Chilling attack on peaceful protest action passes upper house

A bill described as “chilling” by UN human rights experts which attacks the rights of Western Australians to peacefully demonstrate is one step closer after it passed the upper house last night.

“This Bill is a threat to our treasured democracy and an attack on Western Australians’ rights,” Greens justice spokesperson Hon. Lynn MacLaren MLC said today.

“It was extremely disappointing that the Barnett Government opposed our amendments and refused a Greens motion to send the Bill to a committee for review.

"These new proposed laws will deter peaceful protest action.

"More often than not, WA protests have served the public good to reverse bad government decisions and pre-empt development, such as James Price Point, subsequently proven to be unlawful.

"Earlier in the week the Bill drew criticism from the United Nations for its restrictions on personal freedom.

"Two of the amendments I moved were to reinstate the presumption of innocence.

"The bill is too loosely drafted and would capture many more actions than the Government is prepared to admit.

"The reversal of the onus of proof was criticised by many legal experts because it threatens the democratic principle that an individual is innocent until proven guilty.

"The lower house will now consider the Bill where it is likely to pass because the Liberal-National Government has majority control."

Ms MacLaren said a protest was planned for Tuesday at noon on the steps of Parliament.

"My year-long effort in the Legislative Council to amend or review Criminal Code Amendment (Prevention of Lawful Activity) Bill, ended yesterday," Ms MacLaren said.

"I will continue to work in the community to maintain the rights of peaceful protesters.

“The right to protest is not only protected under international law but also forms a cornerstone of Australia’s democratic system."