PROTESTERS will face mandatory jail time and members of the public could be fined for inciting protests under tough new legislation to be debated in Parliament this week.Resources Minister Paul Harriss said the Workplaces (Protection from Protesters) Bill would be the centrepiece as State Parliament resumes tomorrow.
The Bill was triggered by forest protests but Mr Harriss said it could apply to other production sites.
Debate is expected on Thursday, and the laws could take effect by the end of the year if the Legislative Council passes the Bill.
“We support and acknowledge the constitutional right of people to peacefully protest. There’ll be no prohibition — and neither can there be, given the national legislation — but we don’t support this random invasion of workplaces where people are prohibited from going about their legal rights to work,’’ Mr Harriss said.
Penalties include $2000 fines for invading or hindering a business, rising to $5000 if the person has the charge heard in court and is found guilty. Convictions would be automatically recorded.
Second and later offences would carry a minimum three months and up to two years in jail — which would represent Tasmania’s first mandatory imprisonment legislation.
Individuals and organisations would also face heavy fines for inciting others to hinder a business.
Law Society of Tasmania president Anthony Mihal said the society viewed mandatory sentences “with alarm’’.
“It’s a fundamental principle that our democracy is founded on, that the separation of Parliament and the courts be maintained,’’ Mr Mihal said.
Courts should be free to impose penalties taking into account each situation, he said.
“These laws are founded on concerns of courts being too lenient. Those concerns are wrong. People do and have been imprisoned.’’
He pointed to a forest protester sentenced in Burnie to jail recently.
Mr Harriss said the legislation was appropriately tough.
“This will send the clear message that Tasmanians have a right to earn a living, whether that be in forestry, mining or any other industry, without having extremist protesters come on to their workplaces,’’ he said. “We say enough is enough – and at the election the Tasmanian people overwhelmingly agreed with us.’’
Protesters could put workers and their own lives in peril, Mr Harriss said.
He also hoped the Upper House would start to roll back the forest peace deal this week.