Unions slam ‘heavy-handed’ protest laws

UNIONS have described Labor's fast-tracked protest crackdown as "heavy handed" and a "slippery slope" that could be amended to directly target the union movement.

The Queensland Council of Unions this morning outlined the concerns of its 26 affiliated unions at a parliamentary hearing into the laws, 24 hours after the QCU held an emergency meeting with Police Mark Ryan on the changes.

The Palaszczuk Government is facing a grassroots revolt over its decision to fast track the legislation aimed at banning locking devices and giving police greater search powers.

 

Police have made multiple arrests on William Jolly Bridge. Picture: Nicole Pierre
Police have made multiple arrests on William Jolly Bridge. Picture: Nicole Pierre

 

QCU acting general secretary Michael Clifford told the committee hearing that unions opposed the changes, arguing the definitions of the devices banned were too broad and that the search powers were too great and could mean ordinary workers were targeted.

 

 

"The other concern for the union movement is that these laws are a slippery slope," he said.

"The union movement has a proud history of protests to defend its members rights, to progress its members rights.

Activists from Extinction Rebellion (XR) take over the William Jolly Bridge on Friday. Picture: AAP Image/Dave Hunt
Activists from Extinction Rebellion (XR) take over the William Jolly Bridge on Friday. Picture: AAP Image/Dave Hunt

"It doesn't take a lot of imagination to see how these sorts of laws can be simply amended to capture a whole lot of the activities that trade unions engage in simply to protect the conditions of their members.

"In that respect we think that this Bill opens to the door to a much more dangerous set of arrangements for working people across the state."

In its written submission, the QCU told the committee that it believed the laws would only serve to worsen the protests under way.

"We believe that these laws will antagonise protesters and people who care about civil liberties," its submission read.

"That will inflame protest actions, not discourage protesters."

The Queensland Resources Council, however, has backed the laws.

QRC economics policy director Andrew Barger told the committee the QRC held concerns about the economic loss the protests were inflicting on the industry as well as the safety issues.

He said the QRC had been lobbying the government for changes to address the "inadequacy" of the current laws.

 

 

Mr Barger said the risks to protestors and workers at the sites they have been targeting has been escalating and he believed it was only through "blind good luck" that no one had yet been seriously injured.

He pointed to an "invasion of Abbot Point" where protestors swum in to the point, chained themselves to a live conveyor belt and concealed themselves out of sight.

"The safety processes on that site should have seen them seriously injured," Mr Barger said.

"They were just lucky that the guy who was on duty that night went out to walk the conveyor belt and happened to see their boats, their boots sticking out and shut the whole site down."