Rights Group applauds court’s recognition of peaceful protests

All governments in Australia should heed the High Court’s decision upholding the right of peaceful protest, Liberty Victoria said today.

“The decision in favour of Bob Brown must give heart to those who legally dissent,” said Liberty president Jessie Taylor.

Harsh penalties have been introduced in NSW to stop protests against coal seam gas and mining, while similar laws in WA were only stopped by an election.

“Governments of any stripe are often tempted to ramp up laws to dampen legitimate protest,” Ms Taylor said.

A majority of the High Court bench found that the laws breach the constitution’s implied freedom of political communication. Stopping members of the public protesting on public lands, such as forests and related work access impugned that freedom.

But the court also upheld the law that stops protesters from hindering business activity on commercial premises.

“Bob Brown’s arrest while filming a video at an anti-logging state forest protest in 2016 clearly breached his rights and was a classic over-reaction,” Ms Taylor said. “It is encouraging to see the right of protest clearly and powerfully confirmed by the highest court in the land.”