The Bob Brown Foundation has lodged a court appeal against a ban on forest protests. Worksafe Tasmania boss Mark Cocker last week issued a ban on protest activities deemed to be a safety risk until further notice, with the threat of potential fines up to $500,000. Source: Timberbiz
The move was widely applauded by industry bodies, with AFPA CEO Mr Hampton saying regulators around the country should take notice of the decision, particularly in Victoria where demonstrators are conducting similar illegal forest worksite invasions.
The foundation has requested the matter be immediately listed so consideration to suspend the appeal can be made.
Foundation lawyer Roland Browne said there were three grounds for appeal.
“Firstly, the regulator doesn’t have power to issue a broad-ranging edict that nobody can conduct forest protests anywhere in Tasmania,” he said.
“Secondly, it is contrary to the Australian Constitution because it interferes and stops communication about government and political matters.
“Thirdly, the regulator has not complied with the Act to satisfy himself of what the Act says – that he has to be satisfied before issuing a prohibition notice.”
In his letter to Bob Brown Foundation chief executive Steven Chaffer, Mr Cocker said: “I reasonably believe that the foundation through its officers, workers and others have through acts or omissions and without reasonable excuse, engaged in conduct that is exposing or has exposed a person(s), to whom a health and safety duty was owed, to an imminent or immediate risk of death or serious injury.”
Veteran environmentalist Bob Brown said he believed the notice was “illegal and unconstitutional”.
“The prohibition order, I think, is a massive bungle and the Government, not the regulator alone, should take responsibility for that,” he said.
“On the face of it it’s a political document not a legal document, as I read it.”
Dr Brown questioned why the notice was issued under State Government letterhead, saying “the Minister for Justice knew about it and is responsible for it”.
“It ought not be that in a healthy democracy like Tasmania that the serious work by the safety regulator be interfered with or controlled by political considerations. That’s not on.
“I can’t believe such a ham-fisted edict was issued under authority of the Gutwein Government.”
Building and Construction Minister Elise Archer said the State Government didn’t refer the matter to Worksafe, “nor has it in any way influenced the independent Regulator to take action”.
“The Government strongly supports free speech and the right to protest, but threats, trespassing and endangering workers is completely unacceptable,” she said.