Protest Laws in Queensland
Protesting is an essential part of democracy, but it is also important to regulate its occurrence so it doesn’t cause more harm than good to others. This article explore some of the regulations in place in Queensland and how to conform with them, and should point you in the right direction should you wish to stage a successful protest in Qld.
Protest is an integral component of democracy. In a democratic country like Australia, anybody can meet together in small or large groups to voice their opinion on any matter. There are however rules governing protests and other large gatherings to ensure the safety of those involved, and the safety of the general public.
The right to protest is supported by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) as well as the International Human Rights Conventions and Covenants. Australia is a party to International Human Rights Treaties and supports the right to freedom of assembly and association contained in Articles 21 and 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and article 8(1)(a) of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).
The exercise of your ability to protest may be subject to restrictions in the interest of national security or public safety, public order, the protection of public health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.
State laws exist to regulate the conduct of public demonstrations and the holding of rallies. In Queensland the Peaceful Assembly Act 1992 (Qld) or PAA regulates public assemblies and street marches. A public assembly is any public gathering (rally or demonstration) held in a public place, whether or not it is held in just one place or it moved around between an assembly point and another location.
Restriction to the Right to Peaceful Public Assembly
Your right to peaceful public assembly is subject to restrictions in order to maintain order in society and protect the safety of the public. While the police will see to it that protestors are safe and protected, they will also see to it that non-protesters are likewise safe and can carry on their usual business unhampered. To hold a rally, the organisers must comply with the following regulations as provided under the PAA:
- The rally must be authorised by the police or approved by the local authorities of where the rally will be held;
- The holding of the rally must comply with the conditions that may be included in the Notice of Permission issued by the local authority or contained in the order issued by the Magistrates Court;
- The conduct of rallies must be peaceful and avoid being offensive or display indecent or obscene behavior such as public drunkenness, vagrancy, trespass to private properties, or cause damage to properties; and
- Observe the provisions of the PAA.
For any resulting breach of the conditions or State regulations, the protesters and its organisers may be held individually or collectively liable for the conduct of the participants.
Assembly Notice Approval
To apply for approval, the organizers must send an Assembly Notice to the Commissioner of the Police service or the local authorities where the rally will be held or pass through while moving from place to place. The notice must be approved at least 5 working days prior to holding the public assembly or demonstration.
The assembly notice must be in writing, signed by the organisers and addressed to the Commissioner or relevant local authority, which must contain the following information:
- The organisers name and address,
- The name and address of the person giving the notice,
- The purpose of the assembly,
- The day, time and place of the proposed assembly (from assembly time to finishing time),
- The number of expected participants to the rally,
- Include a description of the way how the rally will be conducted and the equipment that will be used during the assembly,
- The assembly point and the destination including the places where the march will pass through or stop en route to destination (in case of procession rally).
Notice of Permission
The Notice of Permission is given in response to your Assembly Notice if it is permitted and approved by the Police Commissioner or the local authority concerned. Permission may be granted but the local authority may also specify some conditions to ensure public safety, payment of clean-up costs and recognition of any inherent environmental or cultural sensitivity of the place. Generally, the application for permission is free.
The concerned authority may refuse to grant the application and file with the Magistrates Court for an order refusing authorisation of the assembly within five days before the proposed date of the assembly, if in its view the holding of the rally would endanger public safety, would cause public disorder or would likely interfere with the rights and freedom of the public.
The 5-day notice rule
Organisers must observe the 5-day notice approval. You have to seek for approval no less than 5 days from the holding of the rally or demonstration. The 5-day notice of approval however, is not mandatory. This is to give local authorities ample time to prepare and safeguard the participants of the rally as well as the non-participating public.
However, if you need to conduct your rally in less than 5 days, you have to apply for approval to the Magistrates Court nearest to the place where you intend to hold the assembly. You can also apply to the Magistrates Court if the local authority denied your application to hold an assembly. The Magistrate Courts may or may not approve your application or approve your application with conditions.
Individuals and organizers should seek independent legal advice before becoming involved in protest activities. The responsibility in holding protests is very extensive. There exists the potential for organizers to be held civilly or criminally liable for the acts of one or all of the participants. A Solicitor can best advise you on the implications, the potential risks and dangers, the initial application to the local authorities and the application to the Magistrates Court (if required), and the process required to properly indemnify yourself (if possible).