HSV Submissions – April 2014

‘Move On’ Bill

Letter sent dd April 2014 to Denis Napthine, with copies to Attorney General and 23 other MPs

The Summary Offences and Sentencing Amendment Bill 2013, dubbed the ‘Move On’ Bill, reportedly passed through the Victorian Upper House on 12 March 2014. The new law curtails human rights, and potentially disempowers people and communities who might seek to exercise their right to peaceful protest.

  •  Humanists oppose this Bill and express our profound disappointment that some Victorian Parliamentarians have chosen to vote against the human rights of their constituents.
  •  Victorian Humanists support the rights to free speech, association and assembly. We also consider dissent and protest as being fundamental facets of a healthy, functioning democracy, and we ask why your government would seek to restrict such activities.
  •  Humanists understand that existing laws already adequately cover all protest scenarios and unlawful conduct. We concur with other organisations and individuals who see the new law as being unnecessary.
  •  Humanists endorse the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which Australia signed over 60 years ago. We view the ‘Move On’ Bill as infringing these rights and urge the Government to reconsider its introduction in this State.

The following response was received from the Attorney General’s office, dated 14 April 2014.

Mr Geoff Allshorn
Co-Convenor, Submissions Committee
Humanist Society of Victoria

Dear Mr Allshorn

I refer to your letter of 18 March 2014 to the Premier of Victoria, the Hon Dr Denis Napthine MP, regarding changes to the Summary Offences Act, which were recently passed by the Victorian Parliament. Your letter was referred to the Attorney-General, the Hon Robert Clark MP, as this matter falls within his portfolio responsibilities. The Attorney-General has asked me to respond on his behalf.

All Victorians have the right to protest and express their views.  However, when individuals resort to unlawful or illegal tactics that threaten the livelihood and safety of law-abiding businesses, employees and their families, they must be held to account.

The Victorian Coalition Government believes we all have a responsibility to respect the right of other Victorians to go about their lawful business without the fear of violence or other harm.

The Summary Offences and Sentencing Amendment Act 2014 establishes additional circumstances in which Police may issue a move-on order.  Importantly, the legislation addresses unlawful protest action and does not affect the right to engage in peaceful protest.

Under the reforms, the circumstances in which police may issue move-on orders have been expanded to include where a person:

  • is impeding lawful access to premises;
  • has committed an offence in the public place;
  • is causing others to have a reasonable fear of violence; or
  • is endangering safety or engaging in behaviour likely to cause damage to property.

Police are authorised to order persons to move away from an area where the offending behaviour is occurring. Police may issue a $288 on-the-spot fine for failure to comply with a move-on order.  As with all infringement notices, the recipient can always elect to have the matter heard at court.

Police are also authorised to apply to the Magistrate’s Court for an exclusion order lasting up to 12 months where a person has been given repeated move-on orders in the same public place.

At the Bill’s third reading in the Legislative Council, neither the Labor opposition nor the Greens voted against these important reforms, which preserve the right of all Victorians to engage in peaceful protests while ensuring that police can focus on protecting the community rather than having to deal repeatedly with the same individuals at unlawful blockades.

Thank you for taking the time to write to me regarding this issue.

Yours sincerely

Tom Pretty
Adviser

Office of the Hon. Robert Clark MP
Attorney-General – Minister for Finance – Minister for Industrial Relations