This month the Victorian Parliament will vote on changes to the Summary Offences Act. The proposed bill is an outright attack on civil liberties as it effectively attacks the right to protest.
By Socialist Party reporters
These attacks are squarely aimed at the ongoing pickets against the hugely unpopular East-West toll road and tunnel. The Napthine Government are clearly frustrated that the almost daily flying pickets have put their plans for the project behind schedule. In response, and in anticipation of more protest action in the coming months, the government is attempting to shut down the protests.
The proposed changes will increase the power of police to ‘move on’ a person or group and ban them from a given area for 24 hours. If a person or group has been given a ‘move on’ order three times within a six month period then the police can apply for an ‘exclusion order’ which bans a person or a group from a given area for up to one year. A contravention of such an order carries a maximum penalty of two years imprisonment!
Significantly, the bill increases police powers by lowering the ‘move on’ threshold from holding a ‘reasonable belief’ that an offence has been committed to merely a ‘reasonable suspicion’. It also gives police the power to arrest a person or group for not doing so.
Whilst the proposed laws are immediately aimed at shutting down the pickets against the East-West tunnel, in the future they will be used against others who choose to stand up to big business interests including trade unions and community groups.
If this legislation passes, and it is used to try and stop protests, there should be a mass action to defy the laws. Mass defiance can make the laws inoperable as it would be impossible to fine or arrest thousands of people at once.
The Victorian Trades Hall Council has called a mass rally for Tuesday 18th February, 10am at Trades Hall. The Socialist Party calls on all of its supporters to attend. See below the leaflet Socialist Party members will hand out on the day.