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Mandatory sentencing stripped from bill

Vanessa GoodwinPROTESTERS captured by the government’s workplace laws will no longer face mandatory sanctions.
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The government yesterday stripped minimum fines and mandatory jail time from its contentious anti-protest bill.

Tougher maximum penalties have taken their place, with repeat offenders now threatened with up to four years in prison.

Leader of the Government in the Legislative Council Vanessa Goodwin vowed to revisit the penalties if they proved inadequate.

Mandatory sentences had divided stakeholders and MLCs, and not everybody was happy to see them go.

Master Builders executive director Michael Kerschbaum – among the strongest supporters of mandatory sentences – said the sanctions should have been retained.

“The legislation certainly doesn’t have the same teeth it once had,” he said.

“But I don’t think it’s been watered down to the degree that it has no effect . . . it will still have a very big impact.”

Law Society president Matthew Verney argued the legislation was still deeply flawed, but said the most troubling aspects had now been removed.

“We are very pleased our biggest concerns – mandatory sentences and the broad scope of the bill – have both been addressed through amendments,” he said.

The legislation has been tightened so it only covers protests affecting the forestry, mining, agriculture, construction and manufacturing industries.

But Unions Tasmania secretary Steve Walsh is concerned industrial actions may still be captured by the laws.

“These laws will harm workers, imposing harsh penalties against workers engaged in legitimate workplace disputes with their employer,” he said.

“The severity of the penalties that will apply will make workers less likely to stand up when they see bad and dangerous practices occurring for fear of falling foul of these new laws.”

Labor Deputy Leader Michelle O’Byrne said the heavily amended legislation was barely recognisable.

“Labor strongly supports the rights of Tasmanians to be safe at work but the Liberals’ original legislation went way beyond that and now it’s a confusing mess,” she said.

However, Resources Minister Paul Harriss argued the bill’s passage was an historic moment.

“A clear message has been sent to the radical protesters, to the workers in the forest and mining industries whose livelihoods they have tried to destroy, and to the wider community,” he said.

“No longer will Tasmania tolerate the extremists. You may have your say, but you may not stop workers from earning a living.”

A final upper house vote on the bill is expected to succeed when MLCs return to Parliament in two weeks’ time.

It will then be returned to the House of Assembly, where the government has the numbers to pass its legislation into law.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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