Groups speak out on new protest laws

The Uniting Church in WA, along with more than 25 other community organisations  have signed a petition calling on MPs to oppose new laws which will criminalise peaceful protests. Rev Steve Francis, moderator of the Uniting Church in WA, spoke out yesterday on this issue, expressing concern over the heavy handedness of these laws which do not protect the rights to protest. Also present was Chantelle Roberts from the Conservation Council WA, Meredith Hammat from Unions WA and Lawyer, Kate Davis.

The full statement is below. 

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Joint Statement – Criminal Code Amendment (Prevention of Lawful Activity) Bill 2015

On behalf of our staff, members and communities we represent, we the undersigned organisations are gravely concerned by the Criminal Code Amendment (Prevention of Lawful Activity) Bill 2015 and the implications it has for advocates, activists and concerned citizens.

Our first concern is the criminalisation of protest. Australians have a long, proud history of peaceful demonstration, which has been instrumental in securing the rights that many of us now take for granted; the right to vote, to a fair wage for a fair day’s work, to a fair price for produce for farmers, and those longstanding campaigns to protect the beautiful places we love, from the Franklin River to the Ningaloo Reef.

We are concerned that the punishments defined in the bill, up to $24000 or 24 months’ imprisonment, will act as a deterrent to lawful and peaceful protests; inhibiting our ability and the ability of all Western Australians to stand up for the people, places and activities they love and to have their voices heard.

Secondly, reversing the onus of proof undermines the fundamental presumption of innocence. Concerned citizens taking political action should not be presumed to have criminal intent. We are concerned that the law is so broadly drafted as to be open to misuse. In criminalizing the possession of a “thing”, this law creates a very wide crime and is a threat to civil liberties.

Peaceful demonstration has played an important role in shaping our modern society and we foresee dire consequences of stifling the right to engage in such activity. We are calling on all our parliamentarians to oppose this bill in order to protect our fundamental rights and values.

Signed:m_IMG_0009

The Western Australian Farmers Federation

Community Legal Centres Association of Western Australia

Western Australian Council of Social Services

Centre for Human Rights Education, Curtin University

The Uniting Church in Western Australia

The Anglican Social Responsibilities Commission, Anglican Diocese of Perth

The Justice, Ecology and Development Office (JEDO), Catholic Archdiocese of Perth

The Church of Christ, Wembley Downs

Baptistcare WA

Unions WA

Aboriginal Heritage Action Alliance

Refugee Rights Action Network

People for Nuclear Disarmament

Nyoongar Tent Embassy

The Conservation Council of Western Australia

Australian Youth Climate Coalition

350.org Australia

Anti Nuclear Alliance of WA

Justice for Reza Barati

The Anti-Bigotry Response Team

Socialist Alliance WA

West Australia Nuclear Free Alliance

Ban Uranium Mining Permanently (collective)

Alliance for a Clean Environment

Animal Liberation WA

No Shark Cull

Grandmothers Against Removals WA

Hands Off Point Peron

Environs Kimberley

Margaret River Regional Environment Centre

No Fracking Way

Save Helms Forest

Save Mowen Forest

Save Our Trees

Sea Shepherd Australia

Stop Live Exports

WA Forest Alliance

The Wilderness Society WA

Defending Public Spaces

 

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