Australian news, and some related international items

Hundreds rally against state government’s proposed increases to penalties for protesting

About 500 people have marched through the Adelaide CBD rallying against proposed changes to the state’s protest laws. 

The state government proposed changes to laws that would strengthen penalties for obstructing public places in response to Extinction Rebellion protests last week.

A climate change protester was charged with obstructing a public place after she abseiled down Morphett Street bridge with a rope and was suspended over North Terrace, causing traffic delays.

Another four protesters were charged with offences, including property damage, after allegedly throwing paint at the Santos building.

The proposed changes to the Summary Offences Act — backed by the state opposition — would mean anyone who “intentionally or recklessly engages in conduct that obstructs the free passage of a public place” would face possible three months jail or a $50,000 fine.

Currently, there is no option for jail time and the maximum fine is $750.

“One of the amendments that I’m moving will be to add in a sunset clause to this bill so that it expires in 12 months time. 

“We are also adding in a clause requiring a review after a 12-month period and I’ll also be introducing a reasonableness test so that people who are caught under this bill will have a possible defence.” 

About 80 community groups, including Amnesty International Australia, have signed a letter calling on the government to withdraw the bill. 

The organisations listed their support in a full-page advertisement taken out in Friday’s edition of The Advertiser titled Protect Our Right to Protest — Before It’s Too Late, which was authorised by the South Australian Council of Social Service. 

‘Almost wartime measure’

The Law Society of South Australia and the South Australian Bar Association have also jointly written a strongly worded letter to the Attorney-General outlining a long list of concerns about the proposed new laws.

………………………………………. The legal bodies raised concerns about the legal wording of the proposed reforms which would significantly shift the onus of proof for the offence of obstructing a public place.

“The effect is that a person only has to turn their mind to the possibility that an obstruction will occur, even though the consequence is entirely unintended, to be found guilty of the offence,” the letter states………………………….. more


May 27, 2023 - Posted by | civil liberties, South Australia

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