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.
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.
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
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
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
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