DownUnderAllOver

DownUnderAllOver

Developments around the country

DownUnderAllOver is a round-up of legal news from both State and federal jurisdictions, and contains topical articles and short pieces from Alternative Law Journal committees around the country.

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Workplaces (Protection from Protesters) Act 2014

The Tasmanian Committee
Tasmania

The passing of the Workplaces (Protection from Protesters) Act 2014 introduced some of the harshest penalties for protesting in Australia with maximum penalties increasing from two years to four years and significant fines being able to be imposed. The Act, which came into effect last year, fulfilled an election promise by the government to address illegal protests in Tasmanian workplaces. Recently, four people including Bob Brown, the former leader of the Australian Greens, were arrested under the new laws for protesting about the logging of the Lapoinya Forest in North West Tasmania.

The charges will be heard in the Magistrates Court later this year and are likely to result in convictions although an appeal on the grounds of incompatibility with the Australian Constitution’s implied freedom of communication regarding governmental and political matters remains a possibility with a large number of community groups, commentators and lawyers continuing to express their concerns with the Act.

(2016) 41(1) AltLJ 70

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Expunging historic homosexual convictions

The Tasmanian Committee
Tasmania

In other news, the Tasmanian government will introduce legislation later this year to expunge the historic criminal records for consensual homosexual sexual activity. Crimes that are expected to be expunged when the Bill is introduced include sexual intercourse against the order of nature, consensual sexual intercourse between males and indecent practices between males. The reform comes after the issue was initially progressed by Robin Banks, Tasmania’s Anti-Discrimination Commissioner and follows similar reforms in South Australia and Victoria. Additionally, a formal apology to those affected, including families and loved ones of those who are deceased, will be made when the Bill is introduced in Tasmania’s House of Assembly.

(2016) 41(1) AltLJ 70

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600,000 disclosures of telecommunications data in one year

Leanne O'Donnell
Federal

It is annual report season. And each year, technology journalists await the release of the Australian Communications and Media Authority (‘ACMA’) annual report which includes details on the number of disclosures of telecommunications data.

The controversial data retention laws passed in March this year amended the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act (‘the TIA Act’). Under this Act, an authorised officer of an enforcement agency can authorise the disclosure of specified information or documents in relation to the:

  • enforcement of a criminal law (s 178);
  • enforcement of a law imposing a pecuniary penalty or protection of the public revenue (s 179).

Access to telecommunications data is not limited to cases involving a serious crime or contravention of the law.

(2015) 40(4) AltLJ 284

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OHS Harmonisation: the more things change, the more they stay the same

Eric Windholz
Federal

Recent amendments to Queensland’s occupational health and safety (‘OHS’) laws are yet another hesitant step in the faltering process towards OHS harmonisation.

1 January 2012 was the date by which all Australian jurisdictions agreed to introduce uniform OHS laws. This was to be achieved by each jurisdiction enacting identical model legislation. Four years after the January 2012 deadline, however, and the goal of uniformity remains as elusive as ever.

Two jurisdictions are yet to enact the harmonised OHS laws (Victoria and Western Australia) and, of those that have, a number introduced state-specific variations in response to local stakeholder demands. For example, the New South Wales parliament responded to the concerns of unions and others by including union right to prosecute provisions; the Australian Capital Territory responded to union concerns and retained its asbestos and hazardous chemicals regulations in preference to those contained in the model laws; the South Australian government responded to business concerns by ‘clarifying’ the primary duty of care, modifying union right of entry powers, and preserving a person’s right to silence and protection from self-incrimination.

 

(2015) 40(4) AltLJ 284

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NSW housing law reform

Thomas Mortimer
New South Wales

Spring has been a busy period in NSW housing law. Perhaps most prominent was the Residential Tenancies and Housing Legislation Amendment (Public Housing – Antisocial Behaviour) Bill 2015 (‘the Bill’). This was introduced into parliament without prior consultation, and was the subject of concerted efforts from community organisations and legal bodies to have it withdrawn or substantially modified.

The Bill was assented to on 22 October, with some amendments, and is expected to commence in early 2016.

Its wide-ranging provisions will diminish the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal’s (‘NCAT’) decision-making capacity, and profoundly impact the lives of many social housing tenants. Most notably, the Bill will require the Tribunal to terminate a social housing tenancy in most instances where it finds the residence has been used for an illegal purpose. At present, NCAT may consider all circumstances in this deliberation.

 

(2015) 40(4) AltLJ 285

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