What do Cats think of the Summary Offences and Sentencing Amendment Bill?

The Victorian government has recently passed a new law – the Summary Offences and Sentencing Amendment Bill (also referred to by opponents as the Anti-Protest Bill) which, to my mind, simply fixes up a loophole in the law.  I have no problem with peaceful protests, but when entry to a business or premises is impeded, a whole new set of issues emerges.

Of course, unionists just love picketing a workplace, even if there is no actual dispute with that employer (surely a secondary boycott? – Boral is a case in point).  The whole aim is to disallow anyone passing the picket line and picketers will often employ all sorts of intimidatory tactics to ensure this outcome.

For a number of years, the Victorian police have been very reluctant to move people along and ensure access to businesses.  The unions have become very cunning with this ploy, insisting that those at picket lines are just “concerned citizens” who have nothing to do with unions.  This means that industrial laws do not necessarily have any reach.

There have been a number of egregious examples, going back to the Patrick disputes, but also more recently the Baiada chicken processing factory, the Epping wholesale market and the waterworks project at Werribee (in this last case, the employer had to use helicopters to ferry in workers; the dispute was over an alleged misuse of 457 visas).  In all these cases, the police effectively did nothing.

There was also the biggie – the blockade of Grocon construction site at the Myer Emporium in Lonsdale Street –  although the police did move on the protestors there and the CFMEU is about to learn its fate in terms of a very large fine being imposed by the Supreme Court of Victoria.  It was such a high profile location that the police couldn’t really get away with turning a blind eye to the inconvenience being caused by the picketing.

Please note that Victorian police have been under instruction ever since that namby-pamby leftoid Police Commissioner, Christine Nixon, took office simply to ensure that picketing (and demonstrations) are conducted peacefully.  They are not instructed to break up pickets and ensure access to workplaces and premises.

It is in this context that the Victorian government chose to introduce this new law.  In a disgraceful act of insubordination, the new Police Commissioner, Ken Lay, when interviewed on ABC Local Radio, implied that he didn’t like the new law and he would wait and see how it worked out.  If I were the Police Minister, I would have had Lay in my office tout de suite!  Some carpet burns may have been the result.

So here is my question: what do Cats think?  Is my interpretation correct?

Here is the Daily Beast on the topic (the laws are compared with ones in Egypt and Turkey!):

On Tuesday 11 March, the Australian state of Victoria passed a controversial law giving police wide-reaching powers over protesters.

Police can now move on, fine or arrest people they believe are ‘causing or likely to cause’ obstructed access to buildings or impeding the movement of people or traffic, or people they anticipate may become violent. Additionally, courts can issue exclusion orders (bans on being in a designated public space for up to 12 months). Breaching a penalty order can result in two years’ imprisonment.

Officially this law is the Summary Offences and Sentencing Amendment Bill. Colloquially it’s called the anti-protest law. It’s unpopular (protesters disrupted the debating of the bill in parliament and opposition rallies have attracted large crowds) and opponents argue it is part of a wider move by conservative state and federal governments to curtail democratic rights.

The right-wing Victorian Liberal government, led by Premier Denis Napthine, says the law “will give Victoria Police the power to end unlawful union pickets and protester blockades that threaten to shut down businesses.”

Attorney-General Robert Clark adds: “When individuals resort to unlawful tactics that threaten the livelihood of law-abiding businesses, employees and their families, they must be held to account.”

In a curious twist, Melbourne’s Lord Mayor Robert Doyle, also a Liberal, plans to use the law to move anti-abortion protesters away from clinics.

But National Vice-President of the Labor Party Jane Garrett says: “It’s a slippery slope for government to go down when they restrict people’s right to protest. The right to be heard is hard-won and cherished and we’re deeply concerned about conservative government policies that make it difficult for people to speak, particularly those who already have limited power or influence in our community.”

In a curious twist, Melbourne’s Lord Mayor Robert Doyle, also a Liberal, plans to use the law to move anti-abortion protesters away from clinics to assist “the young women who get harassed as they enter that clinic at a very vulnerable time in their lives.” The Napthine government has yet to respond to this interpretation of the law. Mayor Doyle and Premier Napthine are known to have a strained political relationship.

Many people believe the trigger for the introduction of the anti-protest law was the increasing number of public objections to government initiatives, including the East-West road link. But political theorist James Muldoon argues: “The main target of these laws, the big fish on the end of the line, is the union movement in Victoria. The government is keen to crush the remaining power of the unions through outlawing and delegitimising one of their strongest weapons: pickets.”

Legislation of this type is not unprecedented in Australia. In 1971, Queensland Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen declared a State of Emergency allowing bussed-in police to arrest anti-apartheid protesters during the tour of the Springbok rugby team. In 1977 the same Premier outlawed street marches, leading to repeated violent clashes between police and protesters (more than 2,000 people were arrested during several years of public defiance). Those laws were not overturned until after a Royal Commission into police and government corruption in the state.

Depending on your political views this is either a time of dynamic reform or draconian backsliding in Australia. Either way, things are changing quickly. And given Australia’s key role in the politics of the Asia-Pacific region, and as a longtime ally of the United States, the changes are worth watching.

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44 Responses to What do Cats think of the Summary Offences and Sentencing Amendment Bill?

  1. Alfonso

    Attorney-General Robert Clark adds: “When individuals resort to unlawful tactics that threaten the livelihood of law-abiding businesses, employees and their families, they must be held to account.”

    This bloke can’t be a Vic Liberal……he doesn’t seem terrified enough.

  2. Rococo Liberal

    People don’t have any right to protest. They have free speech. But protestors don’t usually speak so much as intimidate, blockade or just generally act like shite.

  3. MACK1

    If someone parks across my driveway, I can have them fined and the car removed – it stops me going about my lawful business, impairs my income producing capacity and poses a safety risk in emergencies. Same situation with union activists blockading businesses and worksites – throw them in jail. Unionists should be allowed to strike for better wages and conditions – everything else should be illegal.

  4. Infidel Tiger

    The law will only be used to harass peaceful anti-abortion protestors.

    Foaming at the mouth leftist maniacs will always be given the key to the city and allowed to do as they please.

  5. blogstrop

    Should be more ways to beat back the union thugs. Go for it.

  6. Bruce of Newcastle

    Please note that Victorian police have been under instruction ever since that namby-pamby leftoid Police Commissioner, Christine Nixon, took office simply to ensure that picketing (and demonstrations) are conducted peacefully.

    A simpler approach which is quite peaceful is just to automatically fine each individual protester a mandatory $1,000 for each day or part thereof where they impede entry or exit of lawful persons to the site, or otherwise impede lawful work (eg by sitting in trees). No argument, no mucking around, no courts. The money collected would be provided to the inconvenienced party after deducting police costs.

    That makes it a choice. If they really mean it they can have an inconvenient protest and pay for it. Or they can docilely line their picket along the side of the road and pay nothing.

    This way the police need do no more than take pictures, identify suspects and send them fines in the mail without risk of harm to themselves. And deduct them automatically from welfare benefits. And if the police fail to do this because of a police union secondary boycott, then they themselves pay the fines.

    At a grand a day each I think the members of picket lines would rapidly find pressing reasons to be elsewhere.

  7. Fred Furkenburger

    Why is it that I can be absolutely crucified fined to the limit and risk losing the permission to drive in this state for transgressing the speed limit by a few k’s an hour and these arseholes can destroy business’s and people livelihoods and not cop a very real penalty for very real offences??? Absolutely doesn’t make sense!!

  8. See, in PNG, they know not to use local police when the big jobs have to be done.

    I have a suspicion there are some head-breakers on Manus that would soon sort out the problem.

  9. Ed

    Protest is supposed to be about high visibility public opinion on some issue. In other words, it’s a show of numbers in support of a cause; a voting of the feet. In that situation it’s fine. If it’s drawing attention to an issue then fine.

    Protests should not be an opportunity to engage in activities that are otherwise unlawful, including assaulting police officers, impeding the movement of others, and so on.

    These laws won’t have any effect. The police “use discretion” already when faced with crowds and often choose not to press charges even when they can. Laws only have meaning when they’re enforced.

  10. Johno

    This bloke can’t be a Vic Liberal……he doesn’t seem terrified enough.

    Robert Clark is one of the few genuine liberals in the Victorian Liberal Party.

    If they had half a dozen more like him they would be a half decent Party.

    As a law student at Melbourne Uni in the late 70s, he took Melb Uni to the High Court to win a political battle. That takes some genuine courage.

  11. Ed

    In a curious twist, Melbourne’s Lord Mayor Robert Doyle, also a Liberal, plans to use the law to move anti-abortion protesters away from clinics.

    But National Vice-President of the Labor Party Jane Garrett says: “It’s a slippery slope for government to go down when they restrict people’s right to protest.

    Abortion clinics aren’t blockaded by anti-abortion protesters. This is more about the fact that the protesters are unwelcome.

  12. Johno

    In a curious twist, Melbourne’s Lord Mayor Robert Doyle, also a Liberal, plans to use the law to move anti-abortion protesters away from clinics.

    Unf……ly believable. The government passes these laws to deal with ratbag unionist and feral Greens, so the fruitcake Doyle wants to move on peaceful protesters who are not blocking anyone’s entry into an abolition clinic.

    On second thoughts, the Victorian Liberals would need a dozen or two Robert Clarks to counter balance Lefties like Doyle. (Red Ted’s only real achievement in politics is that he knocked off Doyle as Liberal leader and spared Victoria the hell of a Doyle Premiership. His reign as Lord Mayor of Melbourne hives an inkling of the disaster avoided.)

  13. tomix

    Daily Beast, 2nd. last paragraph:

    ….declared a State of Emergency..This is a power of the State Transport Act 1938, enacted by the crypto fascist Forgan Smith Labor government. Still on the books.

    …outlawed street marches..Didn’t happen. A permit from the police had always been required under the State Traffic Act, dating back to the ALP’s 40 years in power in Qld.

    Those laws were not overturned until a Royal Commission into Government and the Police…

    The “Fitzgerald Inquiry” was not a Royal Commission and the laws were not overturned.

    Mythmaking and bullshit from the Daily Beast.

    Joh Bjelke- Petersen: The wreckers Australian version of Joe McCarthy.

  14. Rabz

    Cough, ahem, cough – crusty nayzees picketing Max Brenner shops?

    :x

  15. Johno

    But National Vice-President of the Labor Party Jane Garrett says: “It’s a slippery slope for government to go down when they restrict people’s right to protest. The right to be heard is hard-won and cherished and we’re deeply concerned about conservative government policies that make it difficult for people to speak, particularly those who already have limited power or influence in our community.”

    Do you reckon this Emily Lister cares about the rights of the anti-abortioner’s right to protest? Or do you reckon she only cares about thugs and feral’s right to protest?

  16. Disillusioned

    The answer is simple. If you impede someone going about their lawful business then you have infringed their civil rights and should be penalised. The more you do so the higher the penalty. Common sense will eventually win. If you go on strike you have withdrawn your labour. That is only fair. Your have the right to protest without interfering with anyone else’s lawful rights. Cross that boundary and pay the penalty. I don’t see where there is any room for dispute if you believe in the law and would wish to be sheltered by it should the need arise. Prosecute all offenders to avoid double standards and everyone will know where the police stand regardless of the government of the day. Prosecuting individuals and ignoring the masses makes a mockery of the law and raises public contempt when the law is not applied equally. Draw the line and apply it equally, something most governments fail to do. Police commissioners who decide to interpret the law other than as written surely lead themselves open to litigation.

  17. tomix

    No such thing as bad publicity. I’d never heard of Max Brenner before the protests.

  18. candy

    Perhaps a little liaison and co-operation between protestors/union boss and the Police about where to hold the protest without disrupting people just going about their business, so everyone is clear about what’s acceptable. Would that be too reasonable to expect?

  19. steve

    We only need these new laws because the police have not enforced the existing laws. If the boys in blue threw some of these protesters into the divi van and then drove at high speed over every speed hump on the way to the police station like they did in the good old days, they wouldn’t even need a couple of telephone books to convince them to behave.

  20. nic

    The law will only be used to harass peaceful anti-abortion protestors.
    Foaming at the mouth leftist maniacs will always be given the key to the city and allowed to do as they please.

    As well as not being used on G20 protestors etc and other skanky malefactors

  21. politichix

    tomix
    #1224932, posted on March 14, 2014 at 9:10 pm
    No such thing as bad publicity. I’d never heard of Max Brenner before the protests.

    Same here. In fact after the publicity I sought out Max Brenner stores in the hope of finding a picket line I could cross with prejudice!

  22. Rabz

    I’d never heard of Max Brenner before the protests.

    Yep – the f*cking morons.

    Still doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have had the book thrown at them.

    Those scenes were quite simply unacceptable.

    Picketing a business because of “Jooooooos”.

    The evil, illiterate, ahistorical cockheads.

  23. tomix

    Once the abortion protestors are silenced, the wreckers will have the protestin’ field to themselves.

  24. stackja

    I have no problem with peaceful protests, but when entry to a business or premises is impeded, a whole new set of issues emerges.

    Dollar Sweets dispute comes to mind.

    The sweets of a famous victory
    Doug Cameron, the secretary of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union, with which the Federated Confectioners Association has amalgamated, was not around during the dispute, but he sees it as a turning point. “It was when the social contract between workers, business and the government started to collapse,” he said last night. “It became a cause celebre for the big end of town and lawyers started to realise they could make money ripping off the pay and conditions of workers.”

    ….big end of town and lawyers started to realise they could make money ripping off the pay and conditions of workers.”

    Union leaders to parliamentarians. Who is now ripping off the pay and conditions of workers?

  25. hammy

    In fact after the publicity I sought out Max Brenner stores in the hope of finding a picket line I could cross with prejudice!

    If you’d done so, you would have been arrested for disturbing the peace, and rightly so. Such aggressive behaviour is inherently violent.

  26. tomix

    Politichix- i remember crossing the picket line for Salo outside the TokH in 1993- bigots are the same everywhere.

  27. Zulu Kilo Two Alpha

    they wouldn’t even need a couple of phone books to convince them behave.

    One old copper, here in the Wild West, reckoned his cleanup rate had dropped since he had been transferred to the country from Perth.

    A country phone book was thinner then the Perth directory.

  28. C.L.

    The Victoria Police have been acting corruptly on this for years.

    Failure to enforce this law should result in charges being brought against Ken Lay.

  29. Gab

    Yeah, go ahead, bring in these laws. They will only be used on non-lefty protestors anyway. Nothing will change.

  30. Zulu Kilo Two Alpha

    in the hope of finding a picket line I could cross with prejudice!

    I was in the cab of one of several trucks that crossed a union picket line here in the Wild West many years ago. They hurled abuse and shook their stupid banners, and threatened much violence. We just grinned back, and wished them a nice day, because if one of these baboons had started anything, there were enough angry men, sick of having their means of making a living interfered with, to wipe the floor with them. God, it was an adrenaline rush.

  31. Peewhit

    Hammy’s mistake here is that picket lines exist to project an implicit threat of violence. If crossing a picket line make sure of reinforcements, to make sure that your right of reasonable force in response to an attack has enough witnesses to win in court

  32. JohnA

    In a curious twist, Melbourne’s Lord Mayor Robert Doyle, also a Liberal, plans to use the law to move anti-abortion protesters away from clinics to assist “the young women who get harassed as they enter that clinic at a very vulnerable time in their lives.” The Napthine government has yet to respond to this interpretation of the law. Mayor Doyle and Premier Napthine are known to have a strained political relationship.

    Talk about unintended consequences, or should we call it “collateral damage”?

    They may have a strained political relationship but on this issue they think alike (which is NOT as I think).

    This interpretation will be used by the East Melbourne Abortion Clinic to sue the City of Melbourne to require them (writ of mandamus?) to request Police to move opponents away from the clinic and its clients. This is a back door method of implementing what the Tasmanian government legislated (and what some US States have) – a protest-free bubble zone around clinics.

    However, could the interpretation be used to ALSO remove proponents of choice who would encourage wavering women to step inside?

    If we are equal before the law, then it should. But looking back at the October March for the Babies disgrace, I doubt if the Police would act.

    And unless legal force was applied (at large expense) I would say that feral protestors disrupting such a March in future would still not be removed by Police. So peaceful protestors who assemble quietly, with a march permit from Police (did you hear that, Moriarty?) would still be vulnerable to violent disrupters.

    So freedom of speech/protest is abridged – STILL.

    This Bill is a double-edged sword, and more likely to be used by “Leftists” running an agenda.

  33. JohnA

    Didn’t see all the posts of the same view as yours truly, so sorry for a “me, too” post.

    However, Bruce of Newcastle #1224866, posted on March 14, 2014 at 8:27 pm:

    A simpler approach which is quite peaceful is just to automatically fine each individual protester a mandatory $1,000 for each day or part thereof where they impede entry or exit of lawful persons to the site, or otherwise impede lawful work (eg by sitting in trees). No argument, no mucking around, no courts. The money collected would be provided to the inconvenienced party after deducting police costs.

    But the difficulty with that is that the Police have to actually arrest said disrupters. But as I posted above, there are Police in lower levels of command who supervise working officers of the law, and advise (nay, order) them to follow the namby-pamby dictates of the former Chief Commissioner. It takes less time because there is less paperwork, because fewer “trivial arrests”.

    I want Ken Jones policing, not Christine Nixon stuff!

    PS: I attended the October March and saw clear examples of the things I cite. (Yes, I cite what I sight!)

  34. Bruce of Newcastle

    But the difficulty with that is that the Police have to actually arrest said disrupters.

    No, they only have to photo and identify them. Then send them the bill.

    Of course there are problems, like people wearing balaclavas, but that would go really well on the nightly news reports like it did in the Patrick Stevedores case.

  35. yackman

    My initial reaction was “good move” but after reading the comments above, particularly re Robert Doyle, I now think that such a law will only be used against soft targets and not the really aggressive and threatening large groups blocking access to worksites.
    My experience has only been with short duration (eg. an hour) blockages at weighbridges and where the main concern was that there might be an aggressive response from heavy haulage owner drivers. The Police have little hope, even if authorised, of breaking up very large groups as per Patricks and are very reluctant to become involved anyway.

  36. Yobbo

    One of those “peaceful” anti-abortion protestors shot dead a security guard outside an abortion clinic in Melbourne a few years ago.

  37. Combine_Dave

    So how will Queensland Police deal with the protestors at this years G20?

    Let the ferals run riot, like has occurred overseas and in other Australian states?

  38. tomix

    Of course they will. The police are there to protect the feral protesters.

    Substitute “Aborigines” for “G20 Protesters”, very different story.

  39. Nato

    For the move-along amendments, yes, closing a loophole.

    The new 89 DE (6)(b) strikes me as cruel and unusual.
    You’ve done your time, paid your debt, now you are free… jkLOLtrollface.

  40. Walter Plinge

    If you’d done so, you would have been arrested for disturbing the peace, and rightly so. Such aggressive behaviour is inherently violent.

    Good. We need more “Sod off, swampy!”

  41. LABCR-TV

    In general, I would support some form of Summary Offences law, because the picketing should not be allowed to go on ad infinitum. There must be limits. Infinity is not a limit.

    Bruce of Newie suggested fines for protestors, but this does not go far enough. For example, lets say 10 people picketed a gold mine, causing business losses of $300 000 per day. Well, a $1000 fine each is not going to provide compensation to that mining company.

    So I would suggest that businesses be allowed to sue the protestors for lost earnings, plus legal costs, of course. That should fix them. If they can’t pay, then they are gaoled.
    However, if protestors kept moving and do not disturb any particular business, well that may be OK.

    The other major issue is, for example, is farmers objecting to frigging fracking on their own land. By state law, farmers are prevented from preventing mining companies entering their own land (alliteration, gotta luv it!). This is in complete contrast to almost any other business or property owner, who indeed have the right to stop people protesting or entering their land. As I understand it now, the police have the right to enter farmland and arrest/move the owner of that land. But what if it was a public driveway to said land. Same result probably.

  42. Overall a solution that may force the Police to actually do their sworn duty.
    My only concern would be with:
    6(1) (e)the conduct of the person or persons is causing a reasonable apprehension of violence in another person;
    I believe is problematic as it certainly has the propensity to be misused and misjudged by the Hulls appointed Magistracy and Nixon appointed Police executive.

  43. Ed

    One of those “peaceful” anti-abortion protestors shot dead a security guard outside an abortion clinic in Melbourne a few years ago.

    I think there’s already a law against that.

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