Queensland G20 Bill: Sweeping new police powers threaten human rights

Proposed legislation for the G20 in Queensland would infringe fundamental human rights and stifle legitimate protest, the Human Rights Law Centre has told the Queensland Parliament’s Legal Affairs and Community Safety Committee.

The G20 (Safety and Security) Bill 2013 , which is to be debated by the end of October, creates a special security area, covering a large part of central Brisbane including thousands of homes and businesses.

The HRLC’s Executive Director, Hugh de Kretser, said the Bill gives police extraordinary powers in this area to stop and search people, vehicles and certain premises, confiscate items, ban and exclude people and detain people charged with minor offences, without adequate safeguards.

“Ensuring safety and security around the G20 is a legitimate purpose, but this Bill gets the balance completely wrong,” said Mr de Kretser.

Mr de Kretser said the G20 event will showcase Queensland and Australia to the world and that legislation around the event should promote and protect fundamental human rights, not undermine them.

“This Bill sends the wrong message about Australian democracy. Poor drafting of the Bill creates real risks that legitimate peaceful protest will be suppressed and criminalised. It transfers too much discretion to police on the ground, increasing the likelihood that the broad powers will be used in an arbitrary and discriminatory way against both protestors and passers-by,” said Mr de Kretser.

The Bill, if passed, would allow Police to stop and search any person within the security area for any reason without the usual safeguard of requiring reasonable suspicion.

“In essence, the Bill legalises unreasonable searches,” said Mr de Kretser.

The Bill also creates a presumption against bail for certain offences, including “disrupting” the G20, and if stopped by police, requires individuals to prove why their perfectly ordinary behaviour, such as walking through Brisbane or carrying everyday household items, is lawful.

“The G20 should be an opportunity to showcase Australia’s respect for human rights, for freedom of expression and peaceful protest to the world. With amendment, the Bill could do this. Our recommendations have been targeted towards this end,” said Mr de Kretser.

A copy of the HRLC's submission can be found here.

For further information contact:
Hugh de Kretser on 0403 965 340 or Anna Brown on 0422 235 522.