Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 10 Hansard (27 August) . . Page.. 3756..
DR FOSKEY (continuing):
For too long, wealthy individuals and corporations have been able to use legal processes to silence their critics, even when those critics were breaking no laws. Let me tell you that most people who campaign for political change and social and environmental change are not people who want to break the law—absolutely not.
I must say that the forest movement has benefited from people who are prepared to sit up the top of trees and to get in front of bulldozers, but those laws were not in place when those actions started. We have seen the development of a huge machinery of laws, by state parliaments, in particular, to stop protests being developed. We certainly have seen that in the forest issue, and that has made it very difficult for law-abiding people who also are passionate about saving forests to act. But many of them do, thank goodness.
In this case, we have not even got people breaking laws. The laws are not there. All the SLAPP suits do is silence people. They make them very afraid. I actually think that people that still go on, even in the face of those sorts of threats, should be the ones receiving Orders of Australia and civil awards. They are the true heroes. Indeed, now that we have had a change at federal government level, I hope that we will see more financial and other support going to people who are willing to challenge governments and corporations. But we know that we have had a few hard years on that one.
I will speak to the amendments when we get to the detail stage. It is regrettable that we only saw the amendments late last night. Still, amendments are better than nothing and, on the whole, while there are problems with them, we believe they actually could have been fixed if we had had dialogue between the two offices. At this stage it is just too important to get the bill passed to quibble with those amendments and, on the whole, I think that that is fine. Most of them are really about fitting this legislation into the ACT legal framework, and that was always going to have to be done anyway.
I conclude by saying that we have a Human Rights Act and now we are going to have a Protection of Public Participation Amendment Bill passed. It is all good news from here.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill agreed to in principle.
Clauses 1 to 10, by leave, taken together.
Debate interrupted in accordance with standing order 74 and the resumption of the debate made an order of the day for a later hour.
Sitting suspended from 12.29 to 2.30 pm.