The anti-protest Bill rushed through South Australian Government is a threat to our right to protest

The anti-protest Bill rushed through South Australia’s Lower House will unfairly restrict our democratic right to protest if it becomes law.⁠ The simple act of gathering on a footpath to stand up for our rights could incur thousands of dollars in fines.

What happened?

On Thursday 18 May, the South Australian government adopted a bill drafted by the Liberal Opposition penalising people for taking part in peaceful protest, and rushed it through parliament’s lower house.

Under the proposed laws, South Australians could face a prison sentence or a $50,000 fine for obstructing a public place.

The Bill changes the wording from “wilfully” obstructing a public place to “intentionally or recklessly” obstructing a public place. The addition of “recklessly” means even those unintentionally obstructing a public place could be harshly penalised. That means homeless people or people experiencing a mental health crisis could face $50,000 fines.

These laws are designed to stop people from taking part in disruptive protests, but protests are almost always disruptive.

The right to protest in Australia

This Bill follows increasing repression of the right to protest in Australia in recent years.

In 2022, NSW, Victoria and Tasmania introduced anti-protest laws which impose thousands of dollars in fines and prison sentences on protestors engaged in civil disobedience.

Protests have been central in achieving social and political changes ⁠— 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.

Protests aren’t always convenient. But freedom of assembly is a fundamental right. The right to peaceful is how we hold governments and big business to account when all other avenues fail, but powerful people in Australia and around the world are cracking down on our right to protest. It must be protected.

How Amnesty has responded

Amnesty has joined a chorus of human rights and advocacy groups sounding the alarm and condemning the anti-protest Bill that has been rushed through South Australia’s Parliament.

“This crackdown on the right to protest means all our ability to fight for human rights and combat the climate crisis are under threat. People shouldn’t face huge fines, and even prison sentences, just for standing up for what’s right.

Nikita White, Amnesty International Australia Campaigner

We are calling for public pressure to reject the Bill. Together, we can protect the right to protest and continue to challenge injustice.

How you can help

Right now, the state government is putting our rights and freedoms at risk. The Upper House is expected to vote on this Bill before the end of May ⁠— these laws must not pass.

When courageous people protest, they make the world a better place. We must protect the right to protest wherever it is restricted and whenever it is at risk. Learn more about our right to protest campaign work.