NSW to stifle freedom of speech

May 24, 2018

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian will allow her MPs a conscience vote on the issue of exclusion zones around abortion clinics, increasing the likelihood that the bill will pass through both houses of that state’s parliament.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports the bill proposes establishing 150-metre “safe access zones” around abortion clinics, with penalties including potential jail time for people caught “harassing” people inside the zones.

The Australian Conservatives see the bill as imposing unreasonable restrictions on the freedom of political communication and the right of Australians to peacefully express their opinions in public.

The bill establishes three new offences for conduct inside the 150-metre buffer zone, which would make it illegal to obstruct or interfere with a person accessing or leaving a clinic; to communicate "in relation to abortions" in a manner that could cause "distress or anxiety" to a person accessing or leaving a clinic, and to record and distribute visual data of a person without their consent.

Each offence carries a maximum penalty of six months jail, or a $5,550 fine, or both, for a first offence.

A repeat offender would face a maximum 12 months jail, or $11,000 fine, or both.

Australian Conservatives' Federal Communications Director Lyle Shelton says he is surprised New South Wales Upper House National Party MP Trevor Khan is co-sponsoring the anti-free-speech bill with the opposition Labor party.

Mr Shelton told Samantha Maiden on Sky News Live he thinks restricting free speech is never a good idea.

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