High Court to consider right to protest in landmark constitutional case

The Human Rights Law Centre has applied to intervene in a significant High Court case concerning freedom of expression and freedom of religion and the right to peaceful protest. “The HRLC has a principled commitment to human rights and has sought to intervene in support of the right of all protesters to exercise their fundamental right to freedom of expression,” said Anna Brown, Director of Advocacy from the HRLC.

On Tuesday 2 October the High Court is hearing an appeal by the South Australian Attorney General against the decision of the Full Court of the South Australian Supreme Court that found a City of Adelaide By-Law prohibiting “preaching, canvassing or haranguing” without a permit was invalid under the Australian Constitution. This law was relied on by the City of Adelaide to restrict the right of two street preachers, brothers Caleb and Samuel Corneloup, to preach in Rundle Mall.

The HRLC's intervention in the Corneloup case follows their involvement in the legal challenge brought against the City of Melbourne and Victoria Police on behalf of the Occupy Melbourne protesters. That case, heard by Justice North in the Federal Court, is currently awaiting judgment.

According to Anna Brown, both the Occupy Melbourne proceeding and the current case before the High Court raise similar and significant issues of fundamental rights protected under the Australian Constitution. “These cases focus on protesters rights, but have broad ramifications for representative democracy and the right of all Australians to gather in groups, to express their views and to participate in the democratic process,” Ms Brown said.

"International human rights law is clear that there should not be any limitations on the right of freedom of expression, unless those limitations are reasonable, proportionate and necessary, and this is what the Court has been asked to consider," Ms Brown said.

The HRLC is represented on a pro bono basis by Ron Merkel QC, Emrys Nekvapil and Nick Wood of Counsel and law firm DLA Piper.

For further information or comments contact Anna Brown, Director of Advocacy & Strategic Litigation, on 0422 235 522 or Anna.Brown@hrlc.org.au