In recent months, international and Australian news bulletins have been full of news about various protest actions.
The footage from the ongoing Hong Kong protests about that territory and the former British colony’s autonomy in relation to mainland China have ramifications for both Australia and Tasmania.
In Melbourne recently, there was violent interaction between protestors and police around the three-day International Mining and Resources Conference.
Perhaps most notoriously, in April this year about 20 people chained themselves to equipment at the Yangan abattoir, south-west of Brisbane, while others infiltrated abattoirs in Goulburn, New South Wales and in Laverton in Melbourne to protest alleged animal cruelty and overall animal welfare.
We have also seen the Extinction Rebellion protests worldwide about climate change.
That has created an interesting debate in the major Australian cities where roads have been blocked at peak times for hours – do the protestors make their point and gain support or do they alienate ordinary Australians making their way to and from work each day?
In November this year, the Tasmanian Government introduced the Workplaces (Protection from Protesters) Amendment Bill 2014 to protect Tasmanian businesses going about their normal, daily operations.
For years, prior to the election of the Hodgman Liberal Government, TCCI has called for legislation to protect Tasmanian businesses against unlawful protest action.
Let me state, the TCCI supports absolutely the right of people to protest lawfully, but not to conduct economic terrorism.
But vegan protesters invading abattoirs, forest protesters chained inside machinery – dangerous for both the protestors and those workers trying to extricate them – environmental protestors chaining themselves to wooden furniture in Tasmanian furniture stores and even protestors releasing farm livestock onto the road is just not on.
The Federal Government has introduced new legislation with bipartisan support and the NSW and Queensland Governments are also moving to tighten laws.
These laws are needed following an upsurge in business disruption caused by organised actions across the country, much of it unfairly directed at farmers.
The Workplaces (Protection from Protesters) Amendment Bill 2014 gives effect to a fundamental principle: that Tasmanian laws should protect people who are undertaking lawful business activities.
This means that people should be able to earn a living without trespassers interfering with their work, threats being made in an effort to shut down their business, or roads being obstructed in order to stop their business operations.
The Bill also addresses matters raised by the High Court in the Brown case. It has been drafted to apply to all people and only to actions which affect or have the potential to affect the lawful rights of others.
The TCCI supports the State Government, which is strongly committed to the right of people to protest, but not at the expense of the right of workers to earn a living or the right of business to operate safely and free from interference and disruption.