Environmental Justice Australia and the Human Rights Law Centre are urging the Andrews government to withdraw a draconian proposed new law that would criminalise peaceful protest.
The Sustainable Forests Timber Amendment (Timber Harvesting Safety Zones) Bill 2022 was introduced by the Victorian government this week and would see protesters who are attempting to prevent native forest logging in Victoria face fines of up to $21,000 or 12 months in jail.
The Bill would have a significant chilling effect on the democratic freedom to protest and will undermine the ability of environmental protestors to exercise their freedom to protest in order to shield business profits.
Kieran Pender, Senior Lawyer at the Human Rights Law Centre, said:
“This draft law is unnecessary and undemocratic. Any law that threatens to chill the fundamental democratic freedom to protest must be necessary, proportionate and subject to sufficient safeguards and oversight. The proposed law does not meet these criteria and should not become law.”
“There is no evidence that existing protections for worker safety are insufficient and need to be supplemented by these harsh amendments. The Andrews government is sacrificing our democratic freedoms to protect commercial profits.
“This draft law marks the continuation of an alarming Australia-wide trend. In recent months we have seen undemocratic infringements on the right to protest enacted in New South Wales. A similar law is currently before parliament in Tasmania. Victoria must not follow this path. The right to protest is a core democratic value that must be protected.”
Environmental Justice Australia Senior Lawyer Ellen Maybery said:
“In the face of catastrophic bushfires and as our climate and ecosystems collapse before our eyes, the right to protest illegal logging must be protected,”
“Right now, VicForests is facing nine court cases brought by the community.
“But instead of regulating the logging industry and cracking down on illegal logging, the Victorian government is trying to introduce extraordinary penalties and possible jail time to stop concerned citizens from protesting.
“Introducing harsh criminal penalties for protest is a politically motivated crackdown on legitimate political expression. Our climate and vital ecosystems are collapsing before our eyes and people who understand this cannot stay silent.”