There is plenty to worry about with the Police Offences Amendment (Workplace Protection) Bill, not least an unreasonable crack-down on peaceful protests, the tripling of penalties for convictions, and a new concept of “aggravated trespass”.
However, one potential consequence not canvassed in Minister Barnett’s second reading speech is the intention to extend the definition of “public annoyance” in the Police Offences Act, a ham-fisted amendment that has the potential to target the most vulnerable people in our society, in particular the homeless.
The proposal to add to the existing definition that a person shall not “unreasonably obstruct the passage of vehicles or pedestrians on a street” may look benign enough in passing but could sweep up the homeless and marginalised in our society.
People who are sleeping rough, are itinerant or escaping violence could easily fall foul of this new provision if the police apply a low threshold for the concept of “unreasonably obstruct”.
The bottom line is that the Police Offences Amendment (Workplace Protection) Bill is simply not necessary. The existing powers and penalties are more than sufficient for the police to maintain order.
If these changes are brought in, those wishing to peacefully protest will be walking on eggshells. All our laws must respect and allow for peaceful public protests as a fundamental democratic right.
I won’t support any Bill that curtails this right and disproportionately targets the most vulnerable in our community and those who seek to have a voice.
The Police Offences Amendment (Workplace Protection) Bill must be withdrawn.