Amnesty International Australia

05/23/2023 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 05/22/2023 20:56

The anti-protest Bill rushed through South Australian Government is a threat to our right to protest

23 May 2023

The anti-protest Bill rushed through South Australia's Lower House will unfairly restrict our democratic right to protest if it becomes law.⁠ The simple act of gathering on a footpath to stand up for our rights could incur thousands of dollars in fines.

What happened?

On Thursday 18 May, South Australia's Lower House passed a Bill that imposes $50,000 fines on people taking part in peaceful protest.

The Bill amends South Australia's Summary Offences Act, and greatly increases the penalty for obstruction of a public place to a $50,000 fine or three-month prison sentence.

These laws are designed to stop people from taking part in disruptive protests, but protests are almost always disruptive.

The Bill changes the wording from "wilfully" obstructing a public place to "intentionally or recklessly" obstructing a public place. The addition of "recklessly" means even those unintentionally obstructing a public place could be harshly penalised. That means homeless people or people experiencing a mental health crisis could face $50,000 fines.

The right to protest in Australia

This Bill follows increasing repression of the right to protest in Australia in recent years.

In 2022, NSW, Victoria and Tasmania introduced anti-protest laws which impose thousands of dollars in fines and prison sentences on protestors engaged in civil disobedience.

Protests have been central in achieving social and political changes ⁠- South Australia became the first place in the world where women could stand for election, and the second place in the world where women could vote.

The right to peaceful protest is a fundamental human right. It's how we hold governments and big business to account when all other avenues fail. Right now, powerful people in Australia and around the world are cracking down on our right to protest. It must be protected.

How Amnesty has responded

Amnesty has joined a chorus of human rights and advocacy groups sounding the alarm and condemning the anti-protest Bill that has been rushed through South Australia's Parliament.

"This crackdown on the right to protest means all our ability to fight for human rights and combat the climate crisis are under threat. People shouldn't face huge fines, and even prison sentences, just for standing up for what's right.

Nikita White, Amnesty International Australia Campaigner

We are calling for public pressure to reject the Bill. Together, we can protect the right to protest and continue to challenge injustice.

How you can help

The Upper House is expected to vote on this Bill before the end of May ⁠- these laws must not pass.

We have a few weeks to show them that people want the South Australian Parliament to respect people's right to protest, not fine protesters or send them to prison.

When courageous people protest, they make the world a better place. We must protect the right to protest wherever it is restricted and whenever it is at risk. Learn more about our right to protest campaign work.

Amnesty International