High Court victory for Bob Brown’s challenge to Tasmania’s anti-protest laws

IMG_8036.jpgBob Brown and Jessica Hoyt (right) outside the High Court of Australia, Canberra. 

Today is a great day for the forests, wildlife and all of nature in Tasmania and around Australia. And a great day for the fundamental right of Australians to peaceful protest.

Australia’s High Court handed down its judgment today in the case brought by former Australian Greens leader Bob Brown and Tasmanian nurse Jessica Hoyt that challenged the constitutional validity of Tasmania’s anti-protest laws.

‘This judgement puts a brake on corporations wanting communities sidelined so they can plunder Tasmania’s unique and job-rich environment, not least its ancient rainforests and tall eucalypts,’ Bob Brown said.

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High Court Challenge Transcript - Day 1



98 pages of transcript...

"Brown & Anor v The State of Tasmania - [2017] HCATrans 93

Copyright in the High Court of Australia"

Download the transcript as PDF here for all the details.


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The Guardian: Bob Brown's lawyer argues Tasmania's anti-protest laws designed to stop free speech

An article by Paul Karp in The Guardian, 2 May 2017


..."Merkel described the law as “unusual” and without precedent in Australia because police powers to order protesters to move on and the automatic ban on them returning for four days were only enlivened when they agitated “political, environmental, social, cultural or economic issues”.

He said this was “content-based criterion” that meant the law directly targeted political communication, which is protected by an implied freedom in the commonwealth constitution.

Merkel said the law lacked a “rational connection” to preventing disruption of business which revealed its true purpose was to stop environmental protests."...

Read the full article in theguardian.com here.

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Bob Brown, Jessica Hoyt High Court Challenge to begin

Media Release 30 April 2017


The High Court hearing of a challenge to Tasmania's 2014 draconian anti-protest laws will begin in Canberra on Tuesday morning at 10am.

Former Greens leader and senator Bob Brown and Hobart nurse Jessica Hoyt, both of whom were arrested for peaceably protesting and recording the logging of the Lapoinya Forest near Burnie on Tasmania's northwest coast in January last year, have mounted the challenge. The two maintain the Tasmanian Hodgman government's laws which provide for mandatory arrest, large fines and potential jail sentences for peaceful political protest, infringe Australian's constitutional rights to effective peaceful political protest.

After Brown and Hoyt took their challenge to the High Court, police dropped the charges against them. Brown maintains that the new laws threaten reasonable protest and, had they been in place before the peaceful Franklin dam-works blockade by thousands of citizens in 1982-3, would have ensured the iconic Franklin River would now be dammed from end to end. Ecotourism in Tasmania has become a far bigger job provider than logging.

'We are concerned by government moves around Australia to take aim at environmentalists in particular because logging, mining and other resource extractors know they cannot win their argument fairly and squarely on the merits,' Brown said.

The Commonwealth and all state governments except Western Australia's have intervened in the case to support the Tasmanian government. The Human Rights Law Centre is supporting the Brown-Hoyt challenge.

'In a world of rapid deterioration of the biosphere's ability to maintain life on Earth, this challenge is to reassert the right of Australians to document environmental loss and protest about it as a core part of our democratic tradition. The stakes are high,' he said.

Further information: Jenny Weber 0427 366 929


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High Court to hear landmark case on Tasmania’s anti-protest laws that unreasonably restrict free speech and protest


From HRLC.org.au

May 1, 2017

Doorstop Press Conference outside the High Court of Australia featuring:

  • Bob Brown, prominent conservationist and former Australian Greens Senator and Leader
  • Emily Howie, Director of Legal Advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre

9:30am Tuesday 2 May 2017, the High Court forecourt in Parkes Place, Canberra

For further details contact: Tom Clarke (HRLC) on 0422 545 763 or Jenny Weber (Bob Brown Foundation) on 0427 366 929.


The High Court of Australia will hear a landmark case tomorrow seeking to strike down Tasmania’s excessive anti-protest laws that unreasonably limit people’s freedom to stand together and speak out on matters that they care about.

The High Court case centres around the arrest of Dr Bob Brown on a public road while he was trying to film a video about a controversial logging project in Tasmania’s native Lapoinya forest. A second plaintiff, Ms Jessica Hoyt, was separately arrested in the Lapoinya Forest in similar circumstances.

The Human Rights Law Centre has been granted permission from the High Court to provide its expertise on human rights law and has filed submissions that support Mr Brown’s challenge to the validity of Tasmania’s Workplace (Protection from Protesters Act) 2014 (Tas).

Emily Howie, a Director of Legal Advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre, said the High Court will confirm whether the Tasmanian law violates the implied freedom of political communication in the Australian constitution.

“It’s absolutely critical to our democracy that we can freely share ideas on political issues. This is a bedrock principle – without free political communication how can Australians be expected to make an informed choice on election day? Tasmania’s anti-protest laws go too far in shutting down vital and vibrant debate,” said Ms Howie.

The Human Rights Law Centre argues that the Tasmanian law prioritises business interests well above the basic democratic rights of people and that the law is written in terms so broad it could stop people from expressing political views in a public space, even temporarily, if doing so would hinder business activity in anyway.

“Governments can’t just sell off our democratic rights in order to appease vested business interests. Businesses have no absolute right to be free from interruption that somehow trumps our rights as people to engage in political communication or indeed protest,” said Ms Howie.

The Tasmanian law is part of an alarming trend of anti-protest laws being beefed up across Australia and internationally.

“Unfortunately, Australia is not immune from the global trend of governments limiting protest rights. We are seeing a clear and worrying wave of state-based laws that restrict the ability of Australians to stand together and speak out on issues that they care deeply about. This case is important because it gives the High Court the chance to determine the extent to which Australians’ speech and protest rights are protected under the Australian Constitution,” said Ms Howie.

Additional details regarding the case can be found here.


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Lapoinya goes to full High Court hearing

Media Release 14 December 2016


The challenge to the Hodgman government's anti-forest-protest laws is finally set to be heard by the full bench of seven High Court judges at a date in the new year yet to be fixed.

This follows the Tasmanian government, last week, dropping its contention that Bob Brown was trespassing at the time he was arrested. Tasmania originally intended to argue he did not have standing to take the action before the court. Brown had maintained that he was in a forest reserve when arrested. Earlier the state also dropped charges against him under the anti-protest legislation, and then against Brown's fellow plaintiff and former Lapoinya resident Jessica Hoyt. Both were arrested in January when clearfell logging operations began in the Lapoinya Forest.

Dr Brown told a Hobart Town Hall meeting today that the Hodgman laws cut across Tasmanians' rights to political expression and should be struck down as unconstitutional.

Today, the Bob Brown Foundation launched a Pozible crowd funding campaign to raise $100,000 towards any costs that could be incurred by Bob Brown and Jessica Hoyt in taking the case to the High Court.

More information at https://pozible.com/project/stand-with-bob-brown

Media contact

Steven Chaffer
0408 855 261

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High Court waits a week on Tas. Anti-Protest Laws

Media Release 14 November 2016


The challenge by Bob Brown and Jessica Hoyt to the Tasmanian government's draconian anti-protest laws was delayed one week in today's hearing before High Court Judge Gordon. Counsel for the plaintiffs and defence are challenged with clarifying whether Brown and Hoyt were in fact trespassing on forest land at Lapoinya in January when they were arrested and charged under the Hodgman government's anti-protest laws. Without agreement, the matter may need to be determined in a court other than the High Court.

The two were not charged with trespass at the time, have not been charged with trespass, and deny they were trespassing. The Tasmanian government now claims  that they were trespassing and therefore should be denied standing to continue their challenge in the High Court.

"What is obvious here is that the Hodgman government is avoiding our test of its anti-protest laws with a belated supposition. If our crime at Lapoinya was trespass then the police or state prosecutor should have charged us with trespass at the time," Bob Brown said outside the High Court in Melbourne.

Further information:
Jenny Weber 0427 366 929


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Premier Baird intervenes in High Court challenge by Bob Brown

Media Release: 5th November 2016


NSW's Baird government has intervened in a High Court challenge by forest defenders against the Tasmanian government's draconian anti-protest laws.

The High Court challenge was mounted by former Greens leader Dr Bob Brown and Hobart nurse Jessica Hoyt after their arrest for peacefully protesting against the clearfell logging of a 49 hectares coup of the Lapoinya Forest in northwest Tasmania in January. Ms Hoyt grew up on a farm next door to the Lapoinya Forest which was the habitat of rare and threatened species including the Tasmanian devil and spot-tailed quoll.
New laws passed by Tasmania's Liberal Hodgman government threaten peaceful forest protesters with $4,000 fines or up to ten years in jail for repeated offences. Charges against Brown and Hoyt were dropped by the Tasmanian prosecutor after the pair mounted their challenge in the High Court, with the first (directions) hearing now set for 14th November.

The Liberal governments in Tasmania, NSW and Western Australia, under pressure from logging and mining corporations, have all moved to impose restrictions on the rights to political communication which Brown and Hoyt maintain are implied in the Australian Constitution.

Media contact
Steven Chaffer  0408 855 261

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Hodgman seeks high court strike-out

Media Release 18 May 2016


Tasmanian Premier Will Hodgman is seeking to prevent Bob Brown's challenge to his draconian anti-protest laws from being heard in the High Court.

The Tasmanian Solicitor-General revealed this move late today.

"I look forward to the Premier putting this challenge to the High Court at its first hearing on the matter next Wednesday morning," Brown said tonight.

"It is every Australian citizen's right to seek to have the High Court protect his or her constitutional rights. That includes the right to free speech, and so, peaceful protest." Brown said.

For more information
Jenny Weber 0427 366 929



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Hodgman Government fails to meet High Court timeline

Media Release 26 March 2016


The state government  has failed to meet the 14-day timeline for filing a notice of appearance in the High Court of Australia after Bob Brown issued a writ which challenges the constitutionality of Premier Hodgman's draconian anti-protest laws.

'The rules of the High Court allow the Tasmanian government 14 days to indicate that it will defend the challenge but that deadline passed on Thursday without the required response,' Brown said today.

The filing of a Notice of Appearance signifies a party's intention to participate in and defend a proceeding.

'I presumed, when the state government said it was confident its punitive protest laws would be upheld in the High Court, that it was preparing a spirited defence. However, this failure shows either an unpreparedness, a missing spirit or a simple lack of attention to the task,' Brown said.

This turn of events follows the arrest of five peaceful forest defenders in the Lapoinya Forest south of Burnie in January. Charges against Jessica Hoyt, a Hobart neurosurgery nurse who grew up in Lapoinya, and Brown, have been held over in the Hobart Magistrates' Court until 7th June.

Jenny Weber
0427 366 929

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