I rise to speak on the Summary Offences Amendment (Move-on Laws) Bill 2015. The bill is essentially about restoring the rights that were taken away from Victorians by the previous government. The move-on laws introduced by the previous government were a direct attack on the democratic rights of Victorians, and I argue they were completely unnecessary. The steps being taken now deliver on Labor’s commitment to repeal the Napthine government’s move-on laws.
The bill makes four main amendments to return Victoria’s move-on powers to their appropriate form, the form they were in before the Napthine government made its unnecessary changes last year. Under the previous government’s changes an expansion was given to the grounds on which police and protective services officers (PSOs) were able to give move-on instructions. This change by the previous government gave police and PSOs the power to enforce move-on directions merely based on a police officer suspecting that there is some likelihood that a person will cause an obstruction to another person.
Today’s bill winds back that expansion, as is appropriate. Under the amended legislation police officers and PSOs have the power to direct a person to move on from a public place where officers suspect that, firstly, the person is breaching or is likely to breach the peace; secondly, the person is endangering or is likely to endanger the safety of any other person; and thirdly, the behaviour of the person is likely to cause injury to a person or damage to property or is otherwise a risk to public safety. These terms are the original terms and the appropriate ones.
The bill amends changes made by the Napthine government that were a clear attack on the right of Victorian workers to engage in lawful industrial action. At the time of these changes being made it was made clear by the government that the move-on laws could be used against legal picket lines at places of employment or outside places of employment. The amendments in this bill ensure that move-on laws do not apply to a person who is or persons who are picketing a place of employment or demonstrating or protesting about a particular issue.
The right of all citizens to be free to express their opinion in a lawful and non-violent way goes to the very heart of democracy, which was undermined by the previous government’s move-on laws.
The third main amendment involves the repeal of sections 6A and 6B of the Summary Offences Act 1966. As a result of the previous government’s legislation those sections provided specific arrest powers for police and protective services officers (PSOs) that were simply unnecessary. Police and PSOs already have sufficient powers under existing legislation — under section 458 of the Crimes Act 1958 in relation to appropriate reason for arrest and under section 456AA of the Crimes Act 1958 in relation to police officers obtaining the name and address of a person when appropriate.
The fourth main amendment proposed in this bill relates to exclusion orders where a person has been repeatedly asked to move on. Again the Napthine government’s move-on laws went too far in relation to division 1B of part 1 of the Summary Offences Act 1966, which consequently provided a power to prohibit a person from entering a public place for up to 12 months even though no crime had been committed. This is a clear limitation of a person’s right to freedom of movement and must be scaled back, and I am very pleased to be part of that tonight.
As I stated in my opening remarks, the winding back of the Napthine government’s undemocratic and draconian move-on laws was an election commitment made by the Victorian Labor Party. Labor made this commitment because there must be a real balance between the use of these laws to maintain public order and the protection of the fundamental right of all Victorians to move freely, to express their views and to associate with whomever they choose. This was destroyed by the previous government.
The amendments made by the previous government in 2014 were not only unnecessary and undemocratic, as I have mentioned; they had the potential to be discriminatory and to harm some of the most disadvantaged groups in our community. Those who are homeless, those with a mental illness, young people and those in the Koori community are more likely to use and congregate in public spaces and are therefore more likely to be subjected to the previous government’s unbalanced move-on laws. As I stated earlier, the previous government’s amendments were also an attack on Victorian workers’ rights to engage in lawful industrial action. The previous government’s amendments gave police the power to decide at their own discretion whether a picket line was legal or illegal; no court order was needed. In all areas where the coalition sought to make changes to the move-on laws in 2014, an imbalance was created. Labor promised to repeal those amendments and restore the balance, and that is what it is doing this afternoon.
Labor’s decision to repeal these laws has been strongly supported by all sectors across the community, including the Law Institute of Victoria, which strongly opposed the previous government’s moves to change the laws in 2014. I am pleased to be part of this debate this evening. This was an issue that was sorely felt by the community when it was inflicted on it by the previous government. It is my pleasure, as I said, to be associated with this bill, and I commend it to the house.