Protest legislation passed

Resources Minister Paul Harriss saying the state now boasts the strongest workplace laws in the country.

Resources Minister Paul Harriss saying the state now boasts the strongest workplace laws in the country.

THE government's heavily-amended protest legislation has passed the Tasmanian Parliament, with Resources Minister Paul Harriss saying the state now boasts the strongest workplace laws in the country.

Protesters ensnared by the laws are set to face hefty fines and repeat offenders threatened with up to four years in jail.

The laws capture protests at all Tasmanian workplaces, but no longer carry minimum fines or mandatory jail time.

The House of Assembly last night passed 50 amendments to the bill, with the government guillotining debate after four hours.

Labor and the Greens voted against the legislation, but the government had the numbers to pass it.

Deputy Labor leader Michelle O'Byrne said the government was arrogant to refuse exempting action taken by registered industrial bodies.

"Labor wanted to make sure that legitimate industrial action was genuinely protected, but Minister Paul Harriss rejected our amendment," she said.

"The Liberals say this legislation is about protecting workers, but what about their lawful right to protest? Unions are right to say this legislation goes way too far," she said.

Mr Harriss swiped back, claiming Labor had shown contempt for workers by opposing the legislation.

"The Workplaces [Protection against Protesters] Bill is aimed fairly and squarely at protecting the rights of workers, particularly in those industries targeted by radical environmentalists, to lawfully earn a living," he said.

"Labor's opposition to this legislation makes a lie of its claimed support for those industries under attack from the radicals, including forestry and mining."

Greens justice spokesman Nick McKim said the bill's passage marked a sad day for democracy and freedom of speech.

"While we are pleased that the upper house removed the mandatory imprisonment provisions, the bill remains a crude attack on the fundamental right to political expression," he said.

"The good news is that the bill is a shambles, and is unlikely to be workable ... the bad news is that some people may be intimidated out of protesting, which would remove some of the shine from our sparkling democracy."

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