Media Release: Anti-protest laws must urgently be repealed

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 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.

In New South Wales, section 144G of the Roads Act 1993 (NSW) and section 214A of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW)
significantly infringe people’s rights to freedom of movement, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and
freedom of political communication, and ought to be repealed. These laws are restrictive and repressive.

There's a prevalent narrative enabled by these laws emphasising security threats and perceptions of disruption
associated with public protests. This narrative emboldens law enforcement to use unnecessary force against
protestors and pursue disproportionate laws and actions against protestors in New South Wales and across

In our recent submission to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of
Association, we recommended that the Special Rapporteur visit Australia to assess Australia’s Laws and legal
framework regarding their compliance of with right to peaceful assembly and of association.

Comments from Lydia Shelly, President, NSW Council for Civil Liberties.

“These laws must be immediately repealed. There is no place for them in an open and democratic society. The
right to protest is integral to democratic system of government and way of life. In Australia, protest movements
have historically been instrumental in holding governments to account and affecting real change. This has
included disruptive protests that are considered “inconvenient".

“The government must repeal the laws and immediately commit to a Human Rights Act that will protect the
right to protest. It is not the public that benefit from their right to hold a peaceful assembly with their
neighbours, family and other members of their community repressed".

“Anti-protest laws not only criminalize protests, but they also cultivate an environment of fear and they have a
chilling effect on organising peaceful movements that desire positive social change".

“The anti-protest laws must be viewed in the context of the scandalous use of police bail and police resources
to monitor peaceful protestors, the demonisation by peaceful protestors by members of both state and federal
governments, as well as the police and segments of the media”.