Upper house

Upper House votes to undermine democracy

Cassy O’Connor MP | Leader of the Greens

It is a sad day for democracy in Tasmania.

With its passage through the Legislative Council, the Liberal government’s wildly undemocratic and unnecessary anti-protest legislation is all but certain to become law.

The debate confirmed that five MLCs listened to the deep concerns of the indigenous community, trade unions, NGOs, environmental groups, youth climate activists and the wider community.

In contrast, six other MLCs gave their ears, attention, and votes to a small number of vested interests, including a Chinese state-owned mining company that intended to trash the Takayna rainforest.

Meg Webb, Rob Valentine, Mike Gaffney, Rosemary Armitage and Sarah Lovell all deserve credit for voting for the right to peaceful protest.

Liberal MLCs Leonie Hiscutt, Jane Howlett and Jo Palmer, and independents Ruth Forrest, Tania Rattray and Dean Harriss deserve neither credit nor thanks. Each of them undermined this island’s long and proud history of peaceful protest and contributed to a less democratic Lutruwita/Tasmania.

There have been some modest improvements to this bill through amendments, but fundamentally it remains as it was – an attack on free speech and the right to peaceful protest. One wonders if it is even constitutional.

Tasmania is in the midst of a health and housing crisis, a devastating commission of inquiry and an ongoing pandemic. Rather than address these critical issues, the Rockliff government has prioritized laws designed to lock people up for exercising their democratic rights.

Well, they better build bigger prisons.

These laws will not crush the democratic and protective spirit of Tasmanians who engage in peaceful protest to defend human rights, protect places like Takayna and champion a safe climate.