The Tasmanian government is well on the way to passing legislation which will prevent protesters from engaging in behaviour that would impede business activities including exploration or mining.
The Workplace (Protection from protesters) Bill 2014is due for a third reading this week, after passing a successful second reading in the Legislative Council on November 6, meaning full passage of the bill is a forgone conclusion.
Minster for Resources Paul Harriss said the Act will protect workplaces and workers from “radical protesters” who seek to make a point by “destroying livelihoods”.
The bill was aimed mainly at the logging and mining industries.
The Act will carry a maximum penalty for repeat offenders of four years imprisonment, as well as fines of up to $10,000 for individuals.
“As a result, Tasmania will now have the strongest legislation in the country to protect the rights of workers to lawfully earn a living, while ensuring the right to free speech and legitimate protest have been protected,” Harriss said.
“A clear message has been sent to radical protesters, to the workers in the forest and mining industries whose livelihoods they have tried to destroy… No longer will Tasmania tolerate the extremists; you may have your say but you may not stop workers from earning a living.”
The bill originally included mandatory sentencing of three months, however that was scrapped to assist passage through the upper house.
“It was disappointing that the Legislative Council narrowly voted to remove mandatory sentences,” Hariss said.
Former Tasmanian supreme court judge Pierra Slicer criticised the mandatory sentencing aspect of the bill, and advised the upper house member that the bill had been badly drafted and could not be saved.
“It was badly drafted, it was done in a hurry, and it had a whole set of unintended, what I hope to be, unintended"
“But also that the penalty clauses, their amounts, were such that a multi-purpose organisation, such as the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre (TAC), which provides health, education and legal assistance, in other words it's multi-purpose, could lose its property for what we'll call beneficial services, simply because a group of Aborigines acting in the name of the TAC were involved in protest activity." Consequences.”
Slicer said it would have been of more worth to the Government if they had unified laws from the Police Offences Act, the Criminal Code, the Work and Safety Act in a single code.
The bill’s passage through the lower house took only two days, but from introduction was a further ten weeks from a successful second reading in the upper house.
After this week, the bill will return to the Legislative Assembly.