The Tasmanian Government is promoting its anti-workplace protests laws as the toughest in Australia after an amended bill passed the Lower House. It will mean people who protest at mining or forestry sites could face time in jail. Source: ABC News
The bill was amended in the independent-dominated Upper House earlier this month, with mandatory fines and jail terms removed.
At the same time maximum penalties were increased in what some MPs said would send a message to the judiciary.
Fifty amendments were passed by the Lower House meaning the bill has now passed Parliament however, the Government was disappointed the Upper House did not respect its mandate to bring in minimum sentences for illegal protesters.
In place of mandatory fines and minimum jail terms, the laws were broadened to cover all workplaces and the maximum prison term has been doubled from two years to four.
Resources Minister Paul Harriss said at the time of the bill’s passage through the Upper House that businesses would get specific protections from “radical protesters seeking to make their point by destroying livelihoods”.
He was disappointed mandatory sentences were removed but the doubling of maximum penalties for repeat offenders would send a strong message.
The former MLC said the changes did not detract from the bill’s core purpose and the laws would be the toughest in Australia.
“There is still a very, very powerful and strong message,” he said. “There’s a range of tools available to law enforcement officers, policemen, to first of all move people on, require them to move on.
“If they choose not to do that, there’s the capacity for the police to issue an infringement notice, essentially an on-the-spot fine, if you like.
“For an individual that’s $280, and if the person chooses to disregard that infringement notice they can challenge that in the Magistrates Courts.
“If after that process they return and conduct themselves in a further protest, that is prosecutable on indictment and the person could find themselves in the Supreme Court, and the maximum penalty is $10,000 or four years in prison or both.”
Mr Harriss’s replacement in the seat of Huon, Robert Armstrong, has likened the amended bill to a shark with no teeth.
Mr Harriss warned the Government would consider legislating again if the laws did not have the desired effect.
“The Legislative Council did indicate, some members did indicate that if the bill as amended doesn’t work and there is a continuing disregard for the law, then it may be necessary to bring the legislation back for further amendment,” he said.
“Now, we will consider that, in a proper process, if the need arises.”