Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Council for Civil Liberties condemns regulations allowing for bans on public gatherings on public land

Excerpt from New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties post, 20 June 2018:

NSW Civil Liberties Council (CCL) is appalled to learn that in 12 days, the NSW State Government will have incredibly wide powers to disperse or ban protests, rallies, and virtually any public gathering across about half of all land across the state.

On 16 March this year, the NSW State Government published the Crown Land Management Regulation 2018(NSW). Included was a provision which provided that public officials would have broad power to “direct a person” to stop “Taking part in any gathering, meeting or assembly”. The only exception provided for is “in the case of a cemetery, for the purpose of a religious or other ceremony of burial or commemoration”. Alternatively, public officials have broad discretion to affix a conspicuous sign prohibiting any gathering, meeting or assembly – again, unless the public gathering was a funeral.

Police, Local Council officials, and even so-far unspecified categories of people or government employees could soon have the power to ban people from holding public gatherings on public land. The territory where these incredibly broad powers would apply are called Crown Land - land owned by the State Government. This includes town squares, parks, roads, beaches, community halls and more.

These powers will come into effect from 1 July. If these regulations are allowed to stand, the effect will not just be that protests, rallies and demonstrations can only occur at the sufferance of police and other officials. It will be that virtually all public events will only occur with the tolerance of public officials. Our right to assemble on public land will become something less than a license. That right may temporarily be granted by public officials, but it may just as easily be withdrawn, at any time, for any reason. The penalty for defying such a ban or order to stop meeting in public could be up to $11 000……

The time to speak out against these regulations is now. CCL objects to these regulations in the strongest possible terms, and urges their immediate and unconditional repeal……

Excerpts from Crown Land Management Regulation 2018 under the Crown Land Management Act 2016:

9 Conduct prohibited in dedicated or reserved Crown land

(1) A person must not do any of the following on dedicated or reserved Crown land:

(e) remain in or on the land or any part of the land or any structure or enclosure in or on the land when reasonably requested to leave by an authorised person,  

Maximum penalty: 50 penalty units.

13 Activities that can be prohibited on Crown land by direction or notice under Part 9 of Act (1) Each of the activities specified in the following Table is prescribed for the purposes of sections 9.4 (1) (b), 9.5 (1) (b) and 9.5 (2) of the Act:

3 Holding a meeting or performance or conducting entertainment for money or consideration of any kind, or in a manner likely to cause a nuisance to any person

4 Taking part in any gathering, meeting or assembly (except, in the case of a cemetery, for the purpose of a religious or other ceremony of burial or commemoration)

6 Displaying or causing any sign or notice to be displayed

7 Distributing any circular,

1.7   Definition of “Crown land”

Subject to this Division, each of the following is Crown land for the purposes of this Act:

(a)  land that was Crown land as defined in the Crown Lands Act 1989 immediately before the Act’s repeal,

(b)  land that becomes Crown land because of the operation of a provision of this Act or a declaration made under section 4.4,

(c)  land vested, on and from the repeal of the Crown Lands Act 1989, in the Crown (including when it is vested in the name of the State).

 Clause 6 of Schedule 7 provides for certain land under Acts repealed by Schedule 8 to become Crown land under this Act. Section 1.10 then provides for this land to be vested in the Crown.
Land that will become Crown land under this Act includes land vested in the Crown that is dedicated for a public purpose. This land was previously excluded from the definition of Crown land in the Crown Lands Act 1989. See also section 1.8 (2).

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