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Anti-Protest Laws in for a Re-Write

Controversial anti-protest laws proposed by the Tasmanian government to help forestry workers but labelled “draconian” by civil libertarians are to be overhauled.

In a move the Liberal government hopes will see the laws pass parliament, the resources minister, Paul Harriss, announced that after public consultation he would remove “perceived ambiguities and unintended consequences”.

In its initial guise, the planned law hit protesters who disrupt businesses with a $2000 on-the-spot fine and, for a second offence, a minimum mandatory three-month jail sentence.

The Law Society and Civil Liberties Australia slammed the legislation and were joined by unions and environmentalists, with the Tasmanian Greens claiming the bill was a draconian proposal.

The Law Society argued that under the proposed bill, if a shopper raised a consumer issue and refused to leave a store, they faced an automatic $2000 fine.

It was a Liberal election promise to tackle the threat radical protesters posed to Tasmanian business operations, particularly the forestry industry.

But Harriss said the amendments moved to protect the rights of people involved in “regular” protests.

The changes will mean the laws do not apply in places such as shops, markets, professional offices and public places.

“We also strongly believe in freedom of speech and the right to protest,” Harriss said.

Despite the modifications, Tasmanian Greens MP Nick McKim said the anti-protest legislation was not fixable.