The upcoming Australian G20 Summit in November, hosted in Brisbane, Queensland is rapidly causing concern amongst the Australian public, Law Societies
and The Federal Parliamentary Human Rights Joint Committee.
With no Bill of Rights in Australia, it is very easy for governments to enact legislation to take away or suspend our fundamental human rights and
freedoms. This occurred last year in Queensland with the passage of the G20 Safety and Security Act.
The new Queensland laws unduly restrict the human rights and civil liberties of Queensland citizens and particularly targets the rights which are so
fundamental to our democracy—the right to peaceful protest and the expression of political opinion. Here we observe legitimate security concerns
being trumped by legal overreach which is designed to stifle alternative views.
The G20 laws are all too broad and too ill defined. They provide the anticipated contingent of 5000 police officers with expansive discretionary
powers to detain, search and demand personal details of anybody in a G20 security zone without need for even a suspicion that the person may commit an
The laws create a range of new offences that erode our freedom of political expression, for example the prohibition of banners larger than 100x200cm.
Entire assemblies can be declared unlawful if an officer merely considers that it “disrupts” any part of a G20 meeting, or if one person in a
crowd of one thousand is foolish enough to commit a property crime.
This prohibited items list that reads like a Stand Up Comedians setlist and can only be described as lacking in logic and intelligence.
Background checks would be based on local and international intelligence and would affect anyone with a criminal history or those that have attended
rallies or protests in the past.
If you have a conviction for a terrorist offence then that may be a justification,” but to include any person with criminal history which may
include traffic offences, then these laws have stepped well over the mark.
If one has an undefined criminal history and is then moved from their homes for the G20, that is not the type of actions we need in this country.
The laws are clearly directed against anticipated demonstrations. They give police the power to strip search any person, and stop and detain any
vehicle, that they suspect of carrying a “prohibited item” within a “declared area” during the G20 summit. Among the list of prohibited items
are banners, placards, loud hailers and other “communication devices,” along with “graffiti instruments,” glass bottles and metal cans.
Assemblies can be banned if they could “disrupt” any part of a G20 event, which may include making any noise that could be heard during a summit
activity. Police must be notified of any proposed assembly at least 48 hours beforehand.
People can be declared, and publicly branded, as “prohibited persons” or “excluded persons” without any prior notice, or right to challenge
Mass detentions are envisaged. People can be detained without warrant or charge, and held in a “processing facility” for any “time reasonably
necessary” to decide whether to charge them with an offence. If charged, they will be refused bail, almost without exception, for the duration of
the summit, reversing the normal presumption in favour of bail.
In “restricted areas,” including around the South Brisbane Convention Centre, police can search premises without a warrant. Residents deemed
security threats can be forced out of their homes. Thousands of residents in “declared areas” of Brisbane, stretching from South Bank to Fortitude
Valley, will have to obtain and carry police ID cards.
The “Red Zone” that will be locked down for November’s G20 summit in Brisbane.
These powers will cease after the G20 concludes, but they set benchmarks for future use. One MP foreshadowed similar measures for the 2018
Commonwealth Games on Queensland’s Gold Coast.
These new laws will expand police powers to ‘move on’ protesters
Vice President of the Queensland Law Society Ian Brown is particularly worried about the repeated use of the term 'disruption' in the
"There are certain provisions in relation to people being charged for certain offence and there being a presumption against granting of bail.
Throughout the legislation there is this all-pervasive concept of 'disruption'. Many of the impacts that will occur to people's rights are
associated with the concept of a disruption to the G20, that's a very vague and loose concept. Disruption could simply be yelling very loudly."
It was barely a year ago that Campbell Newman, Premier of Queensland, introduced the first piece of the Queensland Government’s controversial
Known as The Vicious Lawless Association Disestablishment Act 2013
The Act applies to legal organisations and "any other group of 3 or more persons by whatever name called, whether associated formally or informally
and whether the group is legal or illegal." Similarly it defines office bearer of the organisation to allow for informal roles, with the defendant
required to prove that they are not an office bearer.
The Act declares a person to be a "vicious lawless associate" if they commit a serious offence "for the purposes of, or in the course of
participating in the affairs of, the relevant association". It is incumbent on the defendant to prove that the association is "an association whose
members do not have as their purpose" the serious offences listed in the Act.
If a person is declared to be a "vicious lawless associate", this Act mandates a further 15 years imprisonment on top of the sentence for the crime
for members of the organisation, and 25 years imprisonment for office bearers of the organisation.