Protect Peaceful Protest Joint Media Release for April 21

Protect Peaceful Protest Joint Media Release for April 21 – Criminal Code Amendment (Prevention of Lawful Activity) Bill 2015

Today, over 65 community organisations have joined together to hand over a petition containing more than 14,500 signatures requesting the Western Australian Parliament to withdraw support for harsh new anti-protest laws.

Organisations as diverse as the WA Farmers Federation, the Uniting Church in WA, Law Society of WA, Unions WA, Human Rights Law Centre and the Conservation Council of WA have declared their opposition to the proposed laws.

Rev. Steve Francis, Moderator of the Uniting Church in Western Australia said, “The proposed new anti-protest laws are much too harsh on people who are acting in good conscience and in non-violent ways. People who are exercising their democratic right to protest often in the cause of justice, the vulnerable and the well-being of others do not need to be treated in such a punitive way.”

UnionsWA is concerned that many activities by union members in support of better conditions and safer workplaces will be criminalised by these laws. “These unfair laws would treat working people as criminals for taking action during bargaining for better pay and conditions” Meredith Hammat said.

Kate Davis of the Community Legal Centres Association said “The Bill reverses the onus of proof, so any one accused must prove their innocence. The CLCAWA is concerned that this new legislation undermines fundamental protections and is drafted so broadly that it is vulnerable to serious misuse.”

The groups expressed their concern about the criminalisation of protest saying that “Australians have a long, proud history of peaceful demonstration, which has been instrumental in securing the rights that many of us now take for granted; the right to vote, to a fair wage for a fair day’s work, to a fair price for produce for farmers, and those longstanding campaigns to protect the beautiful places we love, from the Franklin River to the Ningaloo Reef.

“We are concerned that the punishments defined in the bill, up to $24000 or 24 months’ imprisonment, will act as a deterrent to lawful and peaceful protests; inhibiting our ability and the ability of all Western Australians to stand up for the people, places and activities they love and to have their voices heard.”

To organise comment from various spokespeople, please contact 0421 389 013