations by threatening increased penalties and police action.

We urge the Government to withdraw the Bill.

Heather Sculthorpe CEO

No, they are ignoring that; total contempt for the first people of Tasmania and their struggle for recognition for their rights for land. It demonstrates utter contempt for the First People of Tasmania and utter contempt for our children who are striking for climate.

Under the provisions of this bill, every one of the 15 000 or more people who gathered here on the lawns on 20 September and then did a lap around the business district of Salamanca would be captured by this legislation. They would have committed criminal offences and would face significant fines. If it was their first criminal offence, exercising their right to peaceful protest; 18 months in jail. If they attended another strike for climate and were also arrested; four years in jail.

I point out the awful irony that the mandatory minimum sentence for a person who commits a sexual crime against a child in the legislation that was debated yesterday is four years. This legislation treats protesters the same as it treats paedophiles - and that is sick. There is something wrong with a government and a minister who would put forward laws like that, who would treat our young people striking for a safe climate in the same way that they would treat a paedophile.

There is no question that this Liberal Government wants to crush dissent in Tasmania. It wants to turn every part of this island's land and waters, Crown lands, every road and thoroughfare into a prohibited place for the purposes of peaceful protest. It continues the Liberals' relentless attempts to alienate Tasmanians from their own places, from their own lands, their own marine environment and their own wilderness protected areas. It seeks to alienate Aboriginal Tasmanians from their own country.

This legislation is breathtakingly offensive. It is so aggressively insulting to everyone in Tasmania, apart from the top end of town. All we need to do is remind ourselves of who was standing there with the minister last Thursday when the legislation was announced. The Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, regrettably, has not yet responded to the letter we wrote to them asking them to explain how they could support legislation that seeks to silence dissent, crush democracy and is, in all likelihood, in breach of the Constitution. Unfortunately, the TCCI Board has not written back to us.

Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers' Mr Skillern was standing there with Mr Barnett. Did Mr Skillern think about his members who might want to defend their property, for example, from a coal exploration or mining company, because this legislation also alienates farmers from their own lands?

Terry Edwards was standing there, from the resurrected Forest Industries Association of Tasmania, with Mr Barnett. At the end of the day, just a bunch of middle-aged white blokes. That is what it was. They were the people standing there with this minister, tapping into his deeply authoritarian streak. When the journalists asked those who were present at the media conference if anyone could give an example of why these laws were needed, and the question was put repeatedly, no-one could. No valid answer was given to that question because there is no reason for these laws. There is no justification for them.

The police have all the powers they need to move people on or to charge people with trespass. In this amendment bill, section 11 of the principal act has been removed so there is, now, not even a requirement for police to ask people to move on before they arrest them and potentially send them to jail for 18 months for the first offence - that is a police state. That is what happens in a police state, when people who are exercising their democratic right to peaceful protect are just stopped, arrested, charged and go through a court process, potentially to jail, with no warning from the police. That puts not only citizens in a terrible position, it also puts Tasmania Police in a terrible position.

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Mr Deputy Speaker, I believe I have 16 minutes left to talk and I can flag that towards the end of that I will be moving an amendment.

Before the break, I was talking about that small conga line of middle-aged white men who supported the minister in bringing forward this legislation. There is a small part of the establishment here that has lined up behind this minister in support of the most undemocratic and chilling legislation, we believe, that has been tabled in Australia. There is a small group of unrepresentative bodies that support this legislation. But the group of stakeholder bodies that condemn this legislation, that have strongly encouraged the Government not to go forward with it, and have exposed its many flaws, that is a large group.

We have organisations, for example the Tasmanian Council of Social Services (TasCOSS), which has a submission that was lodged in March this year, which again was completely ignored by Government. In the TasCOSS submission to Government in March this year, freedom of assembly for the purpose of political expression is particularly important to people and groups in the community who struggle to have their voice heard in the political and legal realms. In addition, many of the traditional mechanisms of having one's voice heard, such as submissions on draft legislation, or writing to members of parliament, depend on issues already being on the legislative agenda. Where they are not, peaceful public protests enable citizens to raise issues of concern, so that these might become matters to consider for legislators and policy makers.

Mr Deputy Speaker, here is an important part of our history as an island community, where people will stand up to say 'no' to the abuse of power, try to stop harmful government laws and policies, and to defend the places they love, to defend the rights of workers.

The TasCOSS submission says this -

There are Tasmanian examples of protests being viewed as disruptive, but ultimately the protests were seen as worthy, and even as having made a significant contribution to the future of the state. For example, the human rights protest at Salamanca Market by gay and lesbian protestors resulted in arrests over disruption of public amenity and the business of other stallholders. These protests paved the way for significant gay and lesbian law reform in Tasmania.

Recently the Tasmanian Government apologised to those it arrested and a key player in those protests, Rodney Croome, is now seen as a champion of human rights and a quality in the state.

The submission goes on -

A second example of a protest to save the Franklin River from being dammed . Protestors deliberately obstructed access to the site by Hydro workers as part of a strategy of civil disobedience.

The river runs through what is now a World Heritage Area that is the cornerstone of Tasmania's booming tourism industry.

A final example that TasCOSS puts forward occurred in the year 2000, and involved a coalition of organisations, including TasCOSS, protesting outside the Executive Building, which of course as we know for the purposes of this amendment bill, is a prohibited place, as it is a workplace.

They argued that electricity concession should be extended beyond pensioners to include health-care card holders, who are on lower incomes than pensioners. As a result of that action, the Government agreed to grant the extension to concessions.

In these examples, preventing or disrupting access to workplaces was a strategy of civil protest that produced outcomes most Tasmanians would now believe are just and beneficial. TasCOSS simply at the end of its submission calls on the Government, says to the Government, TasCOSS does not support the proposed amendments to the act. TasCOSS instead recommends that the act be rescinded.

As we know, there is an act that the Government is seeking to tart up today, that is sitting on the statutes that was struck down by the High Court. There is an old saying, you cannot put lipstick on a pig. That is what this Government is trying to do with this amendment bill.

I go to one of the great Tasmanian legal minds, Terese Henning, from the Tasmania Law Reform Institute, who wrote in an opinion piece in the Mercury on 21 November - great start to this op ed too, by the way:

Fearful governments breed fearful times. Their apprehension manifests in repressive policies, laws and justifications that depend upon and breed more fear. The latest manifestation of this is the Tasmanian Government's Workplace (Protection of Lawful Business) Activities Bill of 2019. This Bill represents another incursion on Tasmania's fundamental freedoms, this time under the guise of protecting businesses. The core aim of this Bill is to confine citizens' freedom of assembly and right to political process.

This, from the leading lawyer at the Tasmania Law Reform Institute. She goes on to talk about the extraordinarily broad scope of this legislation, and how it will impact on the lives of just about every Tasmanian. These amendments turn every part of Tasmania's land and sea and Crown lands, our roads and our thoroughfares, into prohibited places. They turn our wilderness into a prohibited place. They are disgraceful laws.

If you do not want to listen to Terese Henning for some reason, you might want to listen to Community Legal Centres Tasmania, who in their March submissions, was again completely ignored by the Government. Just this one paragraph:

We are strongly opposed to the Workplaces (Protection from Protesters) Act 2014. In our opinion the Act is unnecessary, with existing legislation already providing sufficient scope to punish illegal protest. For example, under the Police Offences Act 1935, it is an offence to unlawfully enter land, with the penalty for non-residential land being a fine of up to $650 or a prison term not exceeding six months. Additionally, the Police Offences Act makes it an offence to destroy or injure property, with the penalties being a fine not exceeding $1300 or a prison term not exceeding 12 months.

One of the things this bill does, because we know there are already trespass provisions in Tasmania's laws, is that it treats trespass against a business as a higher order offence than trespass against a person's property. It is favouring business over everyday Tasmanians and their land and their houses. That is wicked. It is just one of the reasons this legislation is so utterly odious.

I talked earlier about one of the nation's leading constitutional experts, Professor George Williams, who in a succinct and very pointed submission to Government, which again was completely ignored, says:

Despite the bill's amendments to the act, key provisions remain in breach of the implied freedom of political communication. We identify a series of concerns as to the breadth of the operation of these provisions that demonstrate it is not appropriate and adapted to a legitimate objective compatible with the constitutionally prescribed system of representative and responsible government.

It goes on to say that the definition of a business premises, which sits in the principal act now, was not changed. I will take people to that already extraordinarily broad definition of what a 'business premises' is -

Meaning of business premises

(1) In this Act -

business premises means -

(a) premises on which -

(i) mining; or

(ii) mining operations; or

(iii) exploration for minerals –

within the meaning of the

Mineral Resources Development Act 1995, is or are being carried out or is or are authorised under an Act to be carried out; and

(b) premises that are forestry land; and

(c) premises used for agriculture, horticulture, viticulture, aquaculture, commercial food production or commercial food packaging, or as an abattoir, or for any associated purposes; and

(d) premises used for manufacturing, building, or construction, for the purposes of a business activity; and

(e) premises used as a shop, market or warehouse; and

(f) premises used for the purposes of the administration or management of the conduct of business activities in relation to premises that are referred to in another paragraph of this definition; and

(g) premises occupied by a Government Business Enterprise that performs functions, or exercises powers, in respect of a use made of other premises that are referred to in another paragraph of this definition; and

There is an amendment that deletes paragraph of that definition that includes vehicle in it (h), then it concludes with -

(i) premises used for purposes ancillary to the carrying out of a business activity on business premises that are referred to in another paragraph of this definition. [OK] You have the nation's leading constitutional expert pointing out to you the numerous problems with the draft bill that you put forward that seeks to put lipstick on a pig and are completely ignored by Government. Every one of the submissions has been completely ignored.

I will take the opportunity to move our amendment, pursuant to standing order 194. Mr Deputy Speaker, I move -

That all words after 'That' be omitted and the following words inserted instead -

'The bill be withdrawn and redrafted to repeal the Workplaces ( Protection From Protesters) Act 2014 on the basis that the principal act to which the amendment bill relates is not constitutional, the amendment bill does not correct this unconstitutionality and the unconstitutional act should be struck from the statutes as soon as possible.'

We are doing this because it needs to be done. We should not be in this place, seeking to insert amendments into legislation that has been found to be unconstitutional and which, on the advice of the Gilbert + Tobin public interest law centre and Professor George Williams, and the UTAS constitutional expert, Dr Brendan Gogarty, has not sufficiently addressed the issues that were raised by the High Court in its decision that struck down the principal act.

We are moving to do what parliament should have done very quickly after that act was struck down. This legislation must be repealed. It is dangerous to our democracy. It seeks to crush our democratic spirit and to stifle dissent. It seeks to silence Tasmanians and it is not something that this parliament should stand for, by or with. We should not be seeking to amend legislation already found to be deeply wanting and invalid by virtue of the fact that is unconstitutional. That was the advice that legal experts gave Mr Barnett and the Government back in March .

This bill and the principal act should not be being debated in here today. They are being debated because this Government is so desperate not to be held to account for the mess it has made of the health system, the housing system, the lack of preparedness for the bushfire season this year or its privatisation and degradation of wilderness. The Liberals do not want to be held to account for that and that is why we are dealing with an amendment bill that maintains, we would argue, many of the unconstitutional provisions that were in the original act.

There are issues in the minister's second reading speech. It states in the last paragraph, 'More than 50 targeted stakeholders were sent a copy of the bill and invited to make a submission.'. Can the minister tell us which stakeholders were targeted for consultation? Was comment sought from any group that had previously been critical of the anti- protest laws, or was it only a supportive group? Was there another round of consultation after the March round in which everyone who is anyone with a legal brain held this up to government and said, 'wrong way, go back'? Was there another special little consultation with the Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association, Terry Edwards and the Small Business Council? Was it their professional advice that the Government followed in bringing forward this amendment bill?

We will not see the Solicitor-General's advice on this issue but we should . I would bet my house on the Solicitor-General having a very similar view to Professor George Williams, Dr Brendan Gogarty, Terese Henning, the Community Legal Centres and Civil Liberties Tasmania. If you understand the law, you cannot support these amendments; unless you do not ask him, but I have a feeling they did.

Ms O'Byrne - Would they ask the question if they knew the answer was going to be no?

Ms O'CONNOR - I have a strong feeling that they did. The minister says in his second reading speech that more than 400 submissions were received in response to the bill, but the Department of Justice website displays each of these submissions. Can you confirm that only two supportive submissions were received; one from the Tasmanian Minerals and Energy Council, and the second from an individual Tasmanian resident, Mr Trustom?[ TBC] That is two supportive submissions out of the 400 the minister says were received. That does tell you something. It tells you that there is not community or stakeholder support for these amendments or for the principle act.

We had, on the day of the announcement, a quite remarkable statement made by the minister that these laws could lead to up to 21 years in jail. Dr Woodruff and I, in our office, have combed through the bill. There is no mention of 21 years in jail, so the minister needs to explain how it could be that, simply for peacefully protesting, you could face 21 years in jail, or was he only saying that in the same vein as these amendments have come forward; and that is to scare people? Those of us who are thinking clearly know the answer to that question. We have the Mercury newspaper on 14 November, quoting Mr Barnett saying -

They are very tough. Let's make it very clear in terms of impediment and trespassing with an intent to impede, the first offence is 18 months and the second offence is four years, with a $10 000 fine.

And that will be decided obviously in a court of law.

Secondly, in terms of intrusion there could be absolutely up to 21 years jail, depending on the circumstances.

A new paragraph 6(4) is proposed in clause 10 of the bill, which sets a maximum penalty of either 18 months or four years. Where did the minister get 21 years from? He might be correct, but section 389 of the Tasmanian Criminal Code says otherwise, and that says -

Subject to the provisions of the Sentencing Act 1997 or of any other statute, and except where otherwise expressly provided, the punishment for any crime shall be by imprisonment for 21 years, or by fine, or by both such punishments, and shall be such as the judge of the court of trial shall think fit in the circumstances of each particular case.

We cannot see how the provisions in this legislation would add up to a 21- year sentence, so either minister Barnett is telling the truth, which is unusual and deeply scary, or he is lying, which is not unusual but deeply disturbing. What we know is that when you say that sort of thing as a minister of the Crown you are terrify the bejesus out of people, good people who would go into Lake Malbena to protect Halls Island and their right to use the wilderness and not have Halls Island privatised. You terrify people who were gathering in the foothills of kunanyi in May 2018 to defend the mountain.

But you are not going to scare civil society out of standing up for Tasmania. You are not going to scare the unions and workers for standing up for workers' pay and conditions and standing against corporations which are increasingly stealing their wages. The minister can try to terrify Tasmanians by threatening 21 years in jail just for standing up for your place or your rights, but it is not going to work, because in our DNA on this island, from almost whatever sphere of the community you come, at some point or another you have been part of an event or a protest or taking on a business. It is part of our spirit as islanders to be robust participants in this democracy and to defend it.

I have moved for repeal of the legislation and I want to go through the problematic clause provisions and quote from the work of Dr Brendan Gogarty at UTAS, and I am grateful for the briefing he gave us. Dr Gogarty also wrote a Talking Point piece for the Mercury where he says 'the workplace bill is a charter of rights for companies in a state that won't enact one for its citizens', and he gives an example of how obscenely broad the reach of this bill is:

Telling the cashier you won't leave until you get your refund, writing to your exemployer to say you will stand outside their business if they don't pay you, posting to Facebook that you will go to Salamanca to hand out pamphlets - all are prohibited by jail sentence.

Why is this Government trying to scare people and waste parliament's time with legislation that is so manifestly over the top and punitive? Other speakers have gone there, as have I; it is a government that is running away from its own epic policy failures.

When we look at some of the provisions in the bill, such as section 6, Dr Gogarty says:

Given the complexity of the amendments and how much of the legislation needed to be modified, a range of dead-wood provisions appear to have been left within the proposed legislation. For instance, proposed section 6 of the amendment bill amends the definition of a business-related object, however all provisions of the legislation which contain the term 'business- related object' are then removed by the amendment bill. While the amending bill states sections 6, 7 and 8 are substituted, in fact no substitute is provided for section 8. There are newly inserted provisions such as 5A which are lacking fundamentally important definitions relevant to the operation of the provision. These include prescribed manner, prescribed words and prescribed distances. The bill does not set out what these prescribed things are, the process for their prescription or any relevant definition of the terms that might assist the reader to understand how the provision will operate.

Perhaps almost as chilling as the attempt to make all parts of Tasmania, with the exception of hospitals and educational facilities including kindergartens, and charitable organisations exempt from the definition of 'prohibited places' is the removal of section 11 - move-on powers of police - which is extremely disturbing and sets an awful precedent for how police respond to peaceful assembly and peaceful protestors. This bill removes the police move-on powers, and I will quote from Dr Gogarty again:

The removal of entire provisions from the anti-protest legislation has had the side-effect of removing limitations on executive power and therefore civil rights. It is unclear whether this was intentional.

Well, I am going to take a punt there and say that it was.

Of particular concern is the entire removal of sections 8 and 11 without replacement. These sections, amongst other things, allowed police to direct persons away from a business premises or business access area prior to arrest.

Dr Gogarty goes on to point out what we know, that the bill is overly broad and excessive in scope. He says on section 6:

As noted, much has been cut from the bill in an effort to render it compliant with the High Court's judgment. However, the result of removing qualifying and clarifying elements of offence renders some provisions broader and less precise. This is most evident in the proposed offence provision in section 6.

Section 6 aims to prescribe impeding, defined to include preventing, hindering or obstructing business activity. Given that they are not further defined or circumscribed, each term relies on its common law definition, which effectively extends impeding to any act which makes any aspect of a business more difficult to carry out so long as the effect of impeding is appreciable.

Regardless of whether the interference is complete, serious, or even physical in character, that is interfering with the market for a product hinders and therefore impedes a business.

As we know from an example that was given on statewide radio the week before last by highly respected barrister, Roland Browne, you can be a person who is annoyed with Bunnings and you can go into Bunnings and say, 'I'm not leaving this shop until I get a refund', and if the staff person at Bunnings says to you, 'I'm not giving you a refund and you have to leave', and you do not, you are captured by this bill and face potential jail time. Some of the stuff Roland was talking about on the radio included that the High Court had no trouble seeing through what the Government was doing in Tasmania in 2017. He said:

The background to this case in the High Court was determined on a set of agreed facts between my clients, champions of Tasmania Bob Brown and Jessica Hoyt, and the state of Tasmania. Part of those agreed facts included how environmental and other changes in Australia have come about as a result of peaceful protest over the preceding 30 years.

In its judgment the High Court recognised the role that peaceful protest has in a democracy, and one of the big issues in that case was the way the original bill, or the original act, interfered with political communication, and that is why it was struck down.

Mr Browne agrees with the assessment of many rational people who have looked at this bill and determined that it is intended to have a chilling effect and silence dissent.

I want members to think about the kind of Tasmania we would be if people had not stood up and exercised their right to peaceful protestors participants in a democracy. The Franklin would have been dammed. We would have no Franklin-Gordon Rivers Wild National Park, Strahan would not be experiencing all the economic benefits of having a wilderness there, a wild river, on its doorstep. There would be a pulp mill at Wesley Vale in the north-west of Tasmania and by now, because of the model of that pulp mill, Bass Strait would be contaminated with dioxins. There would be a pulp mill in the Tamar Valley set up by Gunns Limited, facilitated through a special act of this parliament after the proposal was found to be critically non-compliant by the then Resource Planning and Development Commission. But civil society stood up then, and we staved off the Gunns Tamar Valley pulp mill. All the people who stood together to defend the Tamar Valley from that pulp mill should give themselves a warming word of thanks, because in so doing, they saved the residents of the Tamar Valley from the health impacts of breathing in every day, PM2.5 and PM10 particulates. From memory, it was the Australian Medical Association that warned Government of the terrible health consequences that would be experienced if a pulp mill was put in the Tamar Valley.

If we did not, as a community, step up when we had to, to defend a place and exercise our right to peaceful protest, there would be a 500-home canal housing estate inside the Ralphs Bay Conservation Area. The oystercatchers and the curlews and the red-necked stints would be gone, and Lang Walker would have his canal estate. But we fended him off too -

and again, thousands and thousands of people. We took to the streets, we took to Town Hall, City Hall, we lobbied politicians. We built relationships with people who have expertise in these areas, and we stood up and we defended Ralphs Bay and we won. If these laws had been in place then, I am pretty sure I would not have been in parliament, because it is very hard to run for parliament when you have a criminal conviction and you have just come out of jail. It is civil society, it is locals, who stood up for their place at Ralphs Bay. We saved Ralphs Bay for the locals and for the birds and for the river and for Tasmania's brand.

If generations of Tasmanians had not recognised that logging high- conservation-value forests is a crime against nature, we would not have had the extensions to the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage area that came through this parliament in 2013. The Styx and the Florentine would have been flattened by now, but it was because civil society stood up to defend their place.

It would be a Tasmania that is almost unrecognisable to the imagination, really, with a dammed Franklin, two stinking pulp mills, canal estates, totally clear-felled landscapes, a shrunken World Heritage area. We would not have the brand that we have today, and that brand hinges on wilderness . Primarily, wilderness in this state has been protected because the people have demanded it be so.

I guarantee that the fly fishermen and the bushwalkers and everyday conservationists who will defend their right to use and enjoy the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage area and Halls Island will not be scared by this legislation. Anyone who thinks about what this bill is intended to do will understand that it is designed to frighten them. It is a bullying piece of legislation.

We hear the words 'bullying' and 'intimidation' thrown around in this Chamber a fair old bit, but this amendment bill and its principal act are bullying and intimidation embedded in statute.

The bill must be repealed, and if it is not repealed today, we will bring on a repeal bill. We have one drafted. It is only one page long. Some of the lazier members in this place might even bring themselves to have a look at it, but this parliament needs to deal with this legislation and it will.

This legislation does not have the support of legal professionals, judicial professionals, the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre, the Tasmanian Council of Social Service, Civil Liberties Tasmania, Community Legal Centres, some of the best constitutional lawyers in the country, the unions, right across the spectrum of society. People who have been contributing to upholding our democracy for a very long time have seen straight through this bill and they reject it.

In closing, I will not reflect on yesterday's vote, but strongly argue that it is our responsibility as legislators to identify deeply flawed legislation in the House of Assembly. If our conscience says it is deeply flawed legislation, and if we are genuine about listening to the community and to stakeholders, then we not only do not support the amendment bill, we vote to repeal the legislation. We do not abrogate our responsibility to our constituents as legislators and allow bad legislation to go upstairs.

We are not children in here. Most of us are quite seasoned legislators actually, and I cannot countenance the scenario where we are treating the Legislative Council as the place for grown-ups, grown-up legislators, where here we just pull out the big rubber stamp and wave through terrible legislation that is condemned by legal professionals.

Finally, this parliament can save Tasmania a summer of heartache over this legislation and move to repeal it, because we are looking at this rationally, as responsible legislators, entrusted to look at legislation and rejecting this nasty amendment bill, a principal act which was an embarrassing and incredibly expensive failure in the High Court of $355 000. That is what is so gobsmacking about the Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry lining up with this mini-Mussolini here to support this legislation. Doesn't the Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry have a concern they have backed-in legislation that has been identified as unconstitutional again? Did the Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry get any independent legal advice before they decided to line up with our in-house mini-Mussolini? They could not have.

It was a PR stunt. We very much look forward to a response from the Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry Board about how they could support amendments which have been discredited by everyone in the legal and judicial profession here in Tasmania who has had a look at this legislation and been asked what they thought.

We encourage the House to do the right thing now. Save Tasmanians from minister Barnett's demented plan and vote to repeal this legislation.




The House divided –



Ms Archer

Mr Barnett

Ms Courtney

Mr Ferguson

Mr Gutwein

Mr Hodgman

Mr Jaensch

Ms Ogilvie

Mrs Petrusma

Mr Rockliff

Mrs Rylah

Mr Shelton

Mr Tucker


Dr Broad

Ms Butler

Ms Dow

Ms Haddad

Ms Hickey

Ms Houston

Mr O'Byrne

Ms O'Byrne

Ms O'Connor

Ms Standen

Ms White

Dr Woodruff



Bill read the third time.