Inclosed Lands, Crimes and Law Enforcement Legislation Amendment (Interference) Bill 2016

15th March 2016

Mr GREG PIPER (Lake Macquarie) [5.31 p.m.]: I make a brief contribution on the Inclosed Lands, Crimes and Law Enforcement Legislation Amendment (Interference) Bill 2016. I commence by saying that I do not find it unreasonable for the Government to review the existing suite of legislation available to manage risk associated with protests and other unlawful interference with mining and other business undertakings. The question is not the reasonableness of the review but rather that of the outcome. In this instance the outcome that is set to pass this House is, in my mind, an unwarranted and gross overreach.

No doubt a number of protesters or activists would present the archetypal image that supporters of this legislation propose. However, there are many—and I suggest it is the vast majority—that do not fit that image. Indeed, I suspect that the vast majority of protesters who rally against certain mining operations, be they coal, coal seam gas [CSG] or others, are actually in most, if not all, other ways upstanding, law-abiding and productive members of the community. The examples provided by Government members in support of these very significant changes to New South Wales law are compelling and appalling, but they are rare and not supported by the majority of right-minded people including other protesters. The response by this legislation is an overreach. I note that there was consultation on the legislation, but also note that this does not seem to have extended to any group that might have been expected to have an opposite point of view, leaving a legitimate concern as to bias in the process.

The key reforms include: creating the offence of "aggravated unlawful entry on inclosed lands", with the maximum penalty increasing from $550 to $5,500 under the Inclosed Lands Protection Act 1901, including amendments relating to illegal protests that occur on mine sites; extending the meaning of "mine" to include petroleum workplaces in connection with the existing indictable offence of intentionally or recklessly interfering with a mine under the Crimes Act 1900, thereby broadening the net; providing additional search and seizure powers for police to deal with people who intend to "lock-on" to equipment or structures for the purpose of interfering with a business or undertaking, and that is likely to be used in a way that poses a serious risk to the safety of any person, under the Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Act 2002; and removing limitations to allow police to give directions in public places to prevent obstructions of persons or traffic for a demonstration, protest, procession or organised assembly under the Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Act 2002.

Both those last two measures can easily be seen to pit the police against people who are carrying out what they believe to be legitimate action for their communities, their families and for future generations. That is an unnecessary overreach in the legislation. In response to the examples given where persons have "locked-on" to equipment, putting themselves or others at risk, or interfering with explosives, for example, as outlined by the member for Barwon, I think that many, if not most, would agree there is significant risk associated with this type of behaviour.

However, I would expect that legislation would be drafted in a way that was nuanced to differentiate such dangerous behaviour as opposed to the more common civil disobedience of the great majority. I agree that it is important to protect people, sometimes from themselves, but it is also very important to be proportionate in response. Legislators should guard against being capricious, heavy-handed and disproportionate in using the powers of the Parliament or risk embarking on a creeping path of removal of rights that the public would otherwise expect to be inarguable. I oppose the legislation.

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