Supreme Court finds NSW anti-protest laws partially unconstitutional.
Kobi Shetty MP - Media Release - 13, December 2023
Today we have had a small win for our democracy. The NSW Supreme Court has found that NSW’s anti-protest laws are partially unconstitutional– striking down two key elements of the draconian legislation.
While the decision today is welcome, undemocratic laws remain in place criminalising street protests, with protestors who take to the streets still facing up to two years jail for even a minor obstruction.
These draconian anti-protest laws should never have been passed. Labor supported the legislation while they were in opposition. They allowed the laws to be rushed through Parliament in less than 72 hours, suspending the requirement for the House to have two weeks to consider new legislation, despite outcry from unions, human rights groups, and the legal sector.
Unions have sounded alarm bells against these laws from the day they were introduced with calls for repeal from Unions NSW, CFMEU, Australian Manufacturing Workers Unions, Australian Services Union, Retail and Fast-Food Workers Union, Maritime Union of Australia and the National Tertiary Education Union. The laws have been widely condemned as anti-democratic by over 230 civil society and human rights groups. Labor should have committed to repealing them on their first day in office.
Kobi Shetty MP says:
“Everyone deserves to feel safe exercising their democratic right to protest. People should not have to worry about facing 2 years jail time or a $22,000 for attending a rally that temporarily blocks an entrance to a train station.
“These laws were a knee-jerk response driven by talk-back radio – their partial repeal is long overdue.
“Today’s finding that the anti-protest laws are partially unconstitutional should make the government pause and consider the impact of these laws on our democracy.
“The upcoming legislative review of the laws in April 2024 must offer a real opportunity for broad community consultation on how these laws are impacting freedom of democratic expression in our state.
“We know that most of the freedoms and the good things that we enjoy about our lives today were won through protest – everything from the 8-hour day to women’s right to vote.
“The right to protest must be protected. I welcome the finding of the Supreme Court today and I hope to see further meaningful reform to protect the right to protest in 2024.”
- BACKGROUND -
- Decision is that section 214A(1) c and d are constitutionally invalid. The full provision is below:
214A Damage or disruption to major facility:
(1) A person must not enter, remain on or near, climb, jump from or otherwise trespass on or block entry to any part of a major facility if that conduct--
(a) causes damage to the major facility, or
(b) seriously disrupts or obstructs persons attempting to use the major facility, or
(c) causes the major facility, or part of the major facility, to be closed, or
(d) causes persons attempting to use the major facility to be redirected.
: Maximum penalty--200 penalty units or imprisonment for 2 years, or both.
- Knitting Nannas Dominique Jacobs and Helen Kvelde, through their lawyers at the Environmental Defenders Office, launched a constitutional challenge to s214A of the Crimes Act 1900 in October 2022.