WHEN IS A PROTEST NOT A PROTEST
A strange and possibly dangerous piece of Legislation was rushed through NSW Parliament last week – and it will have an impact on some forms of protest.
The Legislation was still warm from the printing press when it hit the table of Parliament and was rushed through all stages as a matter of urgency. In the 11 years I have been serving our community I have only seen this done on less than a handful of occasions and generally it has more to do with the theatre and stage than it does with genuine urgency, but I guess that these things can be in the eyes of the beholder.
Following the protests of individuals and/or very small groups of people at Sydney’s Port Botany, the Spit Bridge on Sydney’s northern beaches and the Princes Highway south of Sydney, the Government decided that more serious consequences were required for persons that created such massive disruption to our society.
It wasn’t that police and the laws of our state didn’t already have the power to deal with these types of protests, it was, the Government explained, more a question of whether or not the consequences were enough of a deterrent.
The new Legislation, rushed through and passed, now includes fines of up to $22,000 and up to 2 years in prison for protests like those described above (and in the debate).
The real concern that was debated at some length was whether or not these powers would be extended to other types of protests. Could a workforce go on strike and protest about their conditions? Could a community group march to support our Indigenous people? Could the movement protesting against vaccinations still protest?
In the end, I and my Labor Party voted with the Government, and most of the minor parties, to try to target these individual/small-group protestors that take certain actions that create extreme disruption. But there was nothing about that vote that was easy and I certainly do value the right of protests, including protestors that are sometimes at the front door of my Electorate Office.
Protests can and will still happen. In fact, in the middle of the debate, we had 10,000 nurses, midwives and paramedics marching out the front of Parliament House in an organised, approved and scheduled movement. I would simply urge any persons with plans to protest in some way that might be considered extreme and highly disruptive (the very point of the exercise I would imagine) to check on this new law.
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