On Thursday 18 May, South Australia’s Lower House passed a Bill that imposes $50,000 fines on people taking part in peaceful protest.
The Bill amends SA’s Summary Offences Act, and greatly increases the penalty for obstruction of a public place to a maximum fine of $50,000, or 3 months in prison.
These laws are designed to stop people from taking part in disruptive protests, but protests are almost always disruptive. And under this Bill the simple act of gathering on a footpath to stand up for our rights could incur thousands of dollars in fines.
South Australia became the first place in the world where women could stand for election and the second place in the world where women could vote because of disruptive protests. Trade unionists won the right to the 8 hour working day because of disruptive protests.
The Bill also changes the wording from “wilfully” obstructing a public place to “intentionally or recklessly” obstructing a public place. The addition of “recklessly” means even people unintentionally obstructing a public place could face $50,000 fines. That means homeless people or people experiencing a mental health crisis could face $50,000 fines.
The Upper House is expected to vote on this Bill before the end of May. We have a few weeks to show them that people want the South Australian Parliament to respect people’s right to protest, not fine protesters or send them to prison.