We envision a democracy where people have the right to protest; where our civil society includes diverse, independent, and locally connected not-for-profit organisations, which are free to participate in public policy debate and advocacy; where government and it’s agencies, including the police, are transparent, open, and accountable, and genuinely engages with the communities impacted by its decisions.
The criminalisation of peaceful protest has far-reaching and damaging implications for our democracy. Legislation which unjustly restricts people’s freedoms to express dissent should be wound back. Heavy penalties and greater restrictions on peaceful protest are not a proportionate response to non-violent citizen action which draws attention to the climate crisis, environmental damage, racial injustice, or legal, economic and social inequalities.
- Abolish prison terms for non-violent direct actions and civil disobedience.
- Repeal Schedule 2 of the Right to Farm Act 2019, which amended s4B of the Inclosed Lands, Crimes and Law Enforcement Legislation Amendment (Interference) Act 2016 to insert a new form of aggravated trespass onto agricultural land with higher penalties, targeting environmental and animal activists.
- Strengthen defences for activism in the law and recognise the ‘emergency climate defence’ as a statutory defence for environmental activism.
- Insert public interest exemptions into:
- The Surveillance Devices Act 2007 to enable footage of routine agricultural practices to be used for raising awareness about animal welfare.
- The Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Enforcement Act 1995 to prevent police from silencing activism based on film and footage classifications.
- Repeal the addition to section 144G of the Roads Act 1993 which expands the offence to enter, remain on, or otherwise trespass on prescribed major bridges or tunnels in NSW if that conduct causes a serious disruption on prescribed roads.
- Repeal the equivalent offence under the Crimes Act 1900 that legislates against activities that detrimentally affect prescribed public transport or infrastructure facilities.
- Support genuine community consultation on proposed legal and policy reform options:
- Provide longer notice periods for submissions to government and parliamentary inquiries and review processes.
- Provide diverse ways for people and communities to participate in government consultation processes, including face-to- face.
The community legal sector’s holistic vision for justice to ensure that our communities are fairer and more-inclusive places, where everyone is housed, safe, and has the support they need to thrive and participate.
Community legal centres are able to mobilise quickly, make and sustain connections, and support people in times of vulnerability, hardship, and crisis.
For justice advocates, Budget Estimates sessions provide an important opportunity to dig into the details of government policy and gain crucial information about priority areas of law reform.
Today’s budget delivers a disappointing outlook for the future of access to justice in New South Wales and is a missed opportunity to address rising inequality and disadvantage.