Protesters in Hodgman's sights

IN A hardline Australian first, environmental protesters who enter Tasmanian workplaces will face mandatory jail terms under a Liberal government. 

In a key platform of the Liberals' forestry policy, ``illegal'' protesters would also be hit with $10,000 on-the-spot fines - a 26-fold increase -  for ``invading'' a workplace.

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Under the crackdown, corporations  that ``incite or encourage this illegal behaviour'' would attract fines of up to $100,000.

 Kick-starting his party's election campaign yesterday, Opposition Leader Will Hodgman said: ``We will send a very clear and strong message to people who engage in illegal protests and who cost Tasmanians jobs.

``Under the Liberals there will be no get-out-of-jail-free card if you repeatedly invade a workplace.''

The tough law-and-order stance comes just months out from the next state election. 

 It also coincides with the federal government's reaffirmed pledge  to unwind the landmark Tasmanian forest peace deal that was meant to end three decades of forestry warfare.

Under the protest policy, first-time offenders who enter or impede access to a workplace will face on-the-spot fines of $10,000.

Second-time offenders will serve three-month mandatory jail terms at a minimum. 

Fines of up to $50,000 and five years' jail could be slapped on protesters who damage property.  

Environmental organisations that encourage such behaviour could face a crippling $250,000 fine. 

Mr Hodgman said protesters would also be liable to pay for any economic loss caused by their actions.

The Liberals would ``instruct police and emergency services to recover the costs of dealing with illegal protest activity,'' he said. 

Currently illegal protests carry maximum fines between $390 and $650 under nuisance and trespassing offences. Both offences carry jail terms but these are rarely if ever applied to protesters without criminal records. 

Mr Hodgman said it would be necessary to create a new offence of ``invading or impeding access to a workplace''.

It is unclear how such legislation might affect industrial action unrelated to a forestry protest. 

Tasmania is not the only jurisdiction cracking down on activists.  

Victoria's Liberal government has proposed $3000 fines for people protesting in logging coupes and $8660 fines for ignoring an exclusion order. 

Last year Russian president Vladimir Putin introduced $9000 fines for unsanctioned protests, and  Spanish legislators are considering $900,000 fines for people who protest near their  parliament. 

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