Summary Offences Amendment (Move-on Laws) Bill 2015
HUTCHINS (Minister for Local Government) — I am proud to rise to speak on the Summary Offences Amendment (Move-on Laws) Bill 2015. It was only a year and five days ago that I stood in this chamber to oppose the former government’s amendments to the move-on powers under the Summary Offences and Sentencing Amendment Bill 2013. I am proud to stand here again and speak on the repeal of those amendments.
We saw a pretty animated performance from the previous speaker, the member for Hawthorn, but he failed to mention the right of Victorians to peaceful protest, or Victoria’s proud history as a democratic society where many historical protests have changed the face of history and given us amazing outcomes in public policy. If the move-on powers were to stay as they are in legislation, then a whole raft of policy changes that were hard-won by generations of Victorians — —
Ms HUTCHINS — Generations of Victorians. The protests and movements in our history that could today be threatened by the move-on powers include anti-war protests and the suffragette protests. In more recent times they include the residents of Tecoma opposing the building of a McDonald’s in their community; Lock the Gate and the antifracking protests, which were supported by many on that side of the house; and the Bust the Budget rallies, which have been so well attended here in Victoria, and another of which is coming up next week.
As I said, the previous government’s laws were draconian, anti-democratic and unnecessary — —
The Summary Offences Amendment (Move-on Laws) Bill makes four main amendments to return move-on powers to their original form. Firstly, the bill winds back the expansion of the grounds on which police and protective services officers (PSOs) may give move-on directions. Move-on powers will no longer be able to be used merely, for example, because a police officer suspects that a person is likely to cause an obstruction to another. Rather, the circumstances in which police officers and PSOs may direct a person to move on will be scaled back and limited to where officers suspect on reasonable grounds that the person is breaching or is likely to breach the peace, the person is endangering or likely to endanger the safety of another person or the behaviour of the person is likely to cause injury to a person.
Secondly, the bill provides that move-on powers will not apply in relation to a person picketing a workplace. We know from the previous speaker that the intent of the coalition government in introducing the Summary Offences and Sentencing Amendment Bill 2013 was to attack the rights of peaceful protesters and those out in the community protesting at their place of work.
Ms HUTCHINS — Well, it certainly looked that way in debates that took place in the house on that bill. The attack on workers was quite evident in many of the speeches that were given, and will no doubt be the focus of the other side today.
I would say that the Victorian people would not have foreseen how effective the implementation of the previous bill would be in their local communities. I have not had anyone raise the implementation of the previous bill and how effective it has been. Labor members have always opposed the move-on laws, and I am proud to stand here today to speak on our bill that repeals them. We will stand up for democratic values and the right to protest.
This legislation was a pretty strong election commitment that we took forward to the election, and the Andrews government will restore the balance for the Victorian people in favour of democracy. It is and should remain a fundamental right of all Victorians to move freely, express their views and associate with whomever they choose.
I have a little history lesson for those in the chamber. There have been many successful peaceful protests in this state.
Ms HUTCHINS — In referring to successful peaceful protests that have taken place under the current laws, in 1998 there was quite a large dispute on the waterfront in Melbourne. It lasted three weeks and involved 1400 workers who had been sacked from their jobs across the national waterfront. During those three weeks on the Victorian docks we saw thousands of Victorian residents and workers join that peaceful protest. At the time I was one of the negotiators with the police force on behalf of the union movement to ensure that the peacefulness of those protests was maintained, and it was successfully maintained through the laws that existed at the time. Negotiation with the police force at the time meant that things went very smoothly, and through the Federal Court and the High Court those workers were able to find a lawful way back to their jobs. I cite that as an example for the record. It is a demonstration of how larger scale protests this state has seen have been successfully conducted in a peaceful way through negotiations.
The move-on powers introduced by the coalition’s previous bill are draconian. They set us down a very slippery slope when it comes to democracy in Victoria. They infringe the vital rights that exist in a free democracy and they infringe the right to protest, something that the previous speaker failed to acknowledge. They also have the potential to disproportionately harm some of the most vulnerable groups in society. I would like to quote Geoffrey Bowyer, a former president of the Law Institute of Victoria, who stated at the time that these laws and changes:
… could also have a significant and devastating impact on the homeless who, by the nature of their situation, are forced to gather in public places, often returning to a familiar spot after being moved on.
Our Summary Offences Amendment (Move-on Laws) Bill 2015 makes a point of returning some of those democratic rights to all Victorians, particularly the most vulnerable, those who want to stand up for their rights, those who want to protest in a peaceful way and those who want to make real social change by having their voices heard. I commend the bill to the house.