Saturday, September 28, 2013


Thursday 12 September 2013 @ 11.35 a.m. | Legal Research

The G20 (Safety and Security) Bill 2013 (the Bill) (currently at Committee Stage after its first reading on 20 August 2013) has, in the words of an ABC's news report, . . . "lawyers concerned people will be locked away in prison without bail".

Background to the G20 in 2014

The 2014 meeting of the Group of Twenty (known as the G20) is to be hosted by Australia, specifically in Queensland. A G20 meeting consists of a number of meetings under the general G20 umbrella. The two most important meetings are the Heads of State/Heads of Government meeting (the Leaders’ Summit) to be held in Brisbane on 15 and 16 November 2014 and the Finance Ministers’ meeting to be held in Cairns on 20 and 21 September 2014.

About the Bill

The policy objectives of the Bill as stated by the Queensland government when introducing it are to provide police officers and appointed persons special powers to:
  1. protect the safety or security of persons attending any part of the G20 meeting, which iscomprised of the Group of Twenty leaders’ summit in Brisbane in 2014, and the Group of Twenty Finance Ministers’ and Central Bank Governors’ meeting in Cairns in 2014, any official meeting of sherpas in Queensland in 2014 and any other G20 event; and
  2. ensure the safety of members of the public from acts of civil disobedience in relation to any part of the G20 meeting; and
  3. protect property from damage from civil disobedience in relation to an part of the G20 meeting; and
  4. prevent acts of terrorism directly or indirectly related to the any part of the G20 meeting; and
  5. regulate traffic and pedestrian movement to ensure the passage of motorcades related to any part of the G20 meeting is not impeded.

Criticism of the Proposed Law

Firstly, it should be understood that around 10,000 homes and businesses in Brisbane will be enclosed inside the security perimeter created by the Bill during mid-November 2014. Considering this  then as the ABC reports the Bill, now before State Parliament, would allow police to arrest and detain anyone deemed a threat without giving them bail for at least the week of the summit. The Bill further allows them to search people on the spot and publicly broadcast the names and photos of people listed as "prohibited" from the city.
The changes proposed by the Bill are described as drastic and a breach of basic rights. The ABC quotes Peter Shields from the Queensland Law Society as saying . . . "It is a bill which has not been properly thought through, and there are going to be innocent members of the public who will find themselves in custody . . .".
The ABC also reports criminal lawyer Bill Potts saying that for the summit period normal rights expected by citizens will be "suspended and abrogated in the most draconian way".
Examples given of the draconian nature of the legislation are that it makes it an offence to be in possession of prohibited items and that such items can include eggs, cans of baked beans, model cars, model aircraft and all sorts of things which may be used as projectiles even though they have a simple, ordinary and legal use as well. Along with these powers, police will be allowed to publish the names and photographs of anyone they decide should be prohibited from entering the secured inner-city zone.
Another issue raised by critics is where detained persons under the legislation will actually be detained - the ABC report points out that Toronto's G20 riots in 2010 saw more than 1,000 people arrested while south-east Queensland cannot handle even half of that number in their police watch-houses.

Expected timetable to enactment

It is reported further that the Law Society and Queensland Police Service are to present their submissions to the parliamentary committee considering the legislation in the coming week. The committee chairman has said that "the committee has yet to give the Bill any detailed consideration and the committee has not formed any views on the Bill, as yet."
The Bill is due to be debated by the end of October and the powers it enacts could come into effect in Cairns from the third week of next February 2014.
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