State Liberal leader Will Hodgman has threatened jail for environmental protesters if elected in March
HANNAH MARTIN MERCURY DECEMBER 10, 2013 12:00AM
State Liberal leader Will Hodgman wants fines and jail time for environmental protesters who disrupt workplaces. Picture: Nikki Davis-Jones Source: Mercury
ENVIRONMENT groups have vowed to continue forestry protests despite Liberal party threats of hefty fines and mandatory jail terms.
Union groups yesterday joined a chorus of people slamming the Liberal party\’s proposed crackdown on illegal protests, saying tough measures could curb free speech and the right to protest.
The Liberals outlined plans to introduce on-the-spot fines of $10,000 for individuals and $100,000 for corporations that invade or impede access to a workplace, with a mandatory three-month jail term for second offences.
Offenders would also be forced to pay for any damage or economic losses caused during protests.
Protesters who damaged property would face fines up to $50,000 or imprisonment, and corporations would risk $250,000 fines for inciting or encouraging illegal protests.
Unions Tasmania secretary Kevin Harkins said the attack on environmentalists could impede union and community group protests.
He said the policy could have severely affected Metro bus drivers who took part in strikes this year.
Civil Liberties Australia Tasmanian director Richard Griggs said indigenous groups involved in protests at roadwork sites could also be affected.
Current laws adequately addressed the competing right to free speech and right for workers to access their place of employment, he said.
Liberal forestry spokesman Peter Gutwein denied the policy impeded the right to free speech.
\”If you want to protest legally, if you want to stand on the side of the road and wave a placard, if you want to engage in lawful protest in a park or another agreed public space, then go for it,\” he said.
\”This is not about stifling free speech.\” Tree-sit protester Miranda Gibson said the proposed laws would not stop people protesting against forestry companies.
\”We may have to change some of those tactics and processes, but the real threat here is to freedom of speech and the people\’s right to stand up and have a say about what\’s going on,\” she said.
\”We have corporations like Ta Ann, which are getting away with destroying large tracts of ancient forests (and) they\’re given money by the Australian Government.
Meanwhile, people who are standing up to protect these forests are threatened with these large fines.\”
Ms Gibson said environment groups were set to target Tasmanian forestry companies in January as part of the Fearless Summer campaign run by a coalition of nationwide green groups.
She was among 40 protestors who yesterday blocked log trucks from accessing a NSW woodchip mill.