AUSTRALIA: Government ’confident’ of passing watered down anti-protest laws

Sunday 26 October 2014

Date: 23 October 2014

Source:ABC.net

Type: News

Keywords: Anti-protest law

The Tasmanian Government has moved to water down its controversial anti-protest laws.

The move was met with a mixed response as unions were worried industrial action could be caught up in the laws, while industry threw its support behind the changes.

The laws would still see on-the-spot fines, and mandatory jail sentences for people who trespass on workplaces.

But the changes would see the laws confined to five areas: forestry, mining, agriculture, construction and manufacturing.

The Government has also added a safeguard that would give protesters a "fair opportunity" to stop their actions meaning police would need to give a warning before making arrests.

On-the-spot fines have also been reduced from $2,000 to $280 for first-time offenders.

Resources Minister Paul Harriss said the amendments were made following extensive criticism of the original bill.

"We have listened to the concerns from within the community and also from the Legislative Council.

But the underlying strong principle of the bill is retained," he said.

Opposition MP Michelle O’Byrne said the bill was rushed.

"It’s a trap for new players to come into Government and race poorly-thought legislation through, and what happens is you will be held to account," she said.

She said questions still remained over the rights of striking workers.

"Workers taking industrial action are still not protected by this legislation," Ms O’Byrne said.

Steve Walsh from Unions Tasmania said the bill is still far too broad.

"The Government has a mandate to introduce laws in relation to protests in the forests, but what these amendments do is broaden the scope quite significantly," he said.

But industry advocates have questioned unions’ opposition to the laws.

The director of the Master Builders Association, Michael Kerschbaum, said the bill protected workers.

"I would have thought that unions above all other people would want to ensure that those workers who aren’t part of a union or aren’t part of a protest still should be able to get to work," he said.

The Government said the Legislative Council would have more briefings on the laws next week with the bill to be debated in the Upper House in coming weeks.

See online : ABC.net

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