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Tas tries again with Workplace Protection legislation

Tasmania’s state government will again attempt to get its controversial Workplace Protection legislation passed, and this week released new legislation for a further round of public consultation. Source: Timberbiz

The government signalled in August last year that it would re-introduce its anti-protest legislation which failed to pass in the Upper House in March last year.

The new bill seeks to amend the Police Offences Act in relation to existing offences around nuisances.

If successful, protesters could be slapped with harsher fines or longer jail terms for action that obstructs streets or causes a nuisance to workplaces, where penalties would be more severe if a person is convicted of trespassing.

Corporate entities would also be included and could pay penalties of more than $100,000.

“It’s now more important than ever that the Tasmanian Government acts to ensure Tasmanians are free to go to work safely, without threat from radical extremists who invade workplaces and endanger employees,” Resources Minister Guy Barnett said.

“Our new Workplace Protection Bill has been informed by the public submissions received during the previous consultation period.

“Importantly, it helps Tasmanian workers be safe in their workplaces, while also being easier for police to enforce, with appropriate penalties to act as deterrents for extremist protests.”

The Police Offences Amendment (Workplace Protection) Bill 2022 focuses on amending the existing Police Offences Act to ensure that our police are able to better protect workers and businesses.

“This simplified approach ensures that everyday Tasmanians can go to work or operate a business free from threats and disruption, while also maintaining every Tasmanian’s right to protest lawfully,” Mr Barnett said.

“The Government respects the right of every Tasmanian to express their views and protest law-fully.  Importantly, this Bill won’t stop legal protests outside hospitals, schools or climate change protests in streets or on footpaths.   Tasmanians will still be entitled to protest and have their say.

“However, it is the extremist protests that are becoming more prevalent, and we must act now to protect Tasmanians.”

The Bill is expected to have some support from the Opposition.

“The Bob Brown Foundation continues to hinder the legitimate activities of the Tasmanian timber industry by staging dangerous stunts for social media including standing on loose log piles for photos, locking on to moving machinery and doing tree sits in logged coupes,” Shadow Minister for Resources Shane Broad said last year.

And only last week Sustainable Timber Tasmania’s Hobart offices were occupied by Bob Brown Foundation protesters.

Two protesters were arrested after protesters set up a large pile of forest debris from cleared trees outside the offices in opposition of logging and burning activity.

Under the new bill, it is proposed that an existing offence relating to nuisances clearly include unreasonable obstruction of streets, protecting workplaces and the public, and increases the maximum monetary penalty for the offence to $1730, while the term of imprisonment will re-main the same at 3 months.  This penalty will double if a person is convicted of a second of-fence within 6 months.

This penalty will not apply for protests and demonstrations that have the required permit.

The amendments also seek to allow the Court to double the penalty where a person is convict-ed of trespass, and by or while committing the offence, they either obstructed a business, or took an action that caused a business to be obstructed. This will take the maximum penalty to 50 units, or $8,650 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months.

Body corporates will also be included under the Amendments, liable to pay a fine not exceeding 600 penalty units, or $103,800.

“In short, this Bill will toughen our laws and increase the penalties to better protect workers and their right to work and the right for businesses to operate free from intrusion or workplace invasion,” Mr Barnett said.

“Our Workplace Protection Bill will complement legislation already passed in the Federal Parliament where it received bi-partisan support.”

Mr Barnett said that Labor governments and oppositions across the country have supported similar legislation.

“It is time that the Tasmanian Labor Opposition finally threw its support behind Tasmanian workers rather than standing side-by-side with the Greens and the Bob Brown Foundation.

“This Bill is needed because the existing laws are clearly not adequately discouraging extremist protesters from invading Tasmanian workplace and disrupting legally operating businesses.”

A Tasmanian Forest Products Association spokesperson said laws were needed to protect work-ers.

“The TFPA is not opposed to people’s right to protest peacefully, however some protestors be-have like they are above the law and unfortunately impinge on the rights of ordinary Tasmanians seeking to earn a lawful living,” they said.

Greens leader Cassy O’Connor accused the government of “cracking down on freedom of speech” while the Bob Brown Foundation accused the State Government of propping up cli-mate and wildlife killers with harsh penalties for non-violent protesters”.

The Bill will be open for public comment until 15 April and can be viewed at