The need to better protect protest rights in Australia has been highlighted in a major new report by the Human Rights Law Centre.
Launched today at NSW Parliament House, Say it loud: Protecting Protest in Australia, criticises recent attempts by governments to undermine protest rights and outlines ten principles to better protect our rights.
“From winning the right to vote for women to saving the Franklin River, the power of protest has been vital in achieving positive change in Australia. Yet governments around Australia are increasingly trying to undermine our rights to gather together and speak out about the issues we care about. This has to stop,” said Hugh de Kretser, Executive Director of the Human Rights Law Centre.
Against the backdrop of the remarkable student strikes across the country for action on climate change and rising community activism on issues from the Adani mine to changing the date of Australia Day, protest rights will be increasingly significant.
“Our rights to protest and free speech will be under even great pressure as exploitation of our planet increases in the coming decade. This report shows governments how we should be protecting protest in a healthy democracy,” said former Senator Bob Brown.
The report criticises governments in NSW, Tasmania and Western Australia for introducing or trying to introduce harsh and unnecessary anti-protest laws with severe penalties, excessive police powers and broad, vague offences. The laws prioritise vested business and government interests over people’s democratic rights.
While the Tasmanian laws were struck down by the High Court last year, the Hodgman Government has promised to try and resurrect them. NSW anti-protest laws, with penalties of up to 7 years jail for “interfering” with a mine, including coal seam gas sites, remain in force.
“Protest rights are absolutely essential to a healthy democracy. When governments chip away at our protest rights, they erode our democracy. This report provides a blueprint for a democracy where protest rights are protected and promoted,” said Mr de Kretser.
The report will be launched at NSW Parliament House at 12.30pm. Speaking at the launch will be:
Former Senator, Dr Bob Brown who has dedicated his career to protecting the environment and who, together with Jessica Hoyt, successfully challenged the Tasmania anti-protest laws.
Broadcaster and journalist Julie McCrossin, a life-long LGBTI rights advocate who attended countless demonstrations, was arrested many times and participated in the first Mardi Gras.
Aboriginal writer and advocate Natalie Cromb whose work has covered Aboriginal rights movements from resistance against the removal of Aboriginal children from families to national calls to implement the Uluru Statement.
NSW Deputy Opposition Leader Penny Sharpe is hosting and speaking at the launch.
12.30pm – 2.00pm, Thursday, 13 December at the Jubilee Room, NSW Parliament, 6 Macquarie Street, Sydney
For interviews call:
Hugh de Kretser, Executive Director, Human Rights Law Centre, 0403 965 340