Inclosed Lands, Crimes and Law Enforcement Legislation Amendment (Interference) Bill 2016
We know that the Premier is a fan of Back to the Future, but with the Lands, Crimes and Law Enforcement Legislation Amendment (Interference) Bill 2016 the Baird Liberal Government is reaching right back past 1985 to 1976—another time, another State and another Premier, so help me, Joh. I start by sharing an extract from a 2009 paper by Christopher Crawford entitled "Civil Liberties, Bjelke-Petersen & a Bill of Rights: Lessons for Queensland":
In 1976, a policeman was captured on film striking a female protest marcher on the head with a baton. Moves to hold an inquiry were quickly quashed by the Premier. Shortly thereafter, twelve people were arrested at a 'hippie' commune at Cedar Bay near Cooktown. The hippies claimed that the police burned their food, personal property and dwellings. A television crew produced footage of burned-out huts. Bjelke-Petersen told the press that the allegations made by the hippies were part of a campaign to legalise marijuana and denigrate the police. He stated that some of the evidence was manufactured after the police had left the scene.
On 5 September 1977, Bjelke-Petersen declared that, 'The day of the political street march is over…Don't bother to apply for a permit. You won't get one. That’s government policy now'.
It turned out that the police had in fact torched the homes of the hippies. Charges were laid against three policemen, but the prosecutions were unsuccessful. The article goes on:
At that time, if a march permit was refused by police, there was an avenue of appeal to the courts under the Traffic Act. Two weeks after Bjelke-Petersen’s declaration, that avenue was removed and replaced with a right to appeal to the Police Commissioner. So began a two year conflict between the government and what has been called the 'Right to March movement', during which over a thousand people were arrested in the course of many separate protests.
It is important to recognise that if this bill becomes law this State will be heading down the same path of restricting the right to peacefully protest. However, even Bjelke-Petersen stopped at removing the right to peacefully protest. Strictly speaking, Queensland never abolished the right to march but the Premier took the view that the Government could ban people from marching. If protest becomes violent then we need police to have the right to act, but they must not act if people are peacefully assembling when protesting against the actions of the Government of the day. This Government is busting to go back to those times. Why does the Attorney General not have carriage of this bill or the Minister for Justice and Police? Why does the Minister for Industry, Resources and Energy have carriage when he consistently misjudges community attitudes to his portfolio? The Premier does not like us to disagree with him. Every day in question time he expects us to applaud the policies of his Government. However, some of this Government's policies have not enjoyed much support from the community. There have been protests about legislation for the Newcastle rail line. How would those protests have fared under this legislation? What action has the Government taken to address community concerns about the lack of consultation on the Government's proposal? In this case, the Government took the opportunity to change the legislation. With the bill before us, the Minister is attempting to do the same thing. He understands that people do not want to lose the right to peacefully protest, so he chooses to change the law to stop them from being able to express that view. That is not a good way to govern this State in 2016. Another policy that has come under fire in the local media is forced council amalgamations. There have been widespread protests across New South Wales against these amalgamations and even some Government members have participated in some of these protests. How would they be dealt with under this legislation? What action will the Government take against people protesting against these direct policies? These policies are not aimed at companies exploiting resources but at issues that directly affect communities across New South Wales. I am surprised by the torpor of those opposite. Normally when I speak against government policy in this place I am faced by a rabble. Last week I moved a motion on local government calling on members of The Nationals to join with those on this side of the Chamber in supporting their communities but Government members were unhappy that I was expressing this view. When petitions with more than 10,000 signatures are debated we expect a fair and open debate, but often this Government uses its numbers to shut down debate. This legislation goes to the heart of how patronising this Government is. It says it is passing legislation in the interests of the community although it is not taking into account what the community wants or what scientific research shows. If there is a dollar in any policy then this Government will rip it out and say it will be fine. If the Government is forced to consult on anything it can use this legislation to ensure it can stop any protests from happening. It is easier to control people who cannot express their views. I note that the member for Charlestown spoke eloquently about the 78ers, the suffragettes and other groups who have used peaceful protests to put forward their views. Many people are currently protesting against cuts to Medicare and other huge concerns. If this bill is passed people may be prosecuted for protesting on their own land, such as those protesting against coal seam gas exploration. They can be charged with a crime and receive a sentence of up to seven years in prison. There is also a provision for search and seizure without a warrant, which is not good policy. This is not just a human rights issue. Who believes it is right to search and seize without a warrant? This goes against the views of eminent lawyers from the Law Society and the Bar Association. There are also move-on powers if traffic is being obstructed with this power applying not just to people who are assembling but also to observers. The police will have veto powers over nonviolent and peaceful assembly. These are all acts of a government that is desperate and knows it is out of touch with the community. What the Government is seeking through this ambit bill, which overreaches and infringes on the rights of citizens, is appalling. I am astounded that Government members would vote for this kind of legislation. I place on record that I definitely oppose the legislation and urge Government members to vote not just with their hearts and souls but with their minds and to think about the consequences of their actions, which would be novel.