One group of Australians has been targeted in a tough new legislation change which could see them fined up to $50,000 or put behind bars for months.
On Thursday, South Australian Premier Peter Malinauskas and Attorney-General Kyam Maher introduced strict new laws for protesters – a day after members of climate action group Extinction Rebellion were arrested for abseiling off a CBD bridge.
The act saw lanes of traffic shut, with major delays across the city during peak hour.
The SA Premier announced proposed changes to the legislation, which were backed by the Opposition. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Naomi Jellicoe
The proposed amendment will see fines for protesters who “intentionally or recklessly” obstruct the free passage of a public place sky rocket from $750 to a whopping $50,000 maximum fine or three months imprisonment.
Currently, section 58 of the Summary Offences Act 1953 imposes the penalty on those who are “wilfully” obstructing passage, but Premier Malinauskas said the proposed wording change would punish those going out of their way to deliberately infringe on the public.
Traffic was delayed during peak hour traffic on Wednesday when protesters abseiled off a bridge. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Brenton Edwards
“As the Premier of the State, it is important that I ensure the parliament responds swiftly, where there is an opportunity to do so, to action within our community that compromises the ability for hardworking people to earn a living and the ability for our emergency services to be able to function appropriately,” the Premier said.
“Which is why today in the parliament, we have swiftly introduced legislation that increases penalties for those who do not seek to comply with appropriate arrangements when it comes to protesting peacefully.
“Today’s legislative change makes zero amendments to the ability for people to be able to protest peacefully in South Australia, to enjoy the right of freedom of association, to be able to demonstrate on whatever cause they so choose.
The protester, identified as 69-year-old Meme Thorne, abseiled off Morphett Street, disrupting North Terrace commuters. Picture: FacebookShe faced court on Wednesday. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Brenton Edwards
“But what cannot be allowed to occur is people to disrupt the rest of the community in such a way that compromises this risk and safety of others.”
On Thursday morning, Extinction Rebellion members were again taken into custody after throwing paint on the Santos building in Adelaide.
A 50-year-old Victorian man, a 49-year-old NSW woman, a 68-year-old Victorian woman and a 66-year-old South Australian woman were all arrested and charged to appear in the Adelaide Magistrates Court on Thursday afternoon, but the new legislative changes are yet to be enforced, meaning the four will be treated according to current law.
Attorney-General Kyam Maher said the proposed penalty increases would be in place to deter protesters from putting people’s “lives at risk.”
“This sends a clear signal that if you are unreasonably impinging on our people’s freedoms, if you’re doing things that could potentially stop an ambulance getting to a hospital, then the court has a greater range of penalties they could impose on you,” Mr Maher said.
Protesters graffitied the Santos building on Thursday, with four due in court in the afternoon. Picture: Supplied.
“We look forward to this passing the parliament in the very near future – it was introduced today and with the opposition support of this government bill has passed lower house and it will come to the Legislative Council and pass there soon.”
Police presence at an Extinction Rebellion rally outside Parliament House on Thursday was increased significantly following a week of arrests at stunts by the climate action group.
More to come.
Protesters on parliament Steps in Adelaide. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Morgan SetteThere was an increased police presence at the rally following Wednesday’s abseiling stunt. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Morgan Sette
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