Police to gain new powers to shut down protests

The Napthine Government’s controversial Summary Offences and Sentencing Amendment Bill is expected to pass in the Legislative Council this week, having been approved by a margin of one vote in the lower house last Thursday. Australian Huuman Rights Commissioner Tim Wilson expressed concern about “the low bar that is being set to give police the powers to move people on” from protests such as the community picket against the East-West Tunnel project. Even protesters who had not yet broken the law could be arrested, Fitzroy Legal Service solicitor Meghan Fitzgerald said: “As soon as the move-on direction is issued, on a reasonable suspicion that your conduct, including future conduct, is likely to cause a breach of the peace, then people can be arrested.” The bill was developed in response to the business lobby’s complaints about picket lines targeting businesses over workplace safety and environmental and social issues. Last month, thousands of people marched to Parliament House to oppose the bill.