No justification for new protest laws

Bridget Burton

While a number of arrests under existing laws have been made during recent climate change protests, Queenslanders have not been provided with truly cogent reasons as to why existing laws are insufficient.

“Until clear and compelling evidence of the justification for these new laws is made public we believe that the proposed amendments should not proceed,” said Bridget Burton, Director of Caxton Legal Centre’s Human Rights and Civil Law Practice.

“It is particularly disappointing to see these changes under consideration when Queensland’s Human Rights Act, which includes both the right to freedom of expression and the right to peaceful assembly, is currently being implemented,” she said.

The proposed laws will extend police search powers and increase the penalties for breaches of the peace to up to two years imprisonment if introduced.

“One goal of the Human Rights Act is to help build a culture in the Queensland public sector that respects and promotes human rights. We encourage the Government to continue its leadership on this, rather than responding to protest through the imposition of harsher penalties without proper consideration of the consequences of introducing these new laws and whether they are indeed required when existing laws are sufficient,” said Ms Burton.

Caxton Legal Centre’s submission to the Queensland Government’s Legal Affairs and Community Safety Committee which is considering the proposed laws is available here.

Media Contact: Bridget Burton (07) 3214 6333

About Caxton Legal Centre

Established in 1976, Caxton Legal Centre Inc (Caxton) is Queensland’s oldest Community Legal Centre, providing 5,000 advice services each year – particularly to the most disadvantaged members of our community, as well as many clients who can fairly be described as ‘the working poor’, along with retirees and students.

Over its 43-year period, Caxton has advised clients during some very turbulent periods in this State’s history when rights in public space, rights of assembly, freedom to express political views, and the appropriate use of police powers have all been tested, critiqued, and, in parts, reformed.

In 2014, when Brisbane hosted the G20, Caxton coordinated 50 volunteer lawyers via its Independent Legal Observers’ (ILO) Project to literally watch and record interactions between the police officers and members of the public during demonstrations that took place during the G20.