Media Release: 34 organisations join together to demand open review of NSW Anti-Protest laws

The right to protest is a fundamental democratic right that allows us to express our views, shape our societies, and press for social change. In NSW and nationally across Australia, it is under attack.

In April 2022, the NSW Parliament passed legislation to prevent ‘illegal protesting’ on major roads, bridges, tunnels, public transport and infrastructure facilities. The new legislation amends section 144G the Roads Act 1993 which criminalises causing serious disruption by entering, remaining on or trespassing on prescribed major bridges and tunnels, to now include all “main roads”. Offences carry a maximum penalty of $22,000 or two years in gaol, or both.

The legislated review of the undemocratic “anti-protest” law is scheduled to take place after 1 April 2024 and will be carried out by the Department of Roads and the Attorney-General’s Department - the NSW Government has so far refused to commit to the review being open to the public and transparent. The right to protest cannot and should not be scheduled merely for a “departmental” review. 

The diversity of the organisations that have signed the open letter is significant. It evidences the grave concerns that are held by civil society organisations, unions, faith bodies, environmental and human rights organisations.

READ our open letter HERE.

READ our petition HERE.


Comments attributable to Lydia Shelly, President of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties

The NSW Council for Civil Liberties has been advocating for the rights of protestors since 1963 and today we are living in some of the darkest times that our members have seen for protestors in a very long time.

The right to protest and public assembly is an essential democratic right. Stifling protest stifles freedom of expression. Everyone should have the right to gather and convey political messages in non-violent protest. This right is essential to our democratic system of government. The right to protest has already been eroded enough in this State and politicians should not be given licence to erode it further on the basis of there being "good" and "bad" protest causes.  Protest itself ought to be celebrated as enriching our democracy.

A government with widespread support, who are listening to their constituents, should not fear protests.

As part of a healthy democracy the government should invite comment and critique from the community about its laws. This review of the Anti-Protest legislation should be open and transparent to reflect our government's commitment to open debate.


Comments attributable to Anastasia Radievska, Protest Rights Campaigner at Australian Democracy Network

The 2022 anti-protest laws were rushed through Parliament in less than 48 hours and are being used to justify increasingly escalatory policing of peaceful protest, like the incidences of police violence documented at Port Botany recently and in November. The government cannot ignore the many communities highlighting the negative impacts these laws have on their right to democratic expression.

Comments attributable to Angus McFarland, Branch Secretary, Australian Services Union NSW ACT Services Branch

It is almost exactly two years since laws were introduced by the Perrottet Liberal Government to stop people in NSW from exercising their right to peaceful protest.

The laws were rushed through the parliament in a late night sitting without public consultation.

Within hours of being passed, the new laws were used to arrest, imprison and in some cases deport peaceful protesters.

The ASU has a long and proud history as part of the Australian union movement, supporting civil society in opposing bad laws.

These are bad laws.  They should be overturned. 

The ASU is proud to support our members at the Environmental Defenders Office, who challenged these laws in the courts. We condemn ongoing use of these laws by the government and are proud to stand with all our members who are working together to protest against injustice and to make our communities and our planet safer and fairer. We support their right to campaign, and we support the right to protest without fear of being arrested, fined, imprisoned or deported.

Comments attributable to Paul Keating, Secretary of the Sydney Branch of the MUA

Six MUA members – including the Branch Secretary and the Branch Organiser - have been charged under the NSW Anti-Protest Laws for peacefully taking part in protests at our workplaces, in our own Port.  This is exactly what was said would never happen.

These MUA members are amongst 42 people charged under these laws for participating in peaceful protests at Port Botany, including members from 6 different unions, who are now facing the possibility of enormous fines, criminal records and prison sentences.

The evidence speaks for itself - unionists are now facing prison because of these laws.

We descend into a dark place in Australia with these Authoritarian and anti-democratic Laws. It is our duty to fight these bad Laws until they are abolished.

Comments attributable to Adam Connor, Vice-President of Young Labor and President of Young Labor Left

Since the Labor Party supported these laws in opposition, we have seen young people arrested and charged while exercising their fundamental right to protest.

Whether it’s protesting in support of climate action or protesting to protect the rights of Palestinians, it’s unacceptable that the NSW Government continues to support laws which oppress the rights guaranteed to peoples living in a democracy.

These anti-democratic laws must be repealed.

Comments attributable to Jacqui Mumford, CEO of Nature Conservation Council of NSW

We are deeply concerned with the continued erosion of the democratic right to protest, and disappointed that the NSW Labor government under Premier Chris Minns has continued in Liberal Party tradition.

Peaceful protest has been central to securing women the right to vote, ending conscription and protecting many places of environmental significance.

Our laws now heavily favour those wanting to wreck our climate and destroy what's left of our critical ecosystems, rather than citizens exercising their democratic right to peaceful protest.

We've seen many instances of unsubstantiated claims against protestors being used to justify heavy handed intervention and further erosion of these rights. In contrast, the regular revelations of corporate crimes against the environment are often ignored, and protestors wishing to highlight these illegal activities are targeted.

Comments attributable to Lilli Barto, organiser with Wage Peace

The only reason for an MP to support these laws is if they believe that the voices of ordinary citizens have no place in governance and would rather not be bothered by them.

Any erosion of our democratic rights is also an expansion of police powers. We know the police are out of control, yet we just keep giving them more tools to criminalise people and lock them up.

Comments attributable to Jasmine Walker, organiser with Tomorrow Movement

A whole generation of young people have been protesting against existential threats such as climate change and the cost of living, but these laws only serve to demonise and isolate people who are advocating for a better future and safer climate for everyone. Protest is a vital part of our democracy and we need community consultation to hear and measure the true impacts of these laws on people’s lives.