Protest laws could affect farmers

WAFarmers is concerned about new legislation currently being debated in the Upper House which potentially criminalises peaceful protests, including those staged by farmers on issues affecting agriculture.

The Criminal Code Amendment (Prevention of Lawful Activity) Bill 2015, introduced to the Legislative Council, has attracted criticism for its broad language, reversal of the onus of proof and its application on both public and private land. 

WAFarmers President Dale Park has expressed his concern about the potential ramifications for farmers who could face significant fines or jail time if they were to create a physical barrier to lawful activity or were even suspected of being about to.

WAFarmers recently staged a peaceful protest at Wagin Woolorama, holding up a ‘Save Lives, Save Rail’ banner during Minister Nalder’s opening address.

“As I understand it, a police officer could have apprehended me beforehand on the grounds that I might be about to prevent lawful activity, which is ridiculous,” Mr Park said.

The legislation is not specific and uses broad language, such as the term ‘thing’, when referring to objects which people may use to prevent lawful activity. 

At a press conference yesterday, Police Minister Liza Harvey said the laws are needed to prevent extreme forms of protest and that “it is not about farmers driving around their properties with padlocks and chains.”

“Even if farmers are not the direct target of this legislation, as Minister Harvey has indicated, they are still at risk of being punished for exercising their right to protest peacefully,” Mr Park said. 

Ends.

All media requests can be directed to WAFarmers Media and Communications Officer Sophie Kilby on (08) 9486 2100 or [email protected].

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