New laws designed to move on protesters, which the Napthine government admits will limit free speech and the right to peaceful protest, are set to pass State Parliament this week.
The government’s Summary Offences Bill will probably pass the upper house by Thursday, extending police powers to move protesters who block access to buildings or cause others to ”have a reasonable fear of violence”. Anyone who ignores a ”move-on” order could be arrested and face a $720 fine.
Legal, community and civil rights groups have raised serious concerns about the laws, which will also let police ask a court for exclusion orders banning a person from a public space for up to 12 months – with those breaching a ban facing up to two years in jail.
Several critics said the laws were reminiscent of those brought in by former Queensland premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen to quash opposition.
Under the changes move-on orders can also be issued to people who police believe have committed an offence in a public place within the previous 12 hours.
This action in my home Aussie state of Victoria interests me primarily as an example of the creeping expansion of police powers. Victorian police are still relatively benign when compared to their American trigger-happy and warrantless-empowered American counterparts, but this balance is shifting everywhere.