This year the Barnett government introduced new anti-protest laws, the Criminal Code Amendment (Prevention of Lawful Activity) Bill 2015. If passed, there will be vague new offences of “physically preventing a lawful activity” and “possessing a thing for the purpose of preventing a lawful activity”.
Both offences carry serious penalties of prison of up to 1 year and a fine of up to $12,000. In certain circumstances, the penalty for preventing a lawful activity can rise to 2 years and $24,000.
Lynn has been fighting this legislation since it's been introduced. Not only is this a significant over-reach of powers for the State Government, it also removes the presumption of innocence for citizens and poses serious risks for citizens engaging in activities related to protests. This legislation will effectively reverse the onus of proof requiring people to disprove that they intended to prevent lawful activity if there are reasonable circumstances suggesting they did.
Advice from many leading legal and constitutional experts has been sought, and the Executive Director of the Human Rights Law Centre urges the parliament not to pass this proposed legislation, as it “goes too far” and that the “legislation is simply not needed.”
The Barnett Government plans to pass this, and there is a strong chance that this Bill could be brought on again for debate when the Parliament sits next in less than two weeks. This could impede direct action in campaigns such as Rethink the Link, Save Beeliar Wetlands and the campaign to save native forest.
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