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Summary Offences (Reversal of Section 58 Amendments) Amendment Bill

16 May 2024

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (17:23): I am reminded of the quote by Cicero: 'To err is human but to persist in error is devilish.' It is very disappointing to see that the two major parties in this place have not changed their ways. They have not reflected on the public backlash, the outrage that we saw in not only the public gallery—the community that came and watched the debate in this chamber—but also what we saw on the steps of Parliament House, because people were rightly outraged at what they saw. It is an affront to our democracy.

It is really disappointing to see this affront to our democracy being led by a Labor government, a party that was actually founded on protest: the strikes of workers and the action of workers to demand fair pay. It is a real affront to those fundamental principles that underpin the Labor Party that they take their marching orders on this issue not from the union movement but from David Speirs and the Liberals.

An honourable member interjecting:

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: The Hon. David Speirs and the Liberals, who just listened to shock jocks and crafted a highly reactionary policy on the run. What the government should have done is actually subject that to some level of scrutiny and take a cold shower, but instead they rushed it through the parliament in the other place at record speed—20 minutes, less time than it takes to do a load of washing. It was outrageous, absolutely outrageous, and a slap in the face for all South Australians who care about our democracy.

Luckily, in this chamber it was subject to scrutiny. I want to acknowledge the leadership of my colleagues, the Hon. Tammy Franks and also the Hon. Connie Bonaros and the Hon. Frank Pangallo, who fought really hard alongside the Greens to try to resist this affront to our democracy. They have stayed true to the principles that they advocated for on that night and are standing with us in supporting this repeal bill tonight. I do not propose to revisit the lengthy speech that I gave 12 months ago—nearly 12 months to the day—you will be relieved to know, Mr President.

The PRESIDENT: Thank you, the Hon. Mr Simms, because you are supposed to be concluding the debate.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I traversed in that speech the origins of our democracy, going back to Ancient Greece. What I will do, though, is make some brief remarks about some of the changes we have seen since we last discussed this matter. Since this bill was passed, a declaration of our right to protest has been signed by 60 organisations. I will read a few elements from that in the hope that it might convince some of my colleagues to change their position on this bill.

The PRESIDENT: The Hon. Mr Simms, this is the conclusion of the debate. This is not a second reading speech, is it?

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: No, but it is relevant in terms of some of the comments that have been made—


The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: —and I think for people to understand the changes that have happened. Sixty organisations have signed on to a declaration that begins with:

The right to peaceful protest is a fundamental human right that allows us to express our views, shape our societies and press for social and legal change.

It states:

All Australian governments have an obligation to guarantee the right to protest and to protect protesters. However, state governments around the country have passed harsh, repressive and undemocratic anti-protest laws.

This declaration, grounded in human rights law, asserts the fundamental right to protest and offers practical steps to safeguard the right from further erosion.

This has been signed by a range of organisations: Amnesty International, Australian Democracy Network, Australian Lawyers for Human Rights, Australian Services Union, Human Rights Law Centre, Rights Resource Network of South Australia and SACOSS. These are leaders in their field and they have come out in advocating for the right to protest to be protected in our democracy.

I also note, in responding to the comments of the Hon. Emily Bourke, that in many jurisdictions we have seen similar laws to the ones we passed here in South Australia have a chilling effect and produce some really adverse outcomes. Indeed, in New South Wales, in 2022 when they saw legislation passed, there was a maximum penalty of $22,000, which was condemned by the Council for Civil Liberties.

At that time, we saw Violet Coco sentenced to two years in prison for blocking a lane of traffic. Danny Lim was peacefully protesting with a sign when he was assaulted by New South Wales police when they slammed him to the ground face first; he ended up in hospital. Cherish Kuehlmann was arrested at her home in the middle of the night, 12 hours after she engaged in lawful assembly. Members of the community who camped on private property in Colo in New South Wales were arrested and accused of planning protests.

In Tasmania we have seen their laws subject to a High Court challenge, and in Queensland they have recently passed legislation that deals with 'locking on'. Indeed, members might reflect that that was the practice that Muriel Matters engaged in when she chained herself to the grate in the women's gallery in Westminster. Yet this is precisely the kind of action that members in this place have sought to quell.

Might I say it is a really sad thing in our democracy when we have the people who are belling the cat on the climate emergency and speaking out against the climate crisis being subject to fines and the threat of jail, while we have the fossil fuel industry getting huge subsidies in the federal budget over in Canberra and getting huge handouts from the state government here in South Australia—slaps on the back rather than being held to account for the impact they have on driving the climate crisis.

It is disgraceful. I urge members of this place to revisit their position, to think again, to turn away from their phones, turn their minds away from their devices, and instead turn their minds to the people they represent and ask themselves what they think, what people in the union movement think, what people in the civil rights organisations think, about this attack on our democracy. With that, I conclude my remarks and I will be bringing this matter to a vote so that all members of the community can see the views of their elected members.

The council divided on the second reading:

Ayes 4

Noes 16

Majority 12


Bonaros, C. Franks, T.A. Pangallo, F.
Simms, R.A. (teller)    



Bourke, E.S. (teller) Centofanti, N.J. El Dannawi, M.
Game, S.L. Girolamo, H.M. Hanson, J.E.
Henderson, L.A. Hood, B.R. Hood, D.G.E.
Hunter, I.K. Lee, J.S. Maher, K.J.
Martin, R.B. Ngo, T.T. Scriven, C.M.
Wortley, R.P.    


Second reading thus negatived.