Rally and march against the Napthine Government’s ‘Silencing Act’ – 18 February 2014

The Napthine Government’s Summary Offences and Sentencing Amendment Bill 2013 provoked a vigorous reponse from unionists and others who see it as an attack on their rights to assembly, to express their views in a democratic society – in other words, to protest. The following statement issued by the Human Rights Law Centre sums up the position:

New Victorian move-on powers unreasonably limit free speech and protest rights

30 January 2014

Proposed new ‘move-on’ powers for police in Victoria will unreasonably limit human rights and are susceptible to misuse.

The Human Rights Law Centre’s Executive Director, Hugh de Kretser, said protest rights and free speech are particularly threatened, but the proposed laws may also have an impact on young people and the homeless.

“These laws go too far. Police already have considerable powers when it comes to handling protests and public order issues. They don’t these additional wide reaching and vague powers to move people on. The potential for misuse is very high,” said Mr de Kretser.

The Victorian Parliament’s Scrutiny of Acts and Regulations Committee is currently reviewing the Summary Offences and Sentencing Amendment Bill 2013 which will significantly expand the grounds on which police can order a person to move-on from a public place and will wind back safeguards that limit the use of move on powers in protest situations.

“Police will be able to move someone on if they suspect that the person has committed any offence in a public place in the last 12 hours. There is no requirement for any connection between the offence and a threat to public order or safety. So for example, a protester could be barred from an area if a police officer simply thought that in the last 12 hours they had done something as basic as jaywalked or failed to validate their tram ticket,” said Mr de Kretser.

The Bill also allows police to ask a court to make an order excluding someone who has been subject to multiple ‘move-on’ directions from a particular public place for up to 12 months.

The HRLC is particularly concerned about the potential for the move on powers to be used in protest situations as the Bill winds back existing exceptions for picketing and protesting.

“Police already have a range of powers to arrest, detain and charge people for things like trespass, obstruction, breach of the peace and property damage to name a few. The Government simply hasn’t made the case that these new, broad, sweeping powers are necessary,” said Mr de Kretser.

Under the Bill, a person who breaches a move on order can be arrested and fined over $700. A person who breaches an exclusion order can be imprisoned for up to 2 years.

“Following on from the excessive Queensland G20 legislation, this Bill is another example of governments across the country eroding Australians’ right to free speech. The Bill should not be passed,” said Mr de Kretser.

The Government has acknowledged that the Bill has the potential to restrict the rights to freedom of movement, assembly, expression and association but argues that any restriction is justified under Victoria’s Human Rights Charter. The Committee’s role is to report to the Victorian Parliament on whether the Bill is compatible with human rights.

A copy of the HRLC’s submission can be found here.

A copy of the Bill can be found here.

Reports on the protest give the numbers attending at variously ‘up to 2000’ (The Herald Sun – an account not entirely free of loaded language) and ‘Several thousand’ (Nine Network). The Victorian Trades Hall Council, which organised the event through its We Are Union network, claimed ‘nearly 4000 unionists and community activists’. The footage immediately below shows the march in its entirety passing a single vantage point, which should give a fairly good idea of its size.[Note – the opening caption reads ‘Marching up Bourke Street’. Obviously this should be ‘…down Russell Street’…]

The march was preceded by a rally at Trades Hall, where it was addressed by Brian Boyd, VTHC Secretary, and MUA Secretary Kevin Bracken, and ended at Parliament, where there were further speakers:Father Bob Maguire, Anna Brown (Director of Advocacy and Strategic Litigation, Human Rights Law Centre), Greens MLC Sue Pennicuik, and Paramedic and Union Delegate Morgyn McCarthy. MC was Luke Hilakari, VTHC Campaigns Industrial Officer.

All these speakers were inspiring, but there was as always something special about Father Bob, and for that reason his speech is recorded here in full (camera work a little shaky at the start, but there was a lot of competition for spaces up the front…):

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More on (NO) McDonald’s in Tecoma – 30 November 2013

November 30th was the day of the End of the Line festival in Belgrave, and also the day chosen for the concrete pour at the site of the ‘controversial’ (read: unwelcome) McDonald’s outlet in Tecoma (see earlier posts here and here, and the local campaign Facebook page. There was ‘No to McDonald’s in Tecoma’ stall at the market in Belgrave, and we also took time out to have a look at the site…

Campaign stall with protest gnomes

The stall at Belgrave

Stall with campaign t-shirts

Quite a few of the t-shirts were being worn on the day

Various views of the site as of 30 November:

The ‘highway’:

See also http://www.burgeroff.org/

More from Tecoma – on the picket line 17 September 2013

The picket at back of site

Following on from the rally at Federation Square last Saturday (reported below) Melbourne Protests took a train out to Tecoma to visit the planned site for the overwhelmingly unwanted McDonald’s in the Dandenongs, and stood for a while with the pickets on both entrances – on the main road, and round the back. Traffic on the main road was constant and at times fairly heavy, and a very large proportion of drivers passing tooted their horns in support. In the hour or so we were there, only one vehicle’s occupants indicated support for McDonald’s.
For updates on the campaign, especially the activities of the Tecoma delegation to Chicago, visit the NO McDonalds in The Dandenong Ranges Facebook page.

The entire site is surrounded by a high black hoarding topped with wire, blocking the view but incidentally providing a good surface for chalking comments:
chalked message on hoarding - Mr Currie you're diggin a big hole, it's not to late to stop

or even stencils:

Stencil on hoarding - Democracy ends here

No-one seemed to know where the pumpkin came from…

Also on the hoarding were posted copies of the Supreme Court order against the “Tecoma 8” (This photo slightly cropped at bottom where the protesters are listed):Part of copy of court order posted on hoarding

This is what the hoarding was hiding:

View of construction site over hoarding

From the main road

Another view of construction site

From the back – nothing much seemed to be happening

A local shop had this in the window – the planned McDonald’s is directly across the road from the local primary school:
Cartoon showing children crossing from school to McDonald's

More from the picket:

Protesters picketing on main road

Picket on far side of amin raod

Protester with red wig and grotesque mask- placard reads '24 drive thru what a joke!

View of hoarding with hills in background

Looking back as we headed for the station

By chance as we made our way home in the city we came across an instance of one of the many reasons why the majority of the people of Tecoma do not want a McDonald’s in the Dandenongs:
McDonald's packaging lying in gutter

Tecoma says “No McDonald’s in the Dandenongs” – Rally at Federation Square 14 September 2013

Protesters massed at Federation Square

Refusing to give up, opponents of the planned McDonald’s outlet in Tecoma brought their message back to the centre of Melbourne today, marching through the city to a rally at Federation Square which included the launch of a brand-new documentary on the campaign, projected on the big screen above the stage. Many wore colourful costumes, some dressed as gnomes, as well as the bright t-shirt proclaiming “I voted No McDonald’s in Tecoma”. One group arrived by train at Melbourne Central at about the same time as we did, as can be seen below, and made their way down Swanston Street chanting and singing defiance, and meeting another, larger contingent on the way. By the time the rally was under way it had grown to somewhere between two and three hundred, including a good many children, and several dogs. MC Rod Quantock introduced speakers including Tecoma community member Esther Kelly and COuncillor Samantha Dunn, as well as the ‘flashmob’ whose appearance at the Australia on Collins food hall recently caught social media attention around the world (see the video on YouTube). Those attending the rally who hadn’t already done so were urged to sign a petition against the building of the outlet – at least count it already had well over 90,000 signatures, and a delegation including local mother Erin Downie will be leaving for the US next week to deliver it to the headquarters of McDonald’s in Chicago.

Comprehensive background to the campaign can be found on the website and this Facebook page. (There is also a Yes to Tecoma McDonald’s page – two supporters were in fact waiting at Federation Square as the protesters arrived, but didn’t seem to attract much attention:
Two women with pro-MCDonald's placards at Federation Square

See also the Facebook protest information site and No Maccas in the Hills (group).

These links to media coverage may also be of interest:
http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/mcdonalds-case-against-tecoma-eight-is-thuggish-bullying-20130827-2sntu.html

http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/kill-threat-probe-over-mcdonalds-tecoma-protest-20130731-2qygu.html

http://www.crikey.com.au/2013/08/01/leaked-notes-show-maccas-wants-search-and-rescue-cops-to-end-protest/?wpmp_switcher=mobile

Photos from the march down Swanston Street, starting at Melbourne Central station:

Group of protesters assembling at Melbourne Central

Underground at Melbourne Central

Head of march coming up steps to Federation Square

Arriving at Federation Square

From the rally: