Former Greens leader Bob Brown says contentious anti-protest legislation on track to become law in Tasmania cuts across the rights of Australians to peacefully demonstrate and could face legal challenges.
The bill, brought forward by the state Liberal government, is expected to progress through Tasmania's Legislative Council in August after passing the upper house's second reading stage on Thursday.
Under the new laws, people who obstruct a business face fines of up to $8650, double the old amount, or a maximum one-year jail sentence.
Penalties could be as large as $12,975 or 18 months' jail if offenders cause a serious risk to themselves or someone else, while organisations could be fined up to $103,800.
The state government has faced hurdles in recent years in attempts to strengthen anti-protest measures, changes it says are needed to protect the safety of workers and rights of businesses to function without interference.
Human rights campaigners have criticised the proposals and similar laws already in place in NSW as unfairly punishing those exercising their rights to peacefully protest.
Dr Brown in 2017 successfully challenged earlier law changes that increased police powers, with the High Court ruling the measures unconstitutional.
Another move to increase penalties for protesting was voted down in the upper house in 2018.
Dr Brown said legal action against the latest legislation could eventuate.
"They haven't passed parliament yet but inevitably somebody will be arrested down the line, and it's quite likely (the laws) will be challenged," he told ABC radio on Friday.
"They cut across the right of all Australians, as the High Court found the first time around, in a representative democracy to peaceful protest."
Human Rights Watch researcher Sophie McNeill said the Tasmanian legislation and similar measures in NSW were part of an "alarming new trend" of Australian authorities attempting to crack down on climate protesters.
The Tasmanian government says the bill won't stop lawful protests outside venues such as hospitals and schools, or those about issues like climate change.
"We want to protect everybody, whether it's workers in the workplace (or) business from operating free from obstruction and interference," Minister for Resources Guy Barnett told reporters.
"We want to protect the protesters as well, we want their safety to be protected.
"We want them to have the right to express their view. That's why we've taken feedback ... we've amended the bill accordingly to get the balance right."
Tasmania's Labor opposition supported the bill in the lower house.
The Australian Lawyers Alliance has dismissed the changes as unnecessary given existing police powers that deal with trespassing and obstruction of public places.
Australian Associated Press
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