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‘A blow for democracy’: Anti-protest bill passes in Tasmania’s upper house

The Rockliff government has passed a new anti-protest law in the upper house, a move that will “weaken Tasmania’s democracy and erode the right to protest”.

user iconJess Feyder 26 August 2022 Politics
‘A blow for democracy’: Anti-protest bill passes in Tasmania’s upper house
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The Police Offences Amendment (Workplace Protection) Bill 2022 significantly increases some penalties and creates new offences for non-violent protest-related activity. 

Leading Tasmanian and national civil society organisations have criticised the passing of the bill. The groups labelled it as unnecessary, disproportionate and anti-democratic and called for it to be repealed at the earliest opportunity.

Under the new laws:


  • A community member who obstructs access to a workplace as part of a protest could face 12 months in prison;
  • A community member protesting the destruction of old-growth forests on a forestry site could face a penalty of over $13,000 or two years in prison;
  • An organisation supporting members of the community to protest could be fined over $45,000.
A number of amendments were made before the bill was passed, including the removal of proposed increases to penalties for street obstruction.

Other amendments were made to protect Tasmanians protesting workplace rights and conditions, but the same protections weren’t afforded to Tasmanians protesting on the range of other issues important to the community. 

Civil society groups are concerned that the changes will discourage individuals and groups from engaging in lawful, peaceful protest. 

The bill could become law as early as this week, when it returns to the Tasmanian lower house for approval. 

“Tasmania’s democracy is weaker for the passing of this bill,” said Kieran Pender, senior lawyer at the Human Rights Law Centre.

“Even with the amendments, it is a bad bill that should never become law. 

“This bill will have a chilling effect on the right to protest in Tasmania, limiting the ability of people to exercise their democratic rights.”

“The government, bowing to corporate thuggery, is criminalising effective peaceful protest while legalising seal shooting, owl destruction and parrot extinction,” said Bob Brown, founder of the Bob Brown foundation.

“It is up to all citizens to determine for themselves what to do in this age of such deliberate destruction of nature.

“There are many more than me, and many younger than me, who will not be deterred from peacefully protecting Tasmania’s seas, forests and wildlife.” 

“Today is a dark day for democracy in lutruwita/Tasmania,” said Rachel Hay, research fellow at the Australia Institute Tasmania.

“The legislation as it stands still sees a peaceful protestor holding a placard fined $8,650 or given one year in prison — more than a person who trespasses with a gun.

“The Tasmanian House of Assembly must reject this draconian attack on our right to peaceful protest.

While the modest amendments that remove some of the worst elements of this law are welcome, it still remains an attack on our democracy, and should never have passed the upper house.”

“Women protesting against sexual and family violence, or for the right to access health care will be at risk because of the passing of this bill,” said Jo Flanagan, chief executive of Women’s Health Tasmania.

“Non-government organisations and charities supporting people with human rights concerns will be very wary of supporting or organising rallies — up until now a time honoured way of drawing people’s attention to issues of public concern. 

“What community board could cope with such huge fines?

“We are grateful the legislative councillors voted to overturn the clause restricting protest in public places but overall, this is such a sad day for Tasmania,” said Ms Flanagan.

“Tasmania is a more inclusive place for LGBTIQA+ people thanks to three decades of protest, so we are very concerned about the adverse impact of this bill,” said Rodney Croome, president of Equality Tasmania.

“The bill will have a chilling effect on protest and the reforms that flow from it.”