Excessive anti-protest laws in Western Australia risk criminalising peaceful protest & breaching international human rights law

Proposed legislation being debated today in the Western Australian Parliament risks criminalising peaceful protest in breach of international human rights guarantees. 

The Human Rights Law Centre's Executive Director, Hugh de Kretser, urged the parliament not to pass the proposed legislation.

“This new legislation goes too far. The offences are vague and will be prone to misuse. There are real risks they could criminalise peaceful protest in breach of our international human rights obligations,” said Mr de Kretser.

The Criminal Code Amendment (Prevention of lawful activity) Bill 2015 creates 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.

“This vague and excessive legislation is simply not needed. Police already have a suite of offences like trespass, property damage and breach of the peace at their disposal as well as overly broad powers to move protesters on if they reasonably suspect they are breaching the peace, preventing a lawful activity or about to commit an offence.

“There is no time period specified in the legislation so even a brief interruption to a lawful activity will trigger the offence. Further, the legislation effectively reverses the onus of proof requiring people to disprove that they intended to prevent the lawful activity if there are reasonable circumstances suggesting they did.

“This bill is further confirmation of the trend of eroding fundamental democratic freedoms in Australia. Over the past 18 months, we’ve seen the excessive Queensland G20 anti-protest laws, Tasmanian laws that unjustifiably prioritise business over human rights and overly broad Victorian move on powers. The Western Australian Parliament should reject this bill,” said Mr de Kretser.

For further information contact: Hugh de Kretser on 0403 965 340