Labor’s aggravated trespass plan is unwieldy and will not protect the resource industry

31st Mar 2021

Labor’s proposal to create a new offence of aggravated trespass does not effectively balance the concerns of Tasmania’s resource industry and the protection of civil liberties, says the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA).

“The Bill is an improvement on the position of the Liberal Government in seeking to amend the Workplaces (Protection from Protestors) Act but the new offence is unlikely to effectively protect Tasmania’s resource industry,” said Greg Barns SC, national criminal justice spokesperson, ALA.

“Existing laws are already sufficient to deal with the basic problem, but an aggravated trespass offence is unwieldy for police who have to decide which offence to charge, and does not sufficiently disincentivise egregiously dangerous actions where a compensation mechanism would do.”

During public debate on the Bill, ALA member Fabiano Cangelosi presented a draft Bill to the Legislative Council that relied on existing laws without expanding the range of behaviour captured by the criminal law and increased maximum penalties for behaviour that is a breach of existing law.

“Mr Cangelosi’s proposed Bill also provided flexibility by not requiring police or prosecutors to make an immediate decision about whether to charge a simple trespass or an aggravated trespass, and leaving the decision about aggravating circumstances to a Magistrate after all the evidence has been heard,” said Mr Barns SC.

“This draft Bill also provided a compensation mechanism for businesses affected by breaches of existing law, where aggravating circumstances are present. It dealt with all of those issues while importantly preserving basic liberties.

“The ALA calls upon all parties contesting the election to support meaningful law reform in this area.”