Anti-logging bill fines diluted

Paul Harriss

Paul Harriss

PLANS to crackdown on anti-logging protesters appear to have been watered down by the state Liberal government.

Resources Minister Paul Harriss yesterday revealed on-the- spot fines for individuals that disrupt workplaces such as a logging coupe or timber mill, will be set at $2000.

In December, the Liberals announced first time offenders would be hit with up to $10,000 on- the-spot fines, which was repeated in its first 100 days scorecard released last week.

Mr Harriss said yesterday the fine can rise to between $5000 and $10,000 if an individual challenges the charge in court and is found guilty.

Repeat offenders will face a mandatory minimum three- month jail term with a maximum of two years jail.

Individuals and organisations will also face heavy fines for "inciting others to invade or hinder a business and for damaging a business premises".

The Workplaces (Protection from Protesters) Bill will be tabled and debated this week in Parliament.

Mr Harriss said the bill would not stop legal protest activity but was aimed at protesters who were trying to force their will onto others by stopping their work.

"They not only cost businesses and individuals by halting production, but also put at risk the safety of themselves and others," Mr Harriss said yesterday.

However, environmental groups have warned the hard line approach will not work.

"I think these sorts of measures taken by any government always have the reverse effect," Environment Tasmania spokesman Phill Pullinger said.

"It sells such a negative, divisive and reactionary message about what this government prioritises. Instead of Tasmania being a place that celebrates World Heritage ... it wants to be a government that logs World Heritage, attacks natural values and it chucks in jail anyone that gets in their way.

"They're deliberately trying to create agro and conflict over nature because they think it's in their political benefit."

Last year, the Huon Valley Environment Centre led about 40 people into two Ta Ann timber mills and a logging coupe in the North-East.

Centre spokeswoman Jenny Weber said protesters were already adequately penalised under the existing system.

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